Divorce is one of the most emotionally draining and overwhelming experiences a person can endure, but you can overcome it and emerge stronger and happier than before. To cope with your divorce, you’ll need to give yourself time to heal, work on enjoying your single life, and seek support from others. (Read my blog on How to cope with Jealousy in a relationship)
Processing and recovering from divorce takes a lot of time and energy, but you’ll feel more stable and centered once you’re able to let go of your failed relationship and learn to love your life again. If you want to cope with your divorce and rediscover your strength and happiness, start by following these steps.
Take Time to Heal
If you want to cope with your divorce as best as you can, then you need to give yourself time to grieve. You can’t just expect to move on fully as soon as your ex-partner moves out or as soon as the divorce is finalized. Even if the relationship had gone sour a long time ago, you’ll still need time to deal with the emotional pain of ending a relationship with someone you once deeply loved. Instead of being in denial about how much you’re hurting, you should tackle your feelings of confusion, pain, and sorrow head on.
It’s okay to Cry
This will be therapeutic and will make you feel better — it’s better than keeping these feelings in and letting them build up.If you don’t want to be social, talk to your friends, or be out and about for a while, that’s okay too.
Though you’ll feel better once you engage with the world and settle into a comfortable routine, you can’t expect to do it overnight.You can keep a journal for writing down all of your thoughts of confusion and pain. This will help you heal as you figure out your feelings.
Let go of your regret.
Though you may have a number of regrets about the end of your marriage, whether you regret deeply hurting your loved one, not being around enough, or not taking the time to do the little things that might have helped the relationship grow, you can’t waste your time asking “What if…” all day long. This will only make you feel more upset as you try to change things that are out of your control.
Try making a list of all of the things you regret and then tearing it up. Once you write down all of the things that you regret, you’ll be able to deal with them more easily. It’s likely that your ex is filled with regret, too. But remind yourself that this feeling won’t lead you anywhere.
Don’t go through it alone get support
Once you’re ready to talk to your family and friends about the divorce, you should take the time to open up to a few close friends or family members, or even just one close friend or sibling, so you don’t have to face all of your hurt feelings by yourself. Talk to your friends on the phone, meet them for lunch, or even just invite them over to help you heal. You should also consider getting help from a mental health professional.
You don’t have to talk about your divorce if you’re not feeling up to it yet, but you can’t keep all of your pain and hurt to yourself forever.Your friends can also offer a nice distraction in your time of need. Having a good friend around can help you take your mind off of your pain. Even if you’re suffering incredible heartache, you may be surprised to find that your best friend can still make you laugh.
Accept that it’s over.
You may not be able to accept that your relationship is really over, even if your divorce has been finalized. It takes time to accept the fact that your life with your former partner won’t turn out as you expected, but that doesn’t mean that the rest of your life won’t go on without your ex.
Take the time to see that it’s really over and that no amount of talking, self-improvement, or compromise will change that. You’ll only be able to begin to move on if you accept that your marriage is truly over. Until you do, you won’t be able to enjoy your new life.Reminding yourself of all the reasons that the marriage ended, and all of the unhappiness you felt, will help you appreciate the fact that it’s over more.
Take it easy on yourself.
While you’re starting the healing process, you should avoid being hard on yourself or raising your expectations for how you should behave. Now’s not the time to lose those pesky twenty pounds you’ve wanted to lose forever or to start working overtime at your job to try to impress your boss. You can try to achieve your goals once you’re feeling a bit more mentally sound — until then, just focus on keeping your head above water.
Don’t berate yourself for eating too much, waking up late, or forgetting a friend’s birthday. Though you can’t use the divorce as an excuse for less than desirable behavior forever, you can’t hold yourself to the highest standards in a time of grief.
Cut off communication with your ex — if you can.
If there are no kids in the picture and you and your ex have separated and split up your things, then you should avoid talking to, texting, or even using social media to communicate with your ex. And though you may think it’s “mature” of you to hang out with your ex to show that you’re hanging in there, you shouldn’t grab coffee or chat with your ex on the phone until you really feel like you’ve moved on.
This could take years, so be patient. If there are kids in the picture, then you obviously can’t ignore your ex completely. You should still talk when you need to and be as polite and cordial as you can, but don’t use the kids to have a long, deep conversation about how much you miss each other.
Prepare for a long process.
Once you’ve begun to heal, you can start to wrap your mind around the fact that it’s going to take a long time to get over your ex. This isn’t just an ordinary high school break up, or even the end of a relationship that lasted a few years. A marriage required a bigger commitment and likely left you with more baggage, whether it’s deciding who should keep the house or deciding how the kids’ visits should go. The sooner you accept that you won’t be able to get over the divorce in a matter of weeks, you’ll be able to deal with it more quickly.
