Top 10 Ways To Recover From Divorce
We live in a disposable society. From cars to household appliances to telephones to computers it seems that built in redundancy is now the norm, literally nothing is designed to last. We have got so used to this that it seems normal and natural to us. Where our grandparents would have ‘made do and mend’ we just chuck at the first sign that a product is no longer perfect. Whether or not this trend is nothing more than the sign of a healthy and wealthy society or whether it is rampant consumerism gone mad is a debate for another time and place. We can all agree, however, that while this trend is one thing when applied to things it is certainly something very different and less desirable when applied to people.
Divorce rates in the USA are extremely high and are even approaching 50% of all marriages and, it seems, the younger the couple marry the more likely they are to want to separate. So if you are married you stand a good chance of either getting divorced or contemplating it very seriously indeed at some point during your marriage.
Divorcees go through a whole range of feelings post-divorce. When that decree comes through some people celebrate, those who have left abusive relationships will heave a sigh of relief and those without children can walk away without ever a backwards glance. Almost everyone, however, whatever their circumstances and however much they are celebrating the moment will find it tinged with sadness.
After divorce it is time to start a new life, to reinvent who you are and what your life, career and relationships mean to you. It is almost inevitable that at the start you will be defined by the person you were in your old relationship. You may be financially tied to your former spouse or have emotional connections through children. You do not, however, have to let your old relationship and the fact of your divorce define you for the rest of your life. Take the time to recover, and find out who you are and who you want to be. Here are our top 10 tips to help you along the way.
10Grieve For What You Have Lost
Very few people enter into a marriage with the idea of divorce at the end of it. The ideal we are looking for is a happy ever after of growing old together. Facing the reality of life alone can be devastating.
Even if you were the person who wanted the divorce it can be a difficult reality to accept. You may not be mourning the relationship you ended up in but you will be mourning the one you entered into when your spouse slipped the ring on your finger and you signed the marriage register and all the promise and potential that you both saw for yourselves that day.
We all accept that grief is a rational reaction to major life changes, the loss of a job, the loss of a loved one or the devastating loss of a spouse. Just because you lost yours to divorce instead of death does not mean that you should not grieve.
Give yourself time, some people advice 1 year for every 10 years of marriage, to work through the stages of grief (denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance). Of course you might work through these stages rather more quickly, everyone is an individual after all, but allow yourself all the time you need. Once you have grieved properly you can start to build your new normal.
9Get A Handle On Money Matters
We all know that divorce is emotionally messy but the sad truth is that it is also financially messy. Life is expensive these days and many households rely on joint incomes to function. When that is reduced to two households with a single income each, or even one income supporting two households, life can start to become difficult.
How you resolve financial issues will depend very much on your individual situation but you will almost certainly have to consider practicalities such as health insurance, sale of the family home and distribution of assets, costs of supporting children of the marriage, pension and retirement savings and tax obligations. Finances can be extremely daunting, particularly if your former spouse was responsible for most of the administration. A good financial advisor can help you work out what you need to look at and give assistance in resolving any issues.
It can be tempting to stick your head in the sand but putting these concerns out in the open and dealing with them in a calm and rational way can help you. Even if your financial situation is bleak it is better to know the worst as then you can form a rational plan to get yourself back on track. Having such a plan can help give you the confidence that you will survive and come out the other side.
8Rediscover Old Joys
Most people, whether they are happily married or not, find that they change after marriage. They evolve to be part of a couple instead of a single individual and now that you have divorced you need to start that process in reverse. Marriage is all about compromises and that can mean giving up things (or sometimes even people) you enjoy. Of course in some abusive relationships a spouse will go out of their way to isolate someone from the people and things they enjoy.
Your divorce is the perfect opportunity to reconnect with the person you used to be and the things you used to enjoy doing. Whether it is sailing or painting, tango or yoga give yourself the gift of exploring your old habits. Reach out to friends, not only for support but also for fun.
You may find that you no longer enjoy some of the things that gave you pleasure in your younger days but at least you will have tried. In the process you will meet new people and form new interests which is all a key part of establishing yourself as Mr or Ms Single as opposed to Mr and Ms Unhappily Married.
