It’s possible to have a great tomorrow even if today your life after divorce sucks.
Perhaps you wanted your divorce. Perhaps not. Perhaps it was for the best. Perhaps not. But if you are thinking, “I hate my life after divorce,” something has to change. Divorce may be an unexpected reality in your life, but it doesn’t have to be your life’s demise.
Let’s start with some validation -- because if you’re reading this, you are probably in some pain and looking for answers.
Divorce is gut-wrenching. It’s the consummate reversal of things hoped for, things dreamed of, things promised. It rearranges every corner of your life.
It can add therapy bills to your expenses and divide your personal and material assets in ways you couldn’t have imagined. You see your children half as much, your self-esteem takes a hit, and the future can seem non-existent.
Quite frankly, it sucks. And it’s no wonder you’re saying, “I hate my life after divorce.”
But it doesn’t have to stay that way. There is light at the end of the tunnel, and it’s not that train you’re feeling chased by at the moment.
If you find yourself stuck in the pain of your divorce, two reasons may be to blame. You may be having difficulty accepting your “new normal,” and you may still be reeling from the acute pain.
Either way, your ability to triumph and transform relies on your imminent ability to accept. You will never be able to work with something that you’re still fighting.
Shifting from “I hate my life after divorce” to “my life is better than ever” will happen through a progression of your own efforts. And those efforts will have to be made both in your thinking and in your actions.
Here are several ways to shift your post-divorce life and thinking from negative to positive. If it feels like too much to embrace all at once, start with a few that you know you can work on. The idea is to keep your life moving forward, not to lament where you’re currently stuck.
- Don’t let the grief scare you. And don’t let it define you.
The chaotic toss-up of grief-based emotions is inevitable. Feel free to give them all a proper name - anger, sadness, despair, hurt, etc. Doing so might help you recognize them when they show up...and lead them to the door when their welcome is over.
The important thing is that you recognize grief as an experiential journey that is essential to closure, forgiveness and healing. Pretending that you are "above" the sadness, anger and bargaining-with-God will only delay the acceptance that is your life's turning point
- Focus on today.
And yes, that can feel impossible. Life as you know it has been put on a high-agitation, extra-spin cycle. And you're expected to "focus on today?" As much as possible, yes.
Every time you say to yourself, "I hate my life after divorce," you give energy to a relationship and life that no longer exist.
Does that mean you're never supposed to think about your marriage and your ex again? Of course not. It does mean that you have to be your own advocate and cheerleader.
You don't have to have all the answers for tomorrow. But you can't languish in yesterday, either. At the very least, put a time limit on your trips to the land of "what was." Your goal is to start building in the land of "what is."
- Shift your attention away from your ex.
Every time you start ruminating, blaming and litigating in your mind or conversations, you give away your power. "Yeah, but he's the one who..." "She never..." "S/he always..."
Not only does this displacement of energy keep you from focusing on today, it keeps you from focusing on you. And like it or not, you are the one who is now lead designer of your life.
You are not a victim. You are a leader. And that's the posture you need to assume. Save your energy for the journey ahead, and stop giving it away to the person who has his/her own work to do.
- Choose healing over hanging on.
If you were going to save your marriage, you and your ex would have made the effort before divorcing. Fantasizing about a reconciliation as an escape from I-hate-my-life-after-divorce thinking takes you out of reality and prolongs the agony.
Sure, there are cases in which divorced couples reunite. But even in those super-rare cases, a lot of healing has to happen first. Focus on healing, growing, evolving. And give your ex space to do the same.
- Take really good care of yourself.
How would you treat your best friend if s/he were going through something awful? Wouldn't you put loving thought and intention into helping this person you care so much about?
Perhaps one of the negatives of your marriage was that it made you forget your friendship with yourself. Perhaps you were always consumed with caring for others, and quietly came to forget your own value and need for care.
The beauty of this time -- yes, there is beauty in the midst of this pain -- is that you get to focus on you. Think that sounds silly? Difficult? Self-centered? Impossible? Think again.
Not only is self-care possible and legitimate, it' also essential. Think of yourself in the third-person until the idea of self-priority feels second-nature.
And if you still struggle to be self-nurturing, do it for your children...or faithful pets...or whoever relies on you for their own well-being.
- Stop lying to yourself.
It's only natural to self-soothe with verbal strokes and little lies. Allow yourself a freebie every now and then, but be careful not to slip into a mindset of feel-good falsehoods.
You don't hate your ex and hope bad things happen to him/her. The divorce wasn't all his/her fault -- you played your own role in the dynamics of your marriage. Your life isn't permanently messed up because of your ex.
And meeting someone new while you're still smoldering is not going to put your life back together. (And it certainly won't "show" your ex.)
- Try all kinds of stuff...that has nothing to do with dating.
Try new foods, new exercise routines, new hiking paths. Take an ethnic cooking class. Learn a new language. Turn your empty dining room into an art studio and get crafty. Volunteer. Join some Meetup groups. Just stretch out of your current very uncomfortable comfort zone.
- Earn your degree.
In "Life," that is. Get busy reading, listening to TED Talks, attending free seminars and workshops.
Your divorce is now a "fact" of your life. But it doesn't have to mark the end of your learning. To the contrary, this can be the most vital time of self-growth and transformation.
Finding a counselor or life coach to help keep you on-track and share the enthusiasm for your progress can be an indispensable gift to yourself.
Just make it your commitment to learn...about yourself, about communication, about relationships.
The fact that you take proactive steps to get out of an I-hate-my-life-after-divorce funk in no way invalidates your pain. It simply means that you “know” what you don’t “believe” right now: that your life is going to get better.
And the choices you make today -- choices against the grain and in spite of the pain -- will determine how great tomorrow will be. Focus on one positive step. And when you feel a little stronger, focus on two. Or three.
And no matter what, remember to focus on you.
I’m Dr. Karen Finn, a divorce and life coach. I help people figure out how to have a better life after divorce. You can join my newsletter list for free weekly advice. If you want to learn more about working with me, you can schedule a 30-minute private consultation with me.