There is no doubt about it, divorce is tough. It’s difficult on everyone involved, at every level — emotionally and physically — it can take down the best of us.
Even though most people get married to stay happily-ever-after-together, things happen — people change.
We think marriage is forever. Until it isn’t.
While no two divorces are the same, they have some common themes. My divorce was messy. As messy as they come.
When you’re the party who wants to stay in the marriage, and the other party wants to leave, well, then it is also incredibly painful and devastating on top of messy. You feel abandoned, and your confidence unravels. When children are involved, go ahead and throw a little guilt in too for good measure.
Even if you’re the party who wants to stay, taking responsibility for your part in its breakdown will help you come to terms with your new life faster.
You are an active or inactive (which is like not voting, it still has an effect) participant in your relationship — you contributed to its collapse, as well as its successes — whether you acknowledge it or not. You may not recognize your part until years down the road after you’ve gained some distant. I know I did.
After the dust settles and you’ve gotten your bearings, post-divorce is a time of tremendous growth and reflection, if you allow for it. Away from the trappings of marriage — the routine and the boredom — the world is in color again, no more grey.
Yes, marriage brings stability; you usually know what’s coming and who you’ll be doing it with, and if you’re lucky, you chose the right person the first time.
Life after divorce, on the other hand, is reinvigorating and life-affirming. Even when dragged into court over nonsense, I felt a new hope rise inside of me, Oh, this is nice. This is good. I like how this feels.
Life takes on new meaning and purpose.
You are now totally in charge, solo. Disentanglement can be liberating. You get to decide your path; you move on any way you choose to, checking in with yourself and what matters to you most now.
8 ways I things got better at post-divorce
- I’m bolder. I take more risks. If only I had the confidence I have at this age and the youthful glow I had in my 20’s. Life would be exceptional. After getting out of a marriage that was holding me back, my confidence soared as I dared to be great; for me, this means showing up, putting myself out there, and not allowing failures to stop me from pursuing what I want. Because of my divorce, I started writing to relieve stress, and I haven’t stopped. When I write, I find myself.
- I’m a more present parent. I’ve always been a patient parent but not present. My divorce forced me into the present. Each time — and there were a lot of times — -while waiting to be called into court, I sat out in the vast hallway of the courthouse and read Eckhart Tolle’s A New Earth, and calmness washed over me like a warm bath. The only thing we have control over is right now. This moment. That one sentence got me through again and again as my husband threw dagger after dagger at me. This gave me the practice of acceptance and non-reaction, and Tolle, my imaginary mentor, helped me through.
- I’m a better friend. I started spending a lot more time with my friends, and they rallied behind me when my divorce began. I became more open out of necessity. I needed people to listen. I broke down regularly in tears to friends, who showed up, lent me money when I needed it, and had my back. Women I barely knew opened up their checkbooks to help me pay my attorney. Some are my closest girlfriends today. Now, I’m a more open person, and when a stranger or an acquaintance needs help, I offer it without any strings.
- I can handle most anything. In my marriage, I was handling most of the parenting alone. Once the other person left the situation, I was still handling the parenting on my own, but without resentment. Parenting got a lot easier because I wasn’t relying on someone unreliable. The workload stayed the same — actually, it decreased because now I have every other weekend to do whatever I want with my time — but the job got much easier because the anger and resentment I was carrying for my partner disappeared. Now, parenting is smooth. It turns out I’m a better parent alone.
- My mental and physical health improved. I feel again. The world is brighter. I started taking my eating habits more seriously. I cut out sugar and carbs and exercised daily to relieve stress. I’m the healthiest I have ever been, my daughter deserves a healthy mom, who sets a good example. After the shock of divorce wears off, and you found your resilience by surviving it, talk to friends or a therapist or write about what happened, try to understand why it didn’t work, so those emotional wounds don’t creep into future partnerships. Heal emotionally before you even consider starting a new relationship. Make sure you have time with yourself before getting involved with another person seriously.
- I’m in control of my finances. All the money you make, you are in charge of. You get a financial reboot. Divorce usually means you have to get real about your finances, and quick. It forces both parties to look at their financial situation in a realistic way — I suspect this keeps some marriages together past their expiration date. The upside is you will be solely responsible for your financial future, and how you spend your money. Some may find this daunting and scary. I find this liberating.
- More sex. You get to have sex with someone new. Being in a long-term marriage teaches you exactly what you want in bed, and what you don’t what. I’m more confident about which needs need to be met after being in a long-term marriage. It turns out sex is important to me. Post-divorce, you get clear on your desires, your likes, your dislikes. Carry that intention and make it a priority in your next relationship.
- I’m a better partner. Break old communication patterns before you begin a new relationship. Figure out what you could have done better in your first marriage, carry that knowledge over to your next relationship so you don’t repeat the same mistakes. This is a fresh start. Armed with knowledge, and maybe a qualified therapist, you can be a healthier participant the second time around, armed with life experience. According to the Journal of Happiness Studies, “For previously married individuals, a new partnership, cohabiting or married, provides a considerable increase in both happiness and life satisfaction over the first year.” Use your last marriage to prepare you for a better one, if that is what you want. Leave negative communication patterns behind, get help from a therapist if you have trouble communicating your needs in a way that promotes connection with your partner. Negative communication patterns are the number one predictor of divorce.
Divorce provides an opportunity to take a good, hard look at yourself and find a new you. It allows you to be introspective and gives you a second chance to create a new story for yourself. Take it and reach for a new, more satisfied you.
Jessica is a writer, an online entrepreneur, and a recovering Type A personality. She lives in Los Angeles with her extrovert daughter, two dogs, and two cats.