Going through a divorce is one of the hardest things a person can go though. It’s difficult to give up the dream you had of the fairy tale marriage and life-long commitment. Emotions run high, and after it is all over and you can finally relax from all the stress of it, you may find yourself asking, What do I do now?
Suddenly going from being married to being single can be a big adjustment, not just mentally but financially and socially as well. If there are children involved, it can be more difficult as you try to help them adjust as well.
After being married for nineteen years, I found myself suddenly single again at age 40, and I received so much well-meaning advice, some of which I took, some I ignored. After making some mistakes and learning things the hard way, I have some advice to give those of you in this position.
1) Give yourself time to grieve. A divorce is very much like a death. Even if there were problems in the marriage, you have to take time to grieve for the loss of the hopes you had for a future with your spouse. If the divorce was not something you wanted, this can be even more difficult. Talk to someone you feel safe with to share your feelings. Cry when you need to. Allow youself to express your anger in a controlled way. Denying your feelings at this time can cause depression later on.
2) Take stock. Sit down and look at where you are financially. Look at exactly what your new income will be minus your obligations. If adjustments need to be made, it’s better to make them immediately rather than continue to live the lifestyle you are used to but may no longer be able to afford. Make a working budget and allow yourself to adjust it as the need arises. Set short term and long term financial goals for yourself. If you have been a stay-at-home parent during the marriage, you may need some training in order to find suitable employment. Contact your local State Unemployment Office and local community colleges for programs they may offer free or by scholarship.
3.) Take care of yourself physically. A divorce can cause havoc with your health if you don’t take the time to take care of yourself. Eat healthy, exercise, and get plenty of sleep. If you are depressed, talk to your family doctor.
4.) Gather a support system. This is not the time to tough it out and go it alone. You need supportive people to talk to and call on when you need help. Talk to friends, your minister, family members and form your own network of support. If you don’t have friends or family who support you, joing a divorce recovery group at a local church. It helps tremendously to realize you are not alone. Avoid isolating yourself.
5.) Don’t rebound into another relationship. You may want to seek revenge on your spouse by showing him or her that you can get someone better. Don’t. It will only harm you to rush into another relationship right now. Statistics show that rebound relationships have a greater risk of failure. You need some time on your own to learn about yourself, to get on your feet again, without rushing into another relationship. This is one of the most common mistakes people make and the one I hear the most regret over.
6.) Don’t let negative emotions crowd out your happiness. Divorces are never caused by one person. It takes two people to have problems in a relationship. Look at it as a time in your life that was necessary to become the person you were meant to be. Learn from it, so you don’t make the same mistakes. Don’t carry a grudge against your ex. As Dr Phil McGraw says, “The best revenge you can get on a former spouse/boyfriend is to let them see the happy life you’ve made for yourself.” Don’t let any negative emotions keep you from moving forward.
7.) Journal. Buy a notebook or journal and write down those thoughts and feelings you don’t feel you can share with others. Be totally honest with yourself. Many people report after a divorce that they have been part of a couple for so long, that they have lost themselves. Journaling will help you connect with yourself again.
Adjusting to being divorced takes time. Some people adjust more quickly than others. Give yourself the time it takes to make the changes you need to live a happy life again. Your future depends on it.