Making up your mind about ending a marriage is hard, however, for most people, the real challenge lies in moving on after divorce. The weight of the broken promise of a happily-ever-after, unlearning the motions of married life, letting go for a years-long partnership, picking up the pieces of a battered life, and stepping out into the world as a single person again is far from convenient.
Add to it the messiness of long-drawn-out court battles, challenges of co-parenting, and finding your footing emotionally, socially, and financially, and you may find yourself thinking that the loveless, dysfunctional marriage you were stuck in was a far lesser evil than life after divorce. We get it, the familiar is always more comforting than a life of uncertainties. However, now is not the time to second-guess your choices or wonder if staying in an unfulfilling relationship would have been a wiser choice – for the record, it’s not.
You deserve happiness at every stage of your life. If the route to that happiness goes through the rubble of a marriage, then so be it. Besides, divorce is not a decision you arrive at lightly, so first and foremost, let go of the what-ifs. Even though it may not seem like it in your darkest moments, you have already taken that first step toward reclaiming control of your life. Now, you need to make the most of it.
The steps you take in moving forward after divorce determine how your life plays out from here on. That’s why it’s imperative to get it right. That means moving from wallowing in self-pity toward self-care and learning to prioritize yourself. We’re here to help you in that journey, in consultation with emotional wellness and mindfulness coach Pooja Priyamvada (certified in Psychological and Mental Health First Aid from Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and the University of Sydney), who specializes in counseling for extramarital affairs, breakups, separation, grief, and loss, to name a few.
How Long Does It Take To Move On After Divorce?
The process of moving on from divorce is unique to each individual. The duration of your marriage will directly correspond to the time you take to move on. The nature of your relationship with your former spouse and the circumstances for the divorce also play a part. For example, if you walked out of your marriage because you fell out of love with your partner, it can be a tad easier to start over than, say, if the divorce was a result of your partner cheating on you.
Based on these variables, the timeline for moving on can be six months or six years. However, according to a study, it takes people an average of 18 months to get over the split from their spouses. Pooja explains, “Most people struggle to move on after a divorce because of a sense of loss, confusion, and dilemmas on the right way to lead a life without bitterness or worry.”
Besides, how long it takes you to leave behind the unpleasant experience of a failed marriage also depends on how you define moving forward. If your definition is being able to start over as an independent, single person, who is finally in control of their life, it can be easier to emerge from the shadows of your married life.
On the other hand, if your idea of moving on is to fall in love again, then the process may be more drawn out. This is not to say that you can’t find love after divorce or be in new relationships. Of course, you can. You may even get into a more fulfilling relationship than the one you had. It is rarely possible to jump into a relationship – at least a genuine one – immediately after a divorce.
Another factor that determines how easy or hard moving forward after divorce would be is the level and intensity of attachment. Even if the relationship was inherently damaging and you both agree that staying apart is the best thing to do, you might still have a hard time getting over your ex-spouse. This is especially true for toxic or abusive relationships, where partners are bound together not by love but by an unhealthy yet intense form of attachment.
The bottom line is, it will take as long as it takes, and if you’re lucky, you may find yourself fitting into the research-backed 18-month timeline for divorce recovery. Yes, the path will be challenging, especially if you are trying to move on from a divorce you didn’t want, but with consistent effort, you can turn this setback into the foundation of a bright future.
Related Reading: How To Leave A Marriage Peacefully – 9 Expert Tips To Help
Why You May Be Struggling With Moving On From Divorce?
Divorce is a leap into the dark and it is not uncommon to feel a sense of stagnation or loss of identity in its wake. For so long, you were a part of a family unit, albeit an unhappy one, and the roles you played in your married life become a big part of your identity. When all of that gets taken away, it is natural to feel overwhelmed by questions like, Who am I? What is the purpose of my life? Who do I have to lean on?