Taking this time for yourself is also key to helping you manage the grieving process (see above) and re-establishing a feeling of self-worth that can often take a battering during the divorce process. If you have children with your former spouse it is also likely that they will have responsibility for them for part of the time. It can be very difficult to go from being part of a family all the time to being on your own some nights and weekends. Building new interests can help you from feeling isolated and abandoned when your children are away and will help stop them feeling guilty for spending time with their other parent.
7Don’t Use Your Children As Tools
Many marriages that end in divorce involve children. This can add a layer of complexity to things because it means that your ex is never, ever, going to not be a part of your life. Even if he or she is a low down scumbag who abandons and ignores their children the chances are that your child will want to know of or about their other parent in the future and will make steps to contact them.
If your spouse wants to co-parent you need to work together to ensure that you can both manage it gracefully. Do not play games with contact times by rearranging your schedule at the last moment (unless unavoidable), do not keep clothes and toys that belong in your ex’s home with you in yours. If there are problems with maintenance or support payments deal with them through the proper channels and do not use it as an excuse to ransom access to the children.
Perhaps the most important thing of all is to ensure that you do not try to alienate your children from their other parent. Do not ever speak badly of your ex in front of them, do not moan about what they have done in your child’s hearing. When your child is spending time with their other parent do not blackmail them by telling them how lonely you will be without them and how much you will miss them. In short, don’t be a jerk. Your children might fall for such tactics now but will not appreciate them when they look back from the perspective of an adult. It might make you feel good to get back at your ex in the short term but it will only damage your own relationship with your children and prevent you from moving on with your life. Act with grace, even if your ex is a jerk and your children will remember, respect and love you for it in the future.
Of course things get even more complicated when your ex is a douchebag who abandons his or her children for a new more exciting life or when step siblings come along. Keep the door open for your ex but support your children in as positive a way as possible if they are let down. Of course unreliable ex’s, dangerous or criminal ex’s etc pose their own special problems which we cannot get into here. The key thing to remember is to act out of your children’s best interests and never, ever, use them to get back at your ex. You will damage yourself and your children more than you will ever damage him/her.
6Build An Effective Support Network
If you have been part of a couple for a long time the chances are that you are used to relying on your ex-spouse for a lot of things, whether it be financial admin (see above), housework, home improvements or any number of other things. When you are divorced you suddenly find that you are the one responsible for everything in your own home. This can be extremely daunting.
On top of this you will be finding yourself at a very vulnerable time, emotionally (see above) and grieving the end of your relationship. This double whammy can leave you feeling isolated. This is where friends and family can step in to help. Reach out to people and you will often find that they will only be too happy to give you support, whether in practical terms around the home or as an emotional support.
The key thing is to remember not to take more than any one person is willing to give (this is why a wide network as opposed to a single person is beneficial) and not to abuse goodwill. If you are struggling to iron your shirts, for example, because your spouse always did it, don’t rely on your sister or friend to do all your ironing, instead get them to teach you how to do it for yourself. If you are using a friend for emotional support remember that they will have their own problems and concerns and you should ensure that the process is reciprocal.
5Keep a Journal
Keeping a journal has many positive benefits. It can act as a dumping ground, a place where you can express all the emotions you are feeling and processing but are unable to talk about to other people. This can be particularly helpful for people who feel they need a therapist but are unable to afford one. Writing and expressing yourself in this way can be extremely cathartic. As time goes on you can look back at where you were 20, 15, 10 weeks ago and see how much you have progressed, emotionally, in that time. This can be a very real way to help you process the stages of grief (see above).
Be aware, however, that journaling, if done wrong can do more harm than good. If you are the type of person who tends to go over things again and again in their head and find it difficult to let them go then journaling might not be the best thing for you as returning to read past entries could cause you to start remembering negative feelings and prevent you moving on from them.
4Give Yourself Permission To Date
You don’t have to throw yourself into the dating pool as soon as your divorce comes through, but sooner or later you might want to start getting out again. Don’t feel bound by other people’s thoughts on when is too soon, equally don’t allow your well-meaning friends to push you into something you are not ready for. The right time to start dating again is the time that feels right for you.
Children can make dating difficult, particularly for divorced moms, partly because society tends not to see mothers as sexual beings with their own needs. There is a tendency for us all (moms included) to believe that their primary and only responsibility is to their children. The truth is, however, that you will probably have some free time when your children are with your ex so make the most of it.