Admit your shortcomings — and work on them.
Though you may blame your ex for the end of the marriage, it’s likely that you weren’t completely blameless in the process. There must have been at least a few occasions where you could have acted differently, and you must have a few character traits that you’d like to work on to ensure success in your future relationships.
Make a list of all of the qualities you’d like to change about yourself and make a game plan for addressing them. This will give you a positive way to occupy your time and will make you feel less anger about the end of the relationship.
Don’t make yourself even more overwhelmed. Addressing your shortcomings doesn’t mean feeling like you’re an unworthy person full of negative qualities.
Don’t rush into a new relationship.
Though you may think that rushing into a new relationship will help you take your mind off of your ex, it will actually make you feel worse to jump into a new relationship when you’re not nearly over the old one. Dating someone new will make you constantly compare that person to your ex, and to use up a lot of emotional energy for dating the new person while also trying to deal with your failed relationship.
No only will rushing into a new relationship make it harder for you to get over the old one, but it will also cause pain for the other person you’re trying to date.
Don’t drag your kids into it.
Though you may have strong feelings of regret or even hatred toward your ex after your divorce, dragging your kids into it will only make things worse and will cause great pain and confusion for your children.
Even if you and your ex-partner are at each other’s throats, you should keep the tension away from your kids and not let them see it, or they’ll feel like they’re caught in the middle and won’t be able to enjoy their time with either you or your ex.
Don’t say anything negative about your ex to your kids. This will make them feel confused and hurt. When you see your ex to drop the kids off, try as hard as you can to at least be cordial.
Kids will have an intuitive sense that things aren’t going well between you and your ex already, so you should try as hard as you can to make things seem normal.
Avoid making big decisions right away.
You may have been thinking about going back to school, moving across the country, or quitting your job to pursue a new career already, but you should put the big decisions on hold for a little while until you feel a bit more stable. Wait at least a few months before making a major, life-altering decision to make sure that it isn’t just the divorce talking. If you make a major life decision right after your divorce, then you may have to deal with too much adjustment at once. Wait until you feel a bit more level-headed about the divorce and then consider the other decision.
Find your own path to healing.
When people hear that you’re getting a divorce, your ears will immediately be filled with a flurry of well-intentioned advice, a lot of which will be useless or won’t apply to you. You may be told to have a romantic fling, stop believing in love, try to move on immediately or to try to stay so insanely busy that you won’t have time to breathe. However, you’ll have to find your own path instead of following all of the advice that you’ll hear.
Every relationship is different, and so is the end of any relationship — therefore, you’ll have to decide which advice is helpful and to find your own path to happiness.
Be attentive to your own needs.
It’s important to check in with yourself and to make sure that your mind and body are as reasonably healthy as they can be during this time of crisis. Though you may feel that all you can do is lie on the couch and cry, you should make sure to eat even when you aren’t hungry, to get out of the house and take a walk when your body needs the exercise, and to look away from the television when your eyes need to rest.
And if you’re craving an ice cream sundae or if you’re really longing for a night out with the girls but won’t admit it, give in to that, too. Do what your mind and body are telling you to do instead of ignoring your true needs. The sooner you start eating, sleeping, and doing the things your body and mind need regularly, the sooner you can get back to your normal life.
Develop a solid routine.
Though you shouldn’t pack your schedule so much that you can’t even come up for air, you should make sure to keep yourself as busy and occupied as you can so that you don’t have hours on end to think about your divorce. Once you’re ready plug at least a few social occasions, workout routines, or times carved out for the things you loved into your schedule so that you have enough things to keep you on your feel and to give you something to look forward to.
You should try to have at least one thing each day to look forward to, even if it’s just a phone date with a close friend or some time to watch that old Katherine Hepburn movie that you haven’t seen in a decade. Setting goals can help you develop a routine. For example, if you want to run a 5K, then you’ll have to fill a few hours a week with time for training. Try to mix it up. Don’t fall back into the routine you had when you were married, or you’ll miss your own life even more.
Though you don’t have to go on a health kick right after your divorce, working on maintaining healthy life habits will help you start to feel mentally more stable and physically stronger. Work on eating three healthy and balanced meals a day, getting 7-8 hours of sleep at around the same time every night, and working out at least a few times a week. Don’t overdo it. Don’t take your divorce as a reason to lose fifty pounds or being a health food nut. Just be healthy — in moderation. Exercising will make you feel more energized and positive.
