A divorce is a long and painful process. It can consume you, your life, and feel like it is a never-ending state of chaos, lawyers and paperwork. And once the process is complete and it’s time to move on, you may have no idea how to get started with your new life after divorce.
For most people divorcing the process actually begins long before the first lawyer is called. The emotional and mental anguish that precedes the final decision to divorce may have been going on for years. When you are finally on the other side of things and trying to organize your life after divorce there are a range of challenges and decisions you will have to make. And many of the emotions that accompany these things will be complicated and confusing.
Moving On With Your Life After A Divorce
Going through a divorce can leave you emotionally drained and feeling lost. Many people will feel like they have lost touch with who they once were. And it’s entirely possible to have lost confidence and suffered blows to your self-esteem through the process, especially if things were messy and contentious. Men in particular can have a tough time with this.
Men who are trying to move on after a divorce often suffer with feelings of failure and worthlessness. The invasiveness and exposure that comes with divorce, and the settling of assets and custody issues if children are involved, generally shine a light on faults and shortcomings of both spouses. This can leave people feeling like their redeeming qualities are nearly non-existent. Because men are less likely to seek help and support with these feelings, life after divorce for men can be a lonely time and leave many scars.
But finding the emotional strength to move on with your life after divorce whether you’re a man or woman is crucial even if it’s not easy. You will need to take the time to focus on healing and coming to terms with all the changes that you have been through.
Even if many of these changes are positive in your mind, they still take time to work through and process. Many people make the mistake of believing that once the divorce is final all their worries and pain will disappear, or that the best next step is to look for a new relationship or partner. Neither of these things is true. Once the divorce is final there are still steps you will need to take to ensure you are emotionally healthy, rebuild, and to make yourself ready for the next chapter in your life.
Dr. Kurt counsels many people going through divorce. When asked for his advice to those trying to start a new life after divorce he had this to say,
Discovering a new life after divorce is challenging. Unfortunately, many people jump right into a new relationship, often during their divorce, and rob themselves of the opportunity of learning and changing from it. However, those who are patient and put in the work to learn, grow and carefully build their new life can find one that is often more rewarding than the one they lost. It's important to be very careful who you turn to for advice during this time though. Many well meaning people just don't know the right thing to say and many are negatively influenced by their own divorce, failed relationship baggage. A guy I'm counseling right now had his father tell him, 'I'm over her, so you should be too.' He's not -- despite the fact that she cheated on him and their divorce is ugly. His father's empathetic-less words only compounded this man's guilt and shame over the fact that he's struggling mightily to move on with his life."
Understanding Your Feelings After A Divorce
It’s done, the ink is dry, and now you should feel relieved and ready for a fresh start, right? No, not really. Your feelings once the divorce is final can actually be even more complex, intense, and varied than they were before. This is partially due to the fact that the dust is now settling and you are left facing a new reality with nothing now to distract you. Taking a close look at your feelings and sorting through them can be a very painful process.
It isn’t uncommon after a divorce has finalized to suddenly feel waves grief, anger, and bitterness. And, to make it more complicated, these feelings can occur at the same time as feelings of excitement, relief, and hope for the future.
This barrage of feelings is normal, and eventually they can start to sort themselves out. It may take help, however, and it will definitely take time.
Steps For Rebuilding Your Life After Divorce
For many, feeling normal – or even knowing what normal feels like – can take many months or possibly 1-2 years to achieve. It’s important not to rush things or ignore your feelings as you rebuild. You have just been through what is arguably one of the most difficult experiences an adult can have. And if you have children you are responsible for doing things the right way not just for you, but for them as well.
While everyone’s life is different, there are some general steps that are common and helpful to facilitate a healthy rebuilding of your life after a divorce.
- Allow yourself to mourn. As you go through a divorce it can be easy to be distracted by the process and focus on what needs to happen next rather than what you’re feeling. And even if it’s not likely, or even desired, until it’s done there will remain the possibility that the love isn’t completely gone and that you can reconcile, no matter how slight. Once all the paperwork is finalized you will have to face the fact that your marriage is over and this in many ways can feel like a death. You will need to allow yourself to mourn the end of what was once a happy relationship and all the hopes and dreams that came along with it. Even those excited by their new future will have feelings of loss that will need to be dealt with, not ignored or dismissed.
- Lean on your support network. This isn’t an easy time, and friends and family are an important part of providing comfort and perspective. The same way you would be there for people you love and care about, allow them to be there for you. The truth is that divorce affects those around you too, especially if your soon to be ex was well liked, or if you share friends. Letting people help and support you will actually help them as well.
- Get to know yourself. The problems in your marriage that led to your divorce and the divorce itself will have caused a lot of turmoil in your life. It’s easy to become so pulled and pushed by life and the various problems that suddenly you realize years have gone by and the person you once were seems like a stranger. With a new chapter in your life about to begin, you will need to take time to learn or relearn who you are. Don’t underestimate the importance of this process. Without getting to know the person you are after your divorce you won’t be able to honestly start and maintain healthy new relationships, and you will be in danger of allowing others to lead you into and through their lives rather than leading your own.
- Redefine yourself. Once you have become comfortable with the person you are you will find yourself in a good position to redefine or recreate that person through positive changes. You were one half of a married couple, and then you were the person going through divorce. Now you get to decide who you want to be and make the changes needed to feel good about that person.
- Seek guidance. All of these things are far easier to talk about than they are to enact. The truth is that getting your life back after divorce can be really difficult and complicated. Don’t hesitate to seek the guidance of a professional counselor to help you work through the hard feelings and help you be successful. When you’re in the midst of a difficult and painful situation it can often take an objective third party to help you gain the needed perspective and take the first steps toward your new life.
Men in particular can find the help of a counselor a necessary and beneficial tool for moving on. Life after divorce for men has unique challenges because of the societal programming that causes many men to feel they must remain stoic and avoid talking about their feelings. Men who don’t get the support they need can easily develop depression during or after their divorce. This can be especially true during midlife when a divorce can trigger not only depression, but a midlife crisis as well.
When you got married you didn’t think this is the way things would end up. You were hopeful, excited and in love. The end of a marriage isn’t what any of us would want, but it doesn’t have to be the end of your happiness. There is life after divorce and, although it can take time and work, it’s possible for that life to be happy and for you to find love again.
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