The Freedom You’ll Find After a Divorce
For many people, divorce means freedom.
Freedom from an overbearing or underwhelming relationship. Freedom from the obligations to please a person they just can’t please. Freedom from the trappings of a go-nowhere relationship. Freedom to become who they feel they are at this point in life.
That freedom can be exciting, and it can be scary, too. Having both of those feelings is absolutely to be expected and 100% normal.
I encourage divorcing clients to create a plan for what they will do with the time, space and quiet post-divorce. So often, they see only the leaving and not what life will be like after they’ve left.
They don’t see the potential loneliness, only the open calendar. They don’t see the way a Sunday can feel long and empty when there is no one to share it with. And they certainly can’t see that even if they initiate a divorce, they, too, will experience loss, pain and sadness as they mourn the death of the relationship.
Of course, they also can’t see what comes after that, which is beauty, possibility, and a new sense of self.
The plan you can create to guide your post-divorce freedom should include a small circle of go-to friends that you’re comfortable calling if you need to talk or want to hang out. These are friends who don’t judge your relationship’s end or your newfound singleness.
Some friendships will end because those are the people who only knew you in the context of your relationship. That’s ok. Perhaps they served their purpose, just as your marriage did. Make your peace and give yourself permission to move on.
You’ll make new friends, too. Friends who are in similar circumstances. Friends you’ve been wanting to know but your prior relationship prevented that from happening. Friends you don’t expect to discover but suddenly stumble upon happily.
At first, though, the people who respond strongly to your breakup – saying, “Oh no!! How are you handling it?” Or making comments about how they never liked your partner anyway. Or other things that just don’t help – these reactions can make it harder to be alone.
You have to be ok with your breakup so they will – and surround yourself with people who support you.
In the aftermath of a divorce, start by getting to know yourself again. Use the free time without your kids or without a partner to explore what you want with your life.
Try new modes of exercise. Take a solo trip. Eat in a restaurant or go to a movie alone. Discover your neighborhood through your eyes. Get a pet. Write a letter to an old friend you’ve missed. Buy yourself an indulgent gift just because you can.
Court your relationship with yourself before you ever begin to go in search of others. Ponder and reflect on your relationship and see what you can discover about yourself and how you relate to a partner. Try to articulate what you could have done differently or what you want to do in a future relationship. And celebrate the successes, because surely there were some.
Once you become solid on your planted feet, you’ll be in a great position to start anew – with dating, with friends, perhaps even with new work. Anything is possible if you take it slowly and map it out.
The biggest mistake newly divorced individuals make is rebelling against the relationship by partying hard, hooking up with too many partners, and basically numbing the pain of the loss. Embrace the uncertainty, and the fear. It’s the only way to move through it to what is waiting on the other side.
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OFTH is a unique resource to help couples who are contemplating divorce, already decided to split or going through mediation.
Clients often wonder which path to take when...