Even when you are entirely sure that getting divorced was the right thing to do, ending a marriage can leave you feeling confused and directionless. For years, your days revolved around certain routines and you probably felt as though you knew where your life was heading.
Grown-ups are worried that they’re going to ruin their children’s lives, but divorce is just a life experience and you learn from it.
EVAN STERN, Divorce Is Not the End of the World
Whether your marriage faced a slow death or had an abrupt heart attack, you’re now facing an entirely new and uncertain period of your life. Your self-confidence may be wavering. The emotional aftershocks of divorce are far-reaching and extensive, and it is important to find ways to fully let go of the past as you slowly learn how to feel optimistic about the future.
1) Come to terms with what was missing in your marriage
When you get divorced, it is easy to spend a long time dwelling on unproductive and hurtful questions. Hours of your day can be taken up by wondering whether the marriage failed primarily because of your faults or your partner’s faults, or by asking yourself how your partner could have treated you so poorly (which almost always leads to insidious thoughts that perhaps you deserved to be treated poorly).
Divorce is one of the most stressful life events anyone goes through. Only the loss of a loved one and moving are even in its class, difficulty-wise–and divorcing generally involves both of those as well. Even when you are the one initiating the divorce, the enormous changes that result are bound to throw you off and leave you feeling, at the very least, a bit lost. EMILY DOSKOW
It will be much easier to move on from the tumultuous and conflicting emotions that arise in the wake of divorce if you spend your time considering more helpful questions. Try to figure out what was missing in the relationship, which of your non-negotiable needs was not met, and what fatal incompatibilities existed between you and your former spouse. This will help you to understand why the marriage didn’t work out, and you will only feel able to let go of the experience if you have this understanding. Meanwhile, the productive questions just mentioned will also help you to build up a clear picture of what sort of relationship might work for you in the future.
2) Accept your need to grieve
Don’t belittle yourself or feel weak if it seems to be taking a long time to move on from your marriage. Divorcing someone can shake the foundations of your self-respect, make you feel confused about your identity, and create feelings of acute loss. It is important not just to accept that you have to grieve for the loss of the marriage but also that you will sometimes falter on your path to healing. You may feel strong and determined one day, and then feel barely able to get out of bed the next day. This is normal, and it is not a sign that you will never be able to move on. Be patient, and give yourself time.
There is a rhythm to the ending of a marriage just like the rhythm of a courtship–only backward. You try to start again but get into blaming over and over. Finally you are both worn out, exhausted, hopeless. Then lawyers are called in to pick clean the corpses. The death has occurred much earlier. ERICA JONG, How To Save Your Own Life
3) Find ways to let go of your feelings of anger or bitterness
Although some divorces are amicable, this is not the norm. Even if it was your decision to get divorced, or even if you acknowledge that you treated your partner more poorly than they treated you, it may still be the case that you experience frequent and strong feelings of anger. You may be angry at yourself, angry at your partner, or angry at yourself and your partner at the same time.
However, holding on to this rage only slows down your attempts to move on with your life, as it maintains an emotional tie to your spouse and keeps that person in your thoughts. Try to make time every day to do things that relax you and that are capable of distracting you from your anger. Some people find exercise particularly helpful, as it helps your mind to zone out and also expends plenty of energy that could otherwise have been used up by frustration and rage.
Alternatively, you might find that watching a movie or reading an engrossing fiction book helps to keep your emotions on an even keel (though it is probably a good idea to avoid romance novels for a while!). If you have a friend capable of making you laugh particularly hard, that person will probably be invaluable in taking your mind off the anger you feel about your divorce.
Whatever you need to do to let go of the anger you feel, stick with it. If you wronged your partner, learn how to forgive yourself for your mistakes and to make sure you never make those mistakes again. Alternatively, if your partner wronged you in some substantial way, remember that being happy and truly moving on is actually the best revenge.
If divorce has increased by one thousand percent, don’t blame the women’s movement. Blame the obsolete sex roles on which our marriages were based.
BETTY FRIEDAN, speech, Jan. 20, 1974
4) Decide your future and start planning
When you are trying to figure out what you want from your new life, making lists is often invaluable. Start with lists of small goals that represent what you want to accomplish in just one week. Write down the chores you want to do, the social events you will make yourself attend even if you don’t feel like going out, and some small goals relating to your work or hobbies. Tick these items as you accomplish them, and view these small ‘to do’ lists as physical evidence that you are slowly moving on.
When you are ready, try to create some more meaningful and far-reaching lists. Write down the things that you want to once this difficult period of your life is behind you. Do you want to start a new career? Would you like to return to school to gain a new qualification? Is there a trip you want to plan, or a country you would love to visit? Notice how many of the things on these lists are things that you would have been unable to do when you were still in the marriage that you have recently left behind. These lists can be viewed as tangible proof that your life will actually be better now that you are divorced.
Whenever you are feeling apathetic, confused or melancholy, you can look at your list of long-term goals to see all of the exciting and fun new experiences that are now open to you. You do still have a future ahead of you, as much as it may not feel like it at times.
5) Talk openly and honestly with people you trust
Any time you go through a traumatic experience, you need to have conversations with smart and compassionate people who will help you to see your situation objectively. Ideally, you should have a few different people with whom you can discuss your divorce, as each of these individuals will have different illuminating remarks and new observations that will enhance your perspective on your situation. Another reason why you need to have people to talk to is that it is important not to feel alone and isolated, which many people do end up feeling after a divorce (partly because they were used to the constant presence of their partner). All in all, it is a lot easier to find the strength and optimism to move on from your failed marriage if you know that you can reach people who will comfort you when you are feeling low and will congratulate you as you succeed in moving on.
6) Look after yourself properly
It is easy to let a lot of your important activities slide when you are going through the emotional upheaval of coping with a divorce. Many people also find that they feel the urge to comfort eat. This leads to putting on weight and often to poorer self-esteem (as well as a dimmer view of your romantic prospects). Eat healthy food, try to exercise regularly, don’t skip any important medication that you are prescribed, and remember that being in a physically good state makes it easier to return to being in an emotionally good state.
7) Don’t be afraid to seek counseling
Sometimes, talking to friends and trying to think your way through your emotionally trauma is simply not enough. If you do not feel like you are making any progress or if you have noticed that you are becoming more (rather than less) depressed, think about making an appointment to see a counselor. This is a very common thing for recently divorced people to do, and many counselors are trained to deal with the precise issues that you may imagine are yours alone. Counseling offers you a safe environment in which to explore your feelings with a neutral, objective third party, and this could give you the push that you need in order to move on with your life after getting divorced.
As you try to move on with your life after ending your marriage, it is vital that you encourage yourself to focus on the positive things that your newly free future has to offer. Be mindful of the reasons why the marriage did not work, remember that you do not have to cope with your feelings alone, and remind yourself that divorce is opening the door to a happier life.
Marriage is the chief cause of divorce.
Did you enjoy this guest post by E.C. Gordon (or not, tell me)? Want more self-help posts about starting over after a divorce or breakup? Please leave a detailed comment below.
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Category: Men & Dating