“Sure, I suffered a lot. But it’s not like the end of the world and it’s not who I am.” – Actor Ben Affleck on Divorce
Divorce can be of two kinds – ugly and painful or smooth and non-controversial. Ninety-five percent of divorce cases belong to the first category. The rest are probably lying! Try as much as you can, life after divorce is not easy as some people like to make it sound. To start again after divorce and build a life from scratch can be an intimidating and daunting prospect, owing to the baggage of the past.
A couple may find their peace later but the process and the aftermath of a relationship gone awry is anything but kind. There is pain, there are fights, resentments and arguments – all of which finally result in a date with the courts. Then, once the divorce battle is over, there is the loneliness to deal with.
Unlike the end of a relationship, a divorce, apart from the emotional upheaval, also involves a lot of paperwork. So, if you felt your marriage was challenging, just try life after divorce – it’s unlike anything you may have experienced given the gamut of emotions you go through.
What Should I Do With My Life After Divorce?
How to rebuild life after divorce? Is there life after divorce? How do I begin to pick up the pieces and start afresh? These questions stare at most men and women once the paperwork is done and dusted. There might be a sense of loneliness mixed with a strange relief too, especially if you have gotten your freedom after a nasty battle.
However, be it graceful or bitter, your post-divorce life will be vastly different than your pre-separation one. And it’s up to you what you want it to be. Dr. Sapna Sharma, life coach and counselor, asks a simple question, “After your divorce, ask yourself what you choose – resentment toward those who caused you pain and trouble or a fresh life. Your coping mechanism will depend on the answer you choose.”
If you are a divorcee who shudders at the question – what to do after divorce – know that the D-word is not the end of the world (as Ben Affleck says). Rather, it can be a brand new beginning. Sure, the shock of being single again might hit you but this can be your second chance to correct the mistakes of the past and live the life you have always dreamt of. Placing your hope in new beginnings is one way to find peace after divorce.
Related Reading: Love Again? 10 Real Fears About Love After Divorce
15 Ways To Build Your Life And Start Afresh
Unfortunately, there cannot be a templated answer to the ‘what to do after divorce’ question. Every separation story is different and the new life after divorce that you hope to lead can be very different from that of others in a similar situation. For instance, life after divorce with a child can be markedly different than it is for someone who is childfree. Likewise, if cheating sounded the death knell for a marriage, life after divorce how the unfaithful sees it and how the one who was cheated on sees it can be polar opposites.
Then, if the dissolution of marriage means freedom from abuse, finding peace after divorce can be easier than it would be if your relationship wasn’t categorically toxic or dysfunctional. So, how to start again after divorce also depends on what kind of marriage you’re coming out of.
Apart from that, you have to choose a life that works in your best interest, which depends on a host of factors – family support, financial independence, children’s responsibilities, career etc. However, whatever the challenges might be, you have the right to put the past behind you and embrace a whole new future. A divorce can be a mistake but not a failure. Here are some ways to feel you have finally got it all under control and navigate the problems after divorce to rebuild your life:
1. Give yourself enough mourning period
The death of a marriage can wear you down. But you need to give yourself time to heal. Do not do anything hasty, instead, focus on bringing some calm to your life after the storm. Go through all the conflicting emotions even if there is a sense of grief or loss. Definitely take the help of a licensed and trained therapist at this stage to help you process your feelings through counseling.
When Marsha’s 15-year-long marriage fell apart, she didn’t know how to start again after a divorce. With children having flown the nest and her career pretty much plateaued, she struggled to find a sense of purpose and began seeking refuge in alcohol. On her daughter’s insistence, she finally sought help by going into therapy.
Allowing herself to feel the full extent of her emotions – from anger to sadness and grief – in the presence of a compassionate and trained professional was the turning point for her.
Related Reading: Divorce at 50: How I Found a New Life and Happiness
2. Normalize your feelings
Divorce is one of the hardest things to go through despite being very common. You don’t choose to divorce when you get married! “So whatever you feel when you split up is justified,” says psychologist Paul Jenkins.
