Although it is very common these days, with an alleged one in three marriages ending in divorce, the break up of an established relationship or a marriage is never easy to deal with. Divorce is painful emotionally for both parties, even when a relationship has broken down to the point of no return. It can be even more painful if there has been infidelity involved, and worse still when the couple have children.
Why is divorce so painful?
Sometimes, during a divorce process you can experience deep feelings of loss. It’s more than just the loss of a partner or marriage that affects you. Even if the marriage has totally broken down so that you feel it is no longer what you want, it doesn’t stop the pain and feelings of loss.
When your marriage ends, you lose a little of your own identity along with your partner. For years you have been not just you, the individual, but someone’s wife or partner. You will have built up a network of joint friends and a social life that may or may not survive the break up. Some of your friends…and family…will feel that they have to make an allegience to one party or the other, and may apportion blame unfairly. If you have been the one to call time on the marriage, against your partner’s wishes, you may feel a sense of guilt too…even more so if you have met someone else and that has been the reason for the break up. Or, if it is your partner who has found a new love, you may feel resentment and jealousy, not to mention anger.
Fear of the future
Another consequence of divorce is that you may feel anxiety about what the future holds. After all, you have had to change everything in your life. All your expectations for your future are now different. Where before you were half of a couple, planning the future together and able to call on each other for support in the tough times and to share your joy in the good times, now you have to do all this alone. You might wonder if you will always be alone, or even if you even deserve to find a new partner.
The future can seem a scary thing, to a new divorcee.
Step 1: Be positive!
It sounds easier than it is, but the best thing you can do is look at the positives. Believe it or not, a divorce can make you into a stronger, happier person in time if you approach it in the right way. Let’s face it, even if you still love your partner and feel devastated at his loss, if he doesn’t love you enough to stay with you the relationship had no future anyway.
Step 2: Accept your feelings
In the beginning, it’s OK to be sad. Don’t beat yourself up about it. Give yourself time to grieve for the loss of your marriage and your dreams. It’s OK to cry. It’s natural to be worried, natural to feel a little resentful or even angry. Just don’t let those feelings get out of control.
Step 3: Take time to recover
If it’s possible to take a little time off, it can help some people. However, it can be counter productive to take too much time off work. Routine is a great healer and going to work or getting back into a normal routine gives a structure to your days that will make you feel better faster. Remember: being busy gives you less time to cry! Working can also enance your sense of self and your self esteem.
Step 4: Get by with a little help from your friends!
As the Beatles so rightly put it, you can get by with a little help from your friends. Yes, you may find that some of your joint friends are no longer in your social circle, but others will be by your side and wanting to help. In the early days, good friends will be happy to let you cry on their shoulders, and their affection will provide the comfort and nurturing you need. A note of caution, though: Don’t abuse their friendship. Remember, once the worst of your grief has passed, your friends are also human beings with sadnesses and worries of their own. Ask them about their own lives as well as teling them about yours. Grief can make people selfish, don’t let it happen to you.
Step 5: Make new friends
It might be the last thing you feel like doing, but try to get out and about to make new friends. Start a new sport or activity; join a club. Meeting new people gives you the chance to not only rediscover yourself as an individual, but also offers the possibility of reinventing yourself into the person you always wanted to be. New friends won’t view you as ‘so and so’s wife or husband’…so feel free to be you, and enjoy it! Get a new haircut, change your fashion style…whatever it takes to rediscover yourself and your sense of fun.
Step 6: Get active
Activity is very therapeutic, so even if you aren’t really a sporty person, try to do something that gets your body moving again. Even joining a walking club or offering to walk the neighbor’s dog can help you to shake off the lethargy that often accompanies sadness. Exercise releases natural endorphins which help you feel good; there are also plenty of other benefits to regular exercise such as better heart health, a boosted immune system, and weight loss.
Step 7: Get professional help if you need it
Don’t be afraid to ask for professional help if you need it. You can find support groups on the internet or maybe even advertised locally. Professional counsellors can help steer you safely through the feelings of fear, loss and anger that are part and parcel of divorce. If you don’t know where to turn, your doctor will be able to advise you.
Step 8: Set a time limit to grieve
It can be a good idea to set a time limit on your grieving process. Give yourself long enough, you won’t be dancing in the streets in a few days, but try to set goals for getting out more in say, a month , even if it’s just a simple evening spent with a crowd of friends. When you do this, try too not to talk about the divorce. Treat this time as time out from grieving. Focus on the enjoyment of the evening and the company of your friends. Rediscover how to laugh.
Being aware of how you really feel each day will help you to know when you are ready to move on, and bit by bit, you will. Some days will seem to promise a false dawn, you’ll feel better but then the next day you can plunge back into misery…but that’s OK too. It’s all part of the process. In time you will realise that the sadness is receding, a little each day, until one day you wake up and feel optimistic about the future.
What NOT to do
It can be tempting, but don’t fall into the trap of becoming dependent on food, alcohol or drugs to get you over a divorce. These things may seem to offer a temporary relief but will only make your problems worse in the end.
Moving on and up!
There is no set time for any one person, but eventually you will find you are ready to move on from the pain of your divorce and settle into a new life. Before you really, finally let go, though, give a little thought to the way that you can make life and possible future relationships better.
Think about your old relationship. What went wrong? Did you choose the wrong person in the first place? If so, why was it wrong? This way, if you realise you are drawn to people who aren’t healthy for you, you can avoid making the same mistakes again.
If your ex criticised you for your part in the break down of the marriage, was there any truth in his comments? This isn’t to say you should heap blame on yourself, but just being aware of times where you may have been wrong can help build stronger relationships in the future.
Be honest with yourslf, accept that you could have been partly responsible, then move on, armed with the knowledge of how to do things better next time. You learn more from failure than you ever do from success!
Don’t rush into a new relationship
One common mistake that people make after going through a difficlt break up is to rush headlong into a new relationship with the first person that shows you some affection.
It’s understandable, you have been feeling unloved and unwanted and to find someone who tells you you are wonderful is a powerful thing. However, rebound relationships rarely last long. You will be carrying a lot of emotional baggage during the early days and you won’t be seeing things as clearly as you usually would. Make it clear that you are happy to be friends but that you aren’t ready for anything more…yet. There’s plenty of time, if it’s meant to be then it will happen.
A divorce can be seen not as an ending, but as a chance for a new beginning. The Chinese character for ‘Crisis’ is the same as the character for ‘Opportunity’. Try thinking about it this way and enjoy an exciting future.