If the divorce happened so long back that you can’t even see it in the rearview of life but you still find yourself struggling with a sense of loss, feelings of guilt, and mixed emotions toward your ex-spouse, there can be some underlying triggers behind your inability to move on. Such as:
- Unresolved anger over the way your divorce played out
- Low self-esteem
- Feeling like you’re the victim divorce rather than an equal part to it
- Trauma from being betrayed by a spouse
- Fear of letting go and moving on
- Midlife crisis
- Mental health conditions like anxiety or depression
- Addiction or substance abuse issues
Pooja says, “The end of a marriage is traumatic. A failed marriage may leave a person with the guilt of being “failure”. When that happens, taking a detached and balanced view of your situation can be helpful. Own up to your part but don’t assume complete blame for your marriage ending in a divorce.”
Related Reading: 15 Subtle Yet Strong Signs Your Marriage Will End In Divorce
9 Important Tips When Moving On After Divorce
Now coming to the question that brought you here: how to move on from divorce? While there is no one-size-fits-all answer here, learning to put one foot in front of the other and taking baby steps toward a bright future is the key. Instead of getting overwhelmed worrying about everything all at once, tackle the moving-on process systematically. Prioritize your needs and work toward addressing them.
Dealing with uncomfortable feelings as well as rewiring your brain to heal from the pain are both equally essential for moving on after divorce. And how exactly can you do that? Here are a few expert-backed tips that can help:
1. Prioritize self-care to heal and move on
Now that you’re single again, you’ve got to have your back. The pain and the emotional wounds of a failed marriage can become all-consuming if you don’t take active measures to work through them. That’s why prioritizing self-care is crucial at this stage. Give yourself whatever you need to get through this difficult time and find peace, happiness, and joy again.
“It is crucial to focus on yourself after a divorce. At this time, your relationship with yourself is most important. Always remember you’re not one half of a partnership but a complete individual and nourish yourself emotionally and physically with self-care and self-love,” says Pooja.
Being at peace with yourself can shorten the recovery time considerably. Here are some acts of self-care that you can incorporate in your life to heal and move on faster:
- Steer clear of unhealthy coping mechanisms such as smoking, excessive alcohol consumption, or substance abuse
- Lean on your loved ones for support and comfort
- Don’t isolate yourself
- Eat healthily and take care of your health
- Stay active, incorporate some form of physical activity in your routine. Endorphins released during exercise can be a magic cure for the post-divorce blues
- Practice mindfulness and journaling to work through your uncomfortable feelings about the divorce
Related Reading: Expert Advice – When To Call It Quits In A Marriage
2. Grieve your loss but know when to stop
Life after divorce can feel like a never-ending maze full of twists and turns with no way out in sight. To make matters worse, you no longer have a partner you fall back on and figure it all out with. That can be a scary and lonely place to be in life. Not to mention, you’ve lost a defining aspect of your life. All this change and uncertainty is bound to bring up a lot of negative emotions and uncomfortable feelings.
Do not bottle them up or push them away because you need to be brave. There is nothing brave about running away from your feelings, facing them and embracing them is real bravery. So in those initial days after the divorce, embrace your sadness, your grief, your sense of loss, your confusion, your fear, and whatever you may be feeling. Let it all wash over you. Go through all the stages of grief. Cry, bawl, scream, if you need to.
Once you’ve processed all of these emotions, accept that your marriage is now a closed chapter. You now need to stop wallowing and focus on rebuilding your life, brick by brick. Pooja advises, “Even if you remember all the good times you shared with your former spouse, learn to rejoice in those memories, not wallow. You walked away after deliberation and careful consideration. Now is the time to focus on moving on, not let negative emotions hold you back.”
3. Get the logistics of your new life in order
Rebuilding your life after divorce essentially means starting over from scratch. When you pull apart two lives that have been enmeshed for so long, it’s only natural that you won’t come out whole. And we don’t just mean emotionally. Irrespective of the state of a marriage, spouses depend on each other for a lot. A divorce means learning to live without that support system.