Don’t, however, fall into a rebound relationship. If you are used to being part of a couple it can be tempting to recreate that with the first prospect to come along, they will almost certainly be the wrong person! Keep things light and don’t rush into commitment. When the right person comes along you will know. Equally importantly, don’t rush to introduce new or transient partners to your children, make sure that they are going to stick around a long time before making them a part of your child’s life.
3Build A Secure Future
Once you have sorted out the financial ramifications of your divorce (see above) you will need to see whether you are able to continue as you are in your current job (or as a stay at home parent) or if you need to start looking for something else to help support you and your children long term.
Many stay at home parents end up in real financial trouble post-divorce. They may have had a successful career before the children were born but if they (whether male or female) have been out of the work market for some time it can be difficult to get back and rebuild a career.
The key is to not allow yourself to be disheartened. If you can’t get something in your old field take anything you can get to tide you over. Be prepared to accept a job at a lower level in order to get back into the work place. This will help you to build up your resume with recent experience. Connect with job clubs, reach out over LinkedIn and network as much as possible. If necessary take some night or correspondence courses to get your skills up to speed. Finally don’t discount the possibility of working in a different field as your transferable skills could serve you well and see you returning to the work force at a higher level than if you returned to your original career.
2Communicate With Your In Laws
Mother in law jokes are made in almost every culture for a reason. In Law relationships can be extremely difficult, whether it is because you do things differently, come from a different culture or socio economic group or simply because they are nutters who believe you are stealing their child. Divorce might seem the perfect opportunity to get rid of them for good but in the right circumstances the exact opposite should be the case.
Whether you have a good relationship with your in laws or not you should try to remember that they are important people in your child’s life. Divorce is a very difficult time for children and they need as much stability as they can get. Grandparents or aunts and uncles can help to provide this (unless they are emotionally toxic and should not be around children). If your children have a good relationship with their grandparents try to keep lines of communication with your mother and father in law open and direct to you, do not rely on going through your ex. Don’t expect them to support you over and above their own child but make it known that you would welcome their (non toxic, non partisan) support for your child. If your ex is an absentee parent who has given up on his/her children or someone who treats you badly then in laws can help to facilitate contact by being a dropoff/collection point.
This will help you because it will reduce your concerns about the emotional impact of divorce on your children and because you know that people who love them will have an eye out for them when your children are with your ex. It also has the practical benefit that you will have more people to turn to if you need babysitting help while job searching or if you need to be away during your contact nights.
1Don’t Be A Victim
Divorce is hard, it is one of the most stressful life changes you can go through and it will leave you reeling for a while, particularly if you are the ‘innocent’ as opposed to initiating party and the divorce came as a shock to you.
Your friends, colleagues and acquaintance’s will be supportive and let you sound off in the early months but remember people only have so much emotional energy to invest and, at a certain stage, supporting a ‘professional’ victim gets old. Your ex might have dumped you when you were in labor or run off with another man while your mother was dying. It sucks, it is dreadful but sooner or later you have to stop moaning. Once your divorce is finalized and you have started to get your life on track give yourself a time limit for crying and moaning to friends. Don’t allow yourself to do this past about a year after your divorce. Once that time is over it is ok to feel sad and even to sound off from time to time but don’t make a habit of it.
Not only could it cost you your support network but being a victim for too long can prevent you from getting on with your life and recovering after your divorce.
So there we have our top 10 tips for coping with life and recovering after a divorce. If you are reading this in the early days it might feel as though life will never again be on an even keel, as though nothing will ever go right again. You might feel rejected, unloved, unworthy and wonder if this is all there will ever be in your future.
You can rebuild yourself after divorce and lead a happy, fulfilled, exciting life. You can even find love again, plenty do. The key is to give yourself time; be kind to yourself, allow yourself to grieve what you have lost and then decide what options are open to you in the future.
Once you have worked on strategies to secure your financial future, help your children through the emotional rollercoaster that they are experiencing and established new lines of communication with your ex (if necessary) the world is your oyster. Winston Churchill once famously said ‘success is not final, failure is not fatal’’, we would paraphrase it to say a wedding is not final, divorce is not failure. You can recover, you will recover. Good Luck!