Whether you’ve been married for one year, ten years or even fifty years, if your marriage ends in divorce then chances are you will be facing one of the most difficult, challenging times of your adult life. Divorce often leaves everyone involved struggling with a range of emotions and issues. Perhaps you are elated that you are finally free of your spouse, however, your parents are angry at you that your marriage has failed. Maybe you feel a deep sense of loss and have fears for the future – what about the house, the kids and your finances?
No matter how divorce has affected you, here are eight tips to help improve your life after divorce:
1. Evaluate Your Finances
Few married couples have maintained complete autonomy when it comes to their finances; most share bank accounts, credit cards, assets, loans and mortgages. When the marriage ends make figuring out your finances a priority because, until you do, you will not be able to move on with your life.
2. Let Yourself Grieve
When you said your wedding vows, chances are good you believed you’d be married for the rest of your life (most people do). The loss of your marriage can be one of the most profound losses you will ever experience in your life, even if the marriage wasn’t a great one. Give yourself permission to feel sad, angry, and upset – just don’t get stuck in these feelings.
3. Let Go Of Guilt
Many people are burdened by guilt following their divorce; they feel like they are failures, that they should have done more to save their marriage. If you did something that clearly led to the breakdown of the marriage (such as had an affair) then that guilt may be justified, however, feeling guilty all the time can leave you drowning in negative thoughts and feelings. Work to identify why you feel guilty then take steps to resolve any outstanding issues, ensuring that you learn from your past mistakes.
4. Seek Support
Finding a reliable support network is key to both surviving your divorce and establishing your new identity as an unwed person. Formal support groups exist in many communities; check with your community center, church or local social service agency. You can also join an online community where you can connect with others who have similar circumstances to yours. For some people, their separation leads them to re-connect with family and friends, who can often be a tremendous source of both emotional and financial support.
5. Get To Know Yourself
One of the most common complaints people have about their marriages is the loss of their personal identity; often those who are in long-term relationships tend to identify more as a spouse and partner than an individual and in the process, they can loose sight of who they are. Take the time to reflect on your own personal values, thoughts and feelings, re-connecting with the person you were before you were married.
6. Embrace Your Newfound Independence
Being a partner in a marriage means compromising; for many couples, that means that each spouse takes on specific roles. Perhaps you always handled the finances while your ex dealt with household repairs; maybe you’ve never vacationed overseas because your husband or wife had a fear of flying. Once divorced, you are free to handle your life however you’d like, travel where you want, spend time with people you like – enjoy.
7. Don’t Be Afraid To Date
While it’s never advisable to jump into another serious relationship just as your marriage is ending, dating can be a great way to boost your confidence and help you see the positives of your status as a single person. If you do decide to re-enter the dating world, don’t head out looking for your next life partner on the first date; that can both scare off potential mates and strike a blow to your self-esteem.
8. Focus On The Positive
Although divorce can be truly devastating it can also be a positive, life-changing experience. Divorce can help you realize what you might have known for a very long time – that you choose the wrong spouse, you were in an abusive relationship or you simply were not happy. Make a list of all the good things about being divorced – if you have a hard time with this, ask your support network for help. Often your family and friends are able to see positive changes that you are not yet fully aware of such as an increase in your energy levels, renewed interest in activities you enjoy and an overall happier, healthier you.
As divorce rates in the United States hover around the 50 percent mark, divorcees are no longer considered to be a minority. Many of those who are now separating and divorcing are baby boomers; part of an upward trend in the divorce rates among those who are aged 50 or older. According to a recent study by Bowling Green State University, one in four divorces now involves people born before 1962 [http://www.cnn.com/2012/06/24/living/baby-boomer-divorce/index.html] while the divorce rate for second and third marriages was over double that of first marriages. If you are one of the millions of Americans whose marriage has ended, remember that by following these eight tips, you can have a happy, full life after divorce.