“Treating your emotions like normal feelings toward an abnormal episode will help you feel less crazy about it.” In a nutshell, cut yourself some slack as you plan your life after divorce. In Marsha’s case, for instance, it was her inability to sit with her emotions that was getting in the way of her efforts to rebuild life after divorce.
3. Ensure your existential realities are sorted
While your divorce agreements would have it in black and white, be clear and aware of all the logistics, legalities, rights and responsibilities.
Where to live after divorce, what are the visitation rights for kids, the alimony amount you have to receive or give, the splitting of the assets etc. Only once these issues are sorted can you focus on your personal life after divorce. Take sensible divorce advice and sort this out.
4. Make yourself your No. 1 priority
After being together with someone for a while, it’s now time to fly solo. Don’t be terrified by the thought. Think of it this way: For several years, you may have put your partner’s interests above yours. Now is the time to make yourself the priority.
It’s your needs, desires, fears and vulnerabilities that take center stage – address them. You will be thankful for it, later. To find peace after divorce and begin the process of rebuilding your life, you need to learn to practice self-love. For that, it is essential to stop viewing yourself as one half of a broken relationship and instead look at yourself as a whole again.
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5. Make careful financial investments
Once you begin a new life after divorce after everything is settled, finances are the first thing you need to set in order. Invest wisely and learn how to manage your portfolio. It is not rocket science, it’s just a part of life that you need to understand to be able to live independently sans any interference. It’s your money now, you need to take care and be responsible for it.
To start again after divorce and rebuild your life becomes that much easier when you’re financially sound. So, be invested in the process of getting there.
6. Don’t compromise on your principles
Whatever be the pain caused due to your split, do not stray from your core values and principles. Be right even if the marriage seemed wrong. “Don’t choose to be spiteful or hateful, that’s what leads to a horrible divorce and worse feelings thereafter,” says Jenkins. Choose positive values like joy, happiness and grace over negativities, bitterness and hatred. Stay strong on your righteous path.
7. Seek new friends
Life after divorce for a woman can have strange challenges. From men hitting on you because they think you are available to married female friends avoiding you because they fear their husbands might eye you, there is a lot that goes on. If you feel uncomfortable in the company of such people, dump them! Seek new SINGLE friends who can help you get back into the groove.
Besides, if you were married for long, there is a good chance that your and your ex’s social circles are all mingled up. Revisiting those old connections can make healing the wounds that much harder. While you don’t necessarily have to cut all your old friends out, try to build a new social circle that is free from the shadows of your past.
8. Celebrate your singledom
It might feel odd to wake up alone and not have someone to fuss or fret over, but this is your chance to celebrate being single again. Ensure that you being alone does not result in you being lonely. Plan a trip with your other single friends, sign up for meet-up groups, make a conscious effort to step out and have a social life. You will soon start liking it. Being unhappily married may be hard but being happily single can be enjoyable.
Related Reading: 12 Tips To Be A Successful Single Mother
9. Seek new relationships…
…but stay away from mindless dating. Life after divorce for a man, especially, can seem like endless opportunities to indulge in casual dating. There is a difference between dating and a relationship, understand that. While it’s a good idea to not get into deep, intense relationships for some time, going to the other extreme will serve no purpose either. It might just lead you completely astray. Don’t use the crutch of many women to get over one woman.
This becomes even more important if you’re trying to get on with life after divorce with a child. Too many new relationships and partners can be confusing and unsettling for the child, who may already be reeling from the trauma of their parent’s separation.
10. Be careful of what you say to your child
When a child is involved in the drama, it gets trickier. Regardless of who wins the custody battle, life after divorce with a child can get very tricky. Be sensitive to your children while going through divorce. Take care to see the kid/s do not get involved in the bitterness. Whatever be your feelings towards your ex, never let your children dislike him or her. Give them a realistic picture of course, but keep them away from the hate.