For instance, if you are looking to move on after a divorce as a woman who may have put her career on the back burner for her marriage, you may need to figure out a way to be financially independent again. Perhaps, upskill or revive your networking skills to find a job, and so on. Likewise, moving on after divorce as a man may mean taking on the responsibilities that were so far shouldered by your wife.
For example, if you’re divorced parents who are co-parenting, you may need to be more hands-on with your children’s schedules, studies, school programs, and so on. From paying bills you never have to managing chores that you used to conveniently pass over to your spouse, divorce can be a lesson in learning and unlearning. Accept it.
3. Cut out toxic people from your life
Life has given you a chance to start afresh, and it’s best to do so with a clean slate. As you move forward after divorce, cut out any and all toxic people from your life. We all have people in our lives who, for some reason, seem intent on bringing us down and end up reminding us of instances we’d rather forget. For instance, if you decided to walk away after infidelity, you wouldn’t want your supposed friends to remind you of your partner’s transgression every chance they get or gossip about it.
It’s difficult enough as it is to move on after divorce and infidelity episodes, but toxic ‘friends’ and family can make it worse. It’s best to leave them behind as you focus on healing and moving forward. You can always count on your best friend and loved ones to see you through this difficult time. Let those who do not have your best interests at heart fall by the wayside.
Related Reading: The Best Divorce Advice For Women
4. Don’t let the divorce pity party go on for too long
The end of a marriage is not the end of possibilities for you. Sure, it is a painful experience but you can’t keep wallowing in negative emotions like self-pity, anger, or bitterness. Irrespective of whether you married young and have no idea what life without your partner would look like or divorced at 50 after spending decades with your spouse, it’s possible to rebuild your life all over again.
So stop getting into the cesspool of worry, pity, and feelings of inadequacy. You are much more than a failed relationship. Be determined not to define yourself by a divorce. This is particularly important in the case of a contested divorce, which can be excruciating. Speaking on the issue, noted divorce lawyer Vandana Shah told Bonobology, “You need to look at life beyond the courtroom. The proceedings may go on for a long while depending on the complexities of your case, but your process of moving on should begin immediately.”
5. Learn to set healthy boundaries with your ex
Unlike a breakup where partners can just snap all contact and go their separate ways never to cross paths again if they so decide, cutting out a former spouse from your life completely may not be realistic. This is especially true if you’re co-parenting as divorced parents. In situations like these, unhealthy boundaries with the ex-wife or ex-husband can wreak havoc on your emotional well-being and also make it impossible for you to move forward.
Speaking on the issue, counseling psychologist Kavita Panyam previously told Bonobology, “After your divorce, you are a third person in the life of your ex. Don’t try to be their spouse when you are no longer a spouse or let them play that role in yours.”
So, take the time to decide what boundaries you want to set and communicate them to your ex-spouse as clearly as you can. Be polite but assertive, so that they get the message that you’re drawing a line in the sand. Here are some examples of healthy boundaries with the ex:
- We will not talk about our marriage – be it the good, bad, or ugly
- Sex or any discussion about our sex life is off the table
- We will not use our children as pawns in our tussles
- We will not use our opinions of one another to influence our children negatively
- We won’t interfere in each other’s dating life or any new relationships
- We will communicate via texts/emails as far as possible
- We will keep our conversations civil; if either of us is triggered, we will put an end to the discussion and revisit the topic later
Related Reading: How To Cope With Divorce As A Man? – EXPERT ANSWERS
6. Help your children make peace with the divorce
Parents’ divorce sweeps through the children’s lives like a hurricane, turning their entire world upside down. As you battle with your own pain and struggles, you cannot overlook the impact of the divorce on your children. Irrespective of whether you decide to co-parent or offer them assurances that you’d both always be there for them, they are bound to struggle with fears and insecurities of their own.