Explore new interests.
Use your divorce as the opportunity to try the things you never got to try when you were married. Maybe you always wanted to take an art class but never had the chance, or maybe you never had a chance to expand your cooking repertoire because you didn’t have the time. Now, spend some time finding a love for Italian cuisine, pottery, or foreign films and enjoy the feeling of expanding your mind and body and finding new things to care about.
Check out the classes at your local gym and take one that appeals to you. Don’t be afraid if you’re an absolute beginner — you won’t be alone. Exploring a new interest will also expose you to a wider variety of interesting, engaged people.
Change your environment.
If you ended up staying in the home that you shared with your ex, then you may need a change of pace. Though it may not be financially or practically possible for you to move out of the house, but you can move things around so your ex’s presence isn’t haunting the place. Move your furniture around or buy new furniture, paint the walls, or even splurge on a new bed so you can slowly remove the presence of your ex.
If you want to take a little vacation, go for a weekend trip or a getaway across the country to visit a friend. Though taking a vacation won’t be a permanent solution for your divorce, it can help take your mind off of things. You can also change your environment by avoiding the bars, restaurants, or old haunts where you and your ex used to hang out.
Avoid alcohol as a coping mechanism.
Though you may think that drinking will relieve your pain and make it easier to deal with your divorce, it’ll actually make your troubles harder and will bring you more physical and emotional pain. Though it may be fun to forget your divorce for a few hours and let loose, don’t drink so much that you don’t know where you are, lose control, and end up embarrassing yourself and hurting others in the process.
If you want to take it easy on drinking for a while, let your friends know. This will make it harder for them to pressure you to have a crazy night.
You’re going through a hard time and deserve to be spoiled once in a while. Spend a day at the spa, get a massage, or take a relaxing hot bath and watch your stress levels go down. You can even splurge on an expensive haircut, manicure, or a new outfit that makes you feel amazing.
This isn’t the time to be hard on yourself or to punish yourself — instead, let your body feel relaxed and cared for.
Take pleasure in your friendships.
When you’re moving on from your divorce and starting to feel like your old self again, you should take the time to appreciate your friends and see how much their help and support has meant to you. Take the time to have a heart to heart with your friends, to have a fun night out, or to take a yoga class or go on a hike with your close friends. Your friendships will grow as you feel like you’re becoming a more stable person.
Use this time to reconnect with long-lost friends and to see if you can build a friendship again.
You can also turn acquaintances into friendships. Don’t be afraid to invite your friend crush out for a cup of tea or a movie.
Enjoy time with your family.
Take your divorce as an opportunity to reconnect with your family and to spend more time with your parents, siblings, and your children, if you have any. They’ll know that you’re struggling and they’ll be there in your time of need, and you can rely on your family no matter what. If your loved ones are across the country, plan a trip to see them, or just spend more time talking on the phone with them, emailing, and connecting with your family members when you can. If you have kids, spend more time than ever bonding with them. They’ll need you during this difficult time, too, and you can help each other.
Enjoy being single.
After a while, you’ll be able to enjoy the benefits of being single. You don’t have to be accountable for anyone, you don’t have to tell anyone (except your children) what you’ll be up to that night, and you can make decisions for yourself instead of factoring another person into where you’d like to eat, what movie you’d like to see, and who you’ll hang out with that weekend. Have fun going out, dancing, and flirting.
There’s no harm in that.If you’re single, you can dance with anyone you’d like to dance with, go on a weekend vacation with your girlfriend, or do anything your heart desires. Don’t look at being single as a sad state — instead, enjoy being independent, meeting new people, and just doing you.
Start dating only when you’re ready.
Once you’ve put a few months, or even a year or more, behind you and feel like you’ve accepted your divorce and are ready to move on, then it’s time to start dating again. This can mean starting an online dating profile, asking your friends to set you up with any cute single friends they may have, or just to make yourself open to meeting someone new when you’re out and about.
You don’t have to jump into a serious relationship right away. Just going on a few dates with the same person can get you into the swing of things. Take things slow. Take the time to get to know a new person instead of opening up about your divorce right away.
Do the things you couldn’t do before.
Take the time after your divorce as the opportunity to do the things you’d always wanted to do but couldn’t do before. Maybe your partner disliked hiking though you’ve always wanted to try it — take this as a chance to become a hiking enthusiast. Maybe your ex-hated classic movies now, you can watch every Cary Grant movie ever made. Maybe your ex-hated traveling — now, you can take your own vacation.
Make a list of all of the things you’d wanted to do when you were married. See how many of them are feasible and have fun checking them off your list.