It’s possible for you to love your life again.
It’s a tricky, devious, exhausting struggle, this whole getting-over-a-relationship thing. And if you have been married, you know there is a lot more at stake than just a romantic hit-and-run. Marriage means you were vested in something bigger than just “two people in love.” So, if your life is a mess after divorce, it’s no wonder.
Think about what it’s like to pack up and move from a house you have lived in for 10, 20, 30 years. Now imagine the task as an effort to downsize.
Everything that was once neatly in its place (on cleaning day, anyway) is now...well...everywhere. Essentials, non-essentials, mementos, family heirlooms, favorites-for-no-good-reason. It’s all unearthed, waiting for a decision to be made on its destiny.
Your home is a mess. Your life is a mess. After divorce, this metaphor comes to life in every area of your existence. You don’t feel as if you are “just moving” (or that they are just moving) -- you feel as if you have been foreclosed on.
You have to move out of and move into. You have to divide, negotiate, relinquish.
You have to explain to the children and plan for their ability to heal and thrive in a new existence. Suddenly you’re not just parenting anymore, you’re co-parenting. And even that is an education and life-altering adjustment in itself.
You have to grieve, even if you are so angry that grief seems counter-intuitive. And you have to save face when you can’t even see your face because it is so swollen from crying.
The financial consequences of divorce can turn your life inside-out. Depending on your assets, the division may not be as simple as “you take A and I’ll take B.” Tax liabilities, insurance policies, retirement funds, debts, income disparity – the avalanche can wipe you off your feet.
Yes, life is a mess after divorce. And sometimes those going through the stages need to hear those words so they don’t feel crazy or isolated from “the norm.”
If you are in the aftermath of a marriage, it’s important to embrace the naturalness of the chaos. To know that it's OK that your life is a mess after divorce. Think of it as knowing your surroundings so you can navigate through to a new order in your life.
So what are you to do if your life is a mess after divorce? How do you get beyond believing “I have no life after divorce” to knowing you can create one?
As unfair and impossible as the expectation feels, it’s up to you to decide that you are going to be OK. That doesn’t mean you have the slightest clue how that’s going to happen or what it’s going to look like. It simply means that you are open and determined.
The first determination after “I am going to get through this” needs to be “I am going to learn and grow from this.” And that involves a lot more than daily affirmations taped around your home.
It means doing what you probably dread doing (and may not have thought you needed to). It means going inside and owning your reality. Quieting the urge to blame. Examining what worked and what didn’t. Facing the truth of how you contributed – by action and inaction – to the erosion of your marriage.
Ironically, it means doing the very thing that, if both spouses had done it all along, would have kept the marriage intact.
But the marriage isn’t intact. And it’s not going to be. You, however, are going to be. Remember, that’s your first determination. The steps that get you there simply honor that promise to yourself (and to your children if you are a parent).
By owning your own contributions (both good and bad) to your marriage, you plant seeds for enduring love in the future. Again, an affirmation of your determination that you are going to be OK.
Second, thoughtfully, carefully create your environment. Not just your physical environment, but your social and support environment.
Yes, it’s time to clean house. And that doesn’t have to mean tossing people out of your life. Some relationships may not support your values and direction anymore. In those cases, it may serve you best to let those people go, always with a conscious wish for their highest good.
Some relationships may just need some dusting off. Perhaps there are single friends you have ignored because you were busy hanging with other married couples. You may feel your heartstrings pulled in their direction, with a call to make amends if necessary.
And some of the best relationships are yet to be. They will evolve out of and because of your circumstances. Yes, your life is a mess after divorce. But you don’t have to clean it up alone.
Because you are doing fearless work “on the inside,” you are opening your life to more authentic relationships “on the outside.” Be open. Be ready. Be willing.
And don’t ignore the benefits that can come from bringing a professional along for your journey. You have a ton of unfamiliar weight on your shoulders. Someone like a therapist or divorce coach can show you how to carry it. And others going through the same thing can offer immense (and uplifting) camaraderie through support groups.
Finally, give yourself permission to come out of your role as a married person. Sure, you may want to go back into that role again one day. But this is your time to revisit all the wonderful attitudes and attributes that once made you excited about life.
This is your time to re-engage with your creativity. Believe it or not, a little craft or wood glue, glitter or Glidden, home-decorating or renovation, and museum-tripping can accelerate the healing process. Involve your kids. Enroll in a class. Find your own outlet and watch your creative juices flow into all areas of your life.
What matters is that this is the time to revitalize those aspects of you that may have been sacrificed along the way.
Creativity as a mindset has a way of shifting your perspective on everything. It is, in essence, an attitude of possibility.
Suddenly a mountain hike with your kids to watch hawks swoop overhead is as satisfying as the overseas vacation you can’t afford right now. Your home becomes a perfect canvas to create your own utopian oasis. Your limited finances make you discover and dig into your own resourcefulness.
Your perspective shifts. You lead with gratitude. You remain in the moment because it is rich with possibility.
And, without realizing it, the negativity dissolves and opens up space for all that can be. All that will be.
Today you may be saying, “My life is a mess after divorce.” But tomorrow you will be saying, “I truly love my life after divorce.”
I’m Dr. Karen Finn, a divorce and life coach. If you’d like additional support in moving on from the mess divorce has created in your life, you can join my newsletter list for free weekly advice or you can schedule a 30-minute private consultation with me.