As their parent, the onus of making this transition easier for them falls on you. If your ex wants to support you in this, well and good. If not, you’ve got to take it upon yourself to hold their hand through this difficult and emotionally vulnerable time. Here are some ways you can help your children cope with your divorce:
- Encourage them to share their thoughts and feelings with you and hear them out without judgment or disappointment
- Don’t make them feel as if they need to take sides or choose between their parents
- Explain the reasons for the divorce in a manner that is appropriate for their age and without making the other parent seem like the villain in the story
- Don’t take temper tantrums or lashing out personally
- Arrange for them to speak to a counselor or get necessary help if they’re struggling to come to terms with changed family dynamics
7. Joining a support group can help you move on
Support groups can offer much-needed perspective and validation. As you share your thoughts and feelings with like-minded people, you realize that your struggles and experiences are isolated. There are so many others out there in the same boat and those you have crossed over to the other side. Not only can these people offer valuable insights on how to move on from divorce but also offer you hope during a bleak time.
You can consider finding a local support group in your area or explore these online options:
- CirclesUp – A therapist-led group
- Woman’s Divorce – For divorced/soon-to-be divorced women
- Men’s Divorce – For moving on after divorce as a man
- Mid-Life Recovery – For middle-aged divorcees
- SupportGroups – For divorced parents
8. Get help from a mental health expert
A setback as huge as the dissolution of a marriage can take its toll on your mental health. In fact, post-divorce depression is a real risk. Research indicates that people who are divorced are six times more likely to experience an episode of depression than their married counterparts.
“Any traumatic event poses a risk to your mental health and divorce is undoubtedly traumatic. It’s essential to take stock of how you’re doing emotionally, and if need be, reach out to a mental health professional for help,” advises Pooja. If you feel that your mental health has taken a hit or that you’re struggling in moving on from divorce, remember asking for help is not an act of weakness or something to be ashamed of. It’s a form of self-care, and one you shouldn’t shy away from. If you’re looking for help, skilled and experienced counselors on Bonobology’s panel are here for you.
9. Learn to be single for a while
The thought of being single and without a partner can be rather daunting for someone who has been separated after being in a long relationship but that’s just what you need to do. It is normal to feel lonely after a divorce but jumping into the dating game straight away after a divorce can do more harm than good. To make sure your future relationships are healthy and free from the baggage of your past, you need to spend some time by yourself and focus on processing the emotional trauma of a failed marriage.
In some cases, casual dating might help you regain the fun you lost out on, but do not bet on it. If it doesn’t work, it might lead to more problems! Embrace the thought of being alone and discovering yourself without the crutches of a partner. You have every right to date and get into new relationships, but don’t let it be a rebound relationship.
- Moving forward after divorce can be a daunting proposition
- The recovery time depends on a host of factors – the length of your marriage, reasons for divorce, intensity of your relationship, to name a few
- Each person’s moving-on journey is unique
- You can turn over a new leaf by learning to prioritize yourself, grieving your loss, focusing on rebuilding your life, setting healthy boundaries with the ex, and getting the necessary help and support
Moving on after divorce can bring its own challenges, but nothing that you can’t surmount. Life is a lot more than a relationship and that’s what you need to remember as you pick up the threads of your life again and be prepared to seek love again.
You can move on in life after divorce by making a fresh start in terms of career and relationship. Do not carry the baggage of the past and be prepared for new experiences. Cut yourself off from any people who may have a negative influence on your life, your ex included. Focus on the future and learn to live with yourself before you jump into another relationship.
It depends on the circumstances of your divorce. If you have rushed through your divorce without thinking of the repercussions and if your post-divorce life is tougher, then you may probably regret getting divorced in haste. Better get a divorce checklist when you are contemplating divorce.
There is no study that says with surety what percentage of couples get back after divorce. There are instances when a divorced couple remarry only to separate once again.
Yes, you absolutely will be happy again! If you are willing to leave the past behind, embrace your singlehood and seek new experiences, you can be happy after divorce. The mindset you have while approaching how you move on after your divorce will determine how quickly you’ll be happy again. Don’t let the past weigh you down, learn from it and grow!
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