14 Secrets to Survive (and Thrive) After Divorce
Divorce might be a sore subject, but these expert tips can help anyone embark on the journey towards a newly single life.
Focus on your reasons
Although people divorce for questionable reasons, most are very rational about this difficult choice. It’s important to reflect on your reasons; write down a list and refer back to them when you’re feeling weak, advises Kimberly Hershenson, LMSW. Here are some of the craziest reasons people have gotten divorced.
Start forgiving your ex
As soon as possible, you should begin the process of forgiving your ex, advises Rebecca Zung, Esq, an attorney and Divorce Transformation Strategist. Holding onto the anger is like “drinking poison and thinking your ex will feel the effects,” Zung suggests.
At the same time, forgive yourself
“Divorce inspires us to re-examine the very essence of who we are, but don’t allow your self-analysis to veer into the cruel and unforgiving,” advises Colorado clinical psychologist, Jodi J. De Luca, PhD. That includes overcoming the “archaic social stigma of being a divorced person,” she says. Forgiving yourself doesn’t mean pretending you played no role in your marriage’s demise. Rather, it means acknowledging and accepting the past, while also staying present, which allows you to plan for your future. (Real-life divorcees reveal the red flags that their marriage was doomed.)
Don’t focus on your ex’s new life
If you allow yourself to get caught up with what your ex is doing, you won’t have the mental space to welcome new opportunities into your life, advises attorney Zung. If you focus on maintaining your own life, you’ll be less tempted to make decisions motivated by competition, advises family lawyer, Randall M. Kessler, Esq. That type of choice is rarely ideal for yourself or your children. Don’t miss these things a divorce lawyer wants all married people to know.
Don’t get trapped in a “fun parent” competition
It’s not uncommon to want to be the “cooler” parent in a divorce, notes Steve Silvestro, MD FAAP, pediatrician and host of The Child Repair Guide Podcast. Not only is this unhealthy for your kids, it’s unhealthy for you. “Constantly thinking about ways to be bigger and better than your ex is sure to drain your budget, add unnecessary stress, and take your focus off of what really matters: taking care of yourself and your kids. Here are some smart ways to tell your children about your divorce.
Accept small differences in parenting styles
“Because you and your ex will now have your own time with your kids, differences in your parenting styles will stand out,” says Dr. Silvestro, who offers the example of Coldplay’s Chris Martin taking his kids out for french fries shortly after splitting with health-conscious Gwyneth Paltrow. Just as you accept the other aspects of your divorce, try accepting that you won’t be there for every parenting decision. “Avoid nitpicking the small differences because it’s only likely to close off lines of communication,” Dr. Silvestro advises.
Keep the kids out of it
“Never bad-mouth your ex to or in front of the children,” advises attorney Kessler. Dr. Silvestro notes that in his pediatric practice, he’s had “plenty of experiences where a single parent spends half a visit bad-mouthing their ex. “It’s not only uncomfortable for me—an unrelated adult—it’s even more so for the kids who are listening. Talking trash about the other parent is confusing for kids and can negatively affect how they view you.” Try to avoid saying these things that can ruin your kids’ trust in you.
Don’t badmouth yourself, either, says Dr. De Luca. “What we think, how we feel, and how we talk to ourselves are directly related to our behavior. What we believe about ourselves affects the architecture of the way the brain and body communicate with one another,” she says. So, become aware of self-sabotaging thoughts and replace them with self-affirming and hopeful thoughts. Hershenson suggests cultivating a daily self-affirmation practice for this purpose. You may want to start with these positive quotes.
Commit to self-care
In addition to cultivating a self-affirmation practice, Hershenson recommends you take on an overall self-care plan. This could include maintaining a gratitude journal or devoting ten or so minutes daily to a coffee, tea, and/or reading break. “As challenging as it may feel at times, it’s crucial to take care of yourself,” Dr. Silvestro says. “Exercise, learn to meditate, or take up that hobby you’ve always wanted to try.”
Set goals for the future
This isn’t just about financial success going forward; it’s about decreasing stress, points out Dr. De Luca. “Life, in general, can be hectic, stressful, and overwhelming, and divorce makes it even more so. Since the human brain is goal oriented, setting manageable goals can help decrease stress, contribute to a feeling of accomplishment, and lead to better quality of life in general.” Here are some other ways to decrease stress and improve your quality of life.
Invest in your new life
Investing in your new life can begin with something as simple as purchasing new threads, suggests April Masini, relationship expert, author of four relationship advice books and the host of Relationship Advice Forum. “If you’re going from married to single, dress the part! Buy clothes that are flirty, fun, and attractive. A lingerie re-fresh is an easy step to take (and while you’re at it, take note of these bra fixes every woman should know). If you’re going job-hunting, pick up some interview clothes that make you feel confident.
Make some new friends
“When your life changes, your social and emotional needs do, too, and the friends you used to have, as part of a couple, may not be right for you as a single,” points out Masini, who suggests making an effort to cultivate friendships with people in your same situation. “You’ll find support, advice, and fun.” As a way to get started, Zung suggests finding local “meetups” or similar groups based on your hobbies and interests.
“Remember, the other side has feelings too,” attorney Kessler reminds us. “If, for even a brief moment, you can acknowledge the hurt, pain, frustration the other side could be feeling, it may just soften the anger, frustration, and pain you have. If that’s too challenging, you can start by simply not ‘rubbing it in’ that you’re feeling happy in your new life, because it’s possible your ex needs more time than you do to recover and move on. Improve your own capacity for empathy by practicing these habits of empathetic people.
Ask for help
Definitely seek guidance, support, and coping strategies from a licensed professional counselor. “It’s critical for overall physical and mental health well-being,” says Dr. De Luca.
Next, find out the crazy-but-true reasons people have filed for divorce.