Jigyasa, a single mother, says, “To restart your life after divorce with a child, it’s crucial to talk to the child/ren and prepare them before the divorce occurs. If the divorce is amicable, both partners must drive home the message that it’s only the couple that is getting divorced and not the parents. This offers the kids the reassurance that they wouldn’t be losing upon the love they deserve.
“At the same time, it’s important to talk to the children about the possibility of finding a new partner for ourselves. They need to understand that doing so isn’t being selfish but a human need and that it doesn’t mean that their love would be shared or divided. “My son, who is now 14, said to me almost four years back: Maa, if you need a partner, I am ok with it but I don’t need a father anymore. That kind of maturity and understanding can come only when the parents handle this delicate situation sensibly.”
11. Reinvent yourself
For long you have held a particular identity – XYZ’s wife or husband. Since that designation no longer exists, this is your time to give your inner self a makeover too. Vow to make your life after divorce the most enriching chapter yet. Join new courses, learn new skills, follow the passions that you had always put on the backburner. Now is the time to rebuild your life after divorce.
Reinventing yourself doesn’t have to be radical nor should you expect change to happen overnight. The key is to invest in making small changes every day so that you can see a big difference in your quality of life over time.
Related Reading: Can Children Foresee Parents’ Divorce?
12. Don’t let age get in the way
Admittedly, long-time married people who find themselves starting over after divorce at 40 or later, have more adjustment problems than those who divorce young. But remember that age is just a number.
Instead of wallowing about how you lost your best years to a bad marriage, cherish each moment of your new life. Look at each day as an opportunity to finally lead the life you wanted. Some people are in happy second marriages after 40. The secret to start again after divorce and rebuild any and every aspect of your life – be it your career or your love life – is to free yourself from preconceived notions about how things ought to be at a certain stage of life.
13. Gradually learn to be more independent and organized
This is a problem faced more often by men. Life after divorce for men over 40 can sometimes mean a sudden retreat into bachelorhood. If you had a typical family life, an organized home, routine etc, the changes brought on by a separation can be rather unnerving.
Learn to cope with divorce as a man by being more organized and learn the domestic chores that you probably shared with your wife, even if you hate them.
14. Prepare to lose some friends
This has a direct correlation to point 7. In a divorce, common friends often get caught up in the drama and they are forced to take sides. Don’t be surprised if you are left out of some invites because your spouse is likely to be there and your friend does not want any embarrassment.
Well, that’s the reason, in a life after divorce, you need to meet new people and replace relationships that you have outgrown. It’s not a great idea to keep hanging out with your ex’s friends. To find peace after divorce, you have to be prepared to give up on more than just your marriage.
Related Reading: 20 Rules Of Dating A Single Dad
15. Forgive yourself
You will never be able to move on if you don’t forgive yourself. A deep introspection into the breakdown of the marriage will reveal your faults too but do not beat yourself about it. Things do go wrong in life, you end up making wrong choices. But do not look at divorce as a failure. Forgive yourself and your spouse and make a new beginning.
The crux of moving on after a divorce is to not make your ex or your marriage the be-all and end-all of your life. Try and count the blessings you have and seek to fulfill all the things on your bucket list. Every cloud has a silver lining and it’s the only way you can see light.
If you were in a bad or abusive marriage, life can definitely be better after divorce. But it entirely depends on your attitude towards it and how you intend to lead your life after divorce – with resentment and hatred or with a resolve to leave the past behind.
Life after divorce is not easy, especially if you have had to fight a long battle to get the papers signed. Even in divorces that are not nasty, the lead up to the split would be unpleasant. So inevitably, there would be pain. And this would define how you move on after divorce.
Absolutely. Love always deserves a second or third chance. You can always find love provided you are open to it. A divorce doesn’t need to be a full stop to seeking good relationships. On the contrary, the experience can prevent you from making mistakes you made earlier.
Divorce is always a better choice than an unhappy marriage because you deserve to be happy and if your marriage Is not enriching you or making you feel complete, you have every right to walk out. It won’t be easy but it will be better for everyone.