The process of divorce — the lead-up, the decision, the legal circus — is often more about getting out of unhappiness than stepping into happiness. Being able to say, “My life got better after divorce” may be a long time coming. But holding onto that vision can fuel your healing and progress.
If you’re the one initiating the split, you may be driven by the hope of a happier life after the divorce. You may be making plans in your daydream hours, if only to give yourself energy through a difficult and draining process.
Whether or not you want the divorce, you may also be plagued by the fear that your life will never be good again. Insecurities about your lovability, self-worth, relationship skills, financial security, employment, lifestyle, parenting, and social life can wreak havoc on hope.
But there are ways to set yourself up for both happiness and success.
And there are ways to strengthen your resolve en route to the day when you will say, with retrospect, “My life got better after divorce.”
It’s certainly not the part of divorce you look forward to or think of as making your life better. But dealing with grief after divorce really isn’t an option.
It’s also not a predictable, linear process that you can schedule. But you can schedule sessions with a therapist or support group to help you recognize, embrace, and get through this inevitable consequence.
Losing your marriage and the dreams that came with it is a big deal. And the hole that loss leaves behind can be just as big.
- Be proactive.
You may not feel you have energy for more than just getting through your divorce. And you may have been emotionally drained before the process even started.
But, if you can take little steps every day in the direction of your current and future well-being, you’ll thank yourself later.
Divorce comes with inevitable fears and apprehensions. It’s a big unknown, even in familiar territory like parenting.
If you’re in the early stages of your divorce, start educating yourself and seeking out experts in essential areas. Take the position that you’re a blank slate. Research, ask questions, prepare, document.
Make it your goal to set yourself (and your children) up for immediate, short-term, and long-term success and happiness.
Think about how you want your life to look and feel several years out, and work toward that vision.
- Create your circle of friendship and support.
Engagements and weddings are cause for celebration and coming together. You can’t wait to “announce,” send out invitations, put your wedding picture in the paper.
Divorce, on the other hand, can be incredibly isolating. You know half of marriages end up here, but, for some reason, you’re the only one going through it right now.
Reason tells you that’s not so. But emotions tell you it is.
Start building your sacred circle of support. And be selective.
You don’t have to write people off or do a mass “unfriending” purge on social media. But get comfortable with the idea that some people who have been part of your married life may not be part of your single life.
And some acquaintances may unexpectedly rise to the level of trusted confidantes and forever friends.
Open yourself to support groups, both in-person and online. Consider hiring a divorce strategist or life coach.
Find a therapist you will be able to trust for the long journey ahead.
And revel in the fact that you are the one creating your new life and new (or renewed) relationships.
- Take the high road.
Much as you would like to look back on your life, marriage, and divorce with no regrets, you’re bound to have some. You can’t do anything to change the past, but you can decide how you go forward.
Even if your marriage was filled with fighting and childish behavior, you don’t have to carry that baggage into your new life.
You may still feel anger toward your ex. You may wish you never have to see his/her face again. But, especially if you have children together, a complete wipe-out isn’t likely.
You always have the choice in how you conduct yourself. You get to choose how you speak and behave around -- and even think about -- your ex.
You get to choose your words and outlook when you speak about your ex (and your children’s other parent) to others.
If you have proactively created your trusted circle of support, you have a safe place to scream, cry, and get things off your chest.
Exercising prudence and self-control when it comes to your ex may feel frustrating early on. But taking the high road will protect your relationship with your children and strengthen (and inspire) your relationships with family and friends.
And it will open unforeseen avenues for you down the road.
- Shift your perspective.
“My life got better after divorce.”
You’ve probably heard other people say that...and you’ve probably rolled your eyes and thought, “Yeah, right. That person didn’t have my spouse. That person didn’t have kids. That person didn’t have financial worries. That person, that person….”
And you would be correct...to an extent.
Your marriage was uniquely yours. And so is your divorce.
This is your journey, your story of evolving and developing self-awareness, your threshold into a destiny you co-create.
It’s also your opportunity to shift your perspective away from comparisons and self-pity and toward growth and self-reliance.
Your divorce marks an end. But, in the circle of life, an end is also a beginning. The two are inseparable.
- Rediscover your passions.
This is a time to remember where you put the key to your lockbox of passions when you were married.
What interests were put on a shelf so your spouse’s interests could take priority? What talents had to wait for expression while you raised kids? What secret yearnings have you always had but kept hidden because “they wouldn’t get it”?
Now is the time to embrace your curiosity and creativity.
The idea that you answer to you may take some time to get used to.
But opening the closet door and giving your old self, your old passions, your old dreams some breathing room is a great start.
- Become your own best friend.
Nothing is more important than this. And nothing is potentially more difficult, especially in the wake of a demoralizing life event that can make you question your self-worth.
Learning to be OK alone -- just you, your feelings, your memories, your self-judgment, your fears -- can be a painful, unwelcomed process.
But there is nothing better than reaching that place where choosing and trusting your “all-oneness” brings a smile to your face.
Some things can only be acknowledged in hindsight. That’s why we look to our elders for wisdom.
We hope to find in their insight some seeds of preparation and prevention to plant in our own lives.
You may have no idea today how your life will look years down the road. But you can always live today as preparation for saying, “My life got better after divorce. And I never imagined it could be this good.”
(For more tips on how to have a better life after divorce than when you were married, click here.)
I’m Dr. Karen Finn, a divorce and life coach. If you’d like additional support rebuilding your life after divorce, you can join my newsletter list for free weekly advice or you can schedule a 30-minute private consultation with me.