Life post-divorce is different from married life. By using these tips, your different can be great.
The dress. The guests. The honeymoon. Newlyweds walk down the aisle planning a life of home and happiness, not adjusting to life after divorce.
But statistics speak to the glaring frequency of divorce:
- 41 percent of first marriages end in divorce.
- 60 percent of second marriages end in divorce.
- 73 percent of third marriages end in divorce.
Every divorce is different, of course -- as unique as the individuals going through it. The age at which the two people married; the length of the marriage; the presence or lack of children. Countless factors chime in to make this painful journey as personal as the feelings each person experiences. Adjusting to life after divorce, therefore, is also a personal journey.
There are, however, many tips for helping those on the road to singlehood make that adjustment and come out the other side whole and happy. Let’s look at 7 of the biggies:
- Let yourself mourn.
Divorce is a loss, plain and simple. It really doesn’t matter who initiated the split, or who owns what responsibility for what actions leading to it. It’s a loss -- a death of the dreams that beamed in your eyes on your wedding day, and a complete upheaval of all your “married habits.” Expect and allow yourself to feel the emotions of grief. Fully experience its predictable stages as you are adjusting to life after divorce. And don’t be surprised if those feelings jump right into the big hole where something important used to be.
- Work through your feelings.
The importance of this really can’t be stressed enough. When something hurts as much as divorce, it is only natural to want to numb the pain. There is no emotional morphine for doing this work. Keep reminding yourself that you don’t want to drag your baggage into your new life. The “new you” doesn’t deserve it. Anyone who may come into your life certainly doesn’t deserve it.
And if you are inclined to believe that seeking help from a therapist implies there is something wrong with you, think again. Therapists and coaches are there to help you strategize and process all the ugly, mucky “stuff” that you simply have to get through.
- Dare to be alone.
30 million people live alone. Being one of them doesn’t have to be a lonely experience. Yes, it’s cliché, but if you shift your perception of the word “alone” to “all one,” you will hopefully see both the necessity and opportunity for wholeness within yourself. Just as with processing your feelings, learning to be alone -- and to be comfortable that way -- is essential.
And this is where time is your friend. Rushing into a new relationship is perhaps the biggest mistake people make when going through a break-up, let alone a divorce.
It doesn’t matter how long you have lingered in an unhappy marriage before deciding to divorce. Being unhappy for years doesn’t earn you “movin’-on stripes.” It simply means there is that much more emotional work to process.
It doesn’t matter if you think you were the victim and therefore deserve to move on. (Actually, that one does matter. Unless you have been a victim of abuse, you need to own your own contribution to a relationship that didn’t work. Cliché again, but “there are no victims...only volunteers.”)
It doesn’t matter that you don’t want to be alone forever. Until you are capable of and comfortable being alone, adjusting to life after divorce will be painful. And if you jump too early into a relationship, it will likely end in divorce or at least unhappiness too.
- Learn to like yourself...again.
This is a big motive behind the need for being alone and allowing yourself to process emotionally.
It is natural to feel rejection, shame, guilt, fear and a slew of other low-frequency emotions after a break-up. You have a new life to go forth and take by storm, and you are going to need all your confidence for the task.
Adjusting to life after divorce is largely about confidently “coming into your own.” It’s a time of remembering who you were before you married, loving who you are now...and discovering who you want to become.
A coach can provide wonderful support for your journey, especially when you don’t feel there is much to like in yourself.
- Know your purpose.
What matters to you? What do you value? What difference do you want to make in the world? What do you like to do?
This is a great time to write. Words on a page can help you process...and discover.
Writing is also a great way to reaffirm that you are important, and you have gifts that matter. By connecting with your deepest yearnings and sense of purpose, you will awaken your drive. And don’t be surprised if you feel a big boost in your confidence and self-esteem too.
- Learn some new skills.
You are now on your own, adjusting to life after divorce, and the workload of life can feel pretty overwhelming. Suddenly you are having to do everything -- even things you don’t know how to do.
If you are co-parenting, you will still have to assume a lot of responsibilities once delegated to your spouse’s expertise. So, you’ll stumble upon learning some new skills.
However, in addition to the new skills you’ll naturally learn as part of living on your own, you may also want to consider taking a class or brushing up on some skills that will help you further your career...or start a new one. And don’t deny yourself the joy of learning something new simply because it interests you.
- Indulge in some “me” time.
Life after any kind of loss can be draining to the spirit, and a diminished sense of self can lead to lack of self-care.
However, simple things like regular exercise, a pedicure, having your hair done, and taking yourself to a new cafe for lunch can be nurturing indulgences.
These little practices will also build your confidence and enjoyment in being alone. “But I’m ALWAYS alone! I’m divorced!” you may be saying. “Me” time is different. It’s a gift of purposeful, uplifting, nurturing time that you give to yourself. Consider it a date with the best person you know: YOU.
The most important thing to remember is that divorce doesn’t define you. What matters is how you navigate the divorce process. Be compassionate toward yourself. And open the door to the help and support of those who love and care about you. A new and hopeful life awaits!
I’m Dr. Karen Finn, a divorce and life coach. I help people with adjusting to life after divorce. You can join my newsletter list for free weekly advice. If you’re interested in taking the first step toward working with me, you can schedule an introductory private coaching session.