How To Ensure That Your Divorce Is The Single Worst Thing To Ever Happen To You
Follow these tips to keep yourself stuck in a cycle of misery and loneliness
Yeah, yeah — divorce can be liberating.
Eventually, once the wounds have healed, they can offer you the chance to both find yourself and lasting happiness. It happens.
However, in reality, we don’t exist within the confines of a rom-com based on the inspirational words of Elizabeth Gilbert.
In the real, non-cinematic, world divorce is vile, destabilizing, and — if there are children involved — heart-wrenching.
It’s a big, knotty ball of excrement.
The metaphorical third act of your post-divorce journey may very well end with you strolling off into the Balinese sunset with either your new love and/or a sense of self previously never attained — I truly hope it does. But you’ve got to get through acts one and two first.
And if you’ve ever watched a rom-com then you know that’s when the really BAD stuff happens.
However, we’re not defined by what happens to us: We’re defined by how we deal with those things.
Awful occurrences are part of life, especially after the dissolution of your marriage. Things get tough. Probably tougher than they’ve ever been. You might have felt your marriage was an unhappy one, but — by God — you’re going to discover your understanding of misery was limited. Sifting through the financial side of things alone will bring out the worst of you… well, out of ALL you.
It’s going to be grim (with a little extra sprinkling of grim on top).
And you honestly don’t need to make any of this harder than it already is by being an absolute ass. Trust me — you can get through ALL of this (and you will), but it requires you not to be a total numbskull.
You’re going to get a heck of a lot wrong, and that’s allowed; your marriage has just ended — your head isn’t exactly in the best place. Mistakes are permissible.
But being an imbecile is not. In particular, if you want to emerge alive (emotionally and physically), DON’T do these things:
1. DON’T Grieve
Yeah — no need. After all, one (maybe even both) of you has probably said they’re not in love anymore. So that’s alright then. Move along… nothing to see here —
Don’t be an idiot.
This isn’t just about love. However, given the emotions involved in a divorce, I’d also be wary of taking everything that’s uttered at face value. A lot is said during this time, especially about our emotions, which — ironically — will change every 24 hours. For now, park all that, and revisit it in six months when your perspective has returned.
Leave love out of it.
It doesn’t matter how miserable your marriage may have been in the final throes, you were still nevertheless married, whether you both remained in love or not. You shared a life, rituals, childcare, and a bathroom.
That’s now gone.
All of those anchors, all of those markers that delineated your life, are no longer.
You’re losing a very hefty part of yourself. Maybe even the biggest part.
You’ve got to grieve that loss. Even if it’s a loss you wanted, you’ve still endured a loss. Mourn it. Throw a party if you wish. But also begin to accept that a very significant chapter in your life is over.
There needs to be an emotional funeral and extended wake. Don’t deny your mind the chance to mourn —this will only come back to bite you on the backside a year down the line.
2. DON’T Give Yourself Time
Nope — no need to try and adjust to your new world. Throw yourself into life as if nothing has happened —
Don’t be a dolt.
It takes time to process grief. I once read that you need to grieve for half the time your relationship lasted. If that works for you, go ahead. However, if you were married twenty years, then walking around in your mourning reeds for a decade is going to test your limits of endurance.
Take as long as you want — just take SOME time.
Once more, it’s okay to struggle with this — if you have children, then waking up on Christmas morning alone for the first time in years isn’t going to be a jolly experience. You’re not going to adjust to any of that seamlessly. It’s going to take time (and lots of sitting on the sofa crying. In fact, I’d heartily recommend that.
Get those tears flowing — catharsis rocks!)
Please, don’t pretend nothing has happened, and the bright, shiny new chapter of your life begins straight away.
There’s a bit of a prologue to get through first, and there are not many laughs in it. Be patient. Trust the journey. Don’t try to hurry it — grief only gets annoyed if you try to chivvy it along.
You’ll know when it's time to tell grief to leave, but — to begin with — let it be a guest. It’s an unwelcome one, but its residency allows better emotional housemates, like happiness, to arrive later.
3. DON’T Be Realistic
Now is the time to follow your dreams. Yes — now! Throw caution into the wind and take as many risks as you like —
You’re a buffoon.
It might be boring, but you need some stability. If you want to give up your job as a tax accountant and follow your dream of becoming a juggler, good for you — do it. Just not yet.
You might think you’re okay with all this. You might think it’s all for the best. But you’ve been through something traumatic — your brain is not the most reliable ally right now. It’s going to be a bit addled. Be dull, and settle into some sort of routine that gives it time and space to reassemble itself.
There is a multitude of big decisions to be made. But now’s probably NOT the best time to be making them. Be boring and settle into a routine that provides some stability; there’s a time for adventure — now is not it.
4. DON’T Learn Anything
Learn? What do you need to learn? Your marriage didn’t work — what else do you need to know? Don’t speak to your friends about what went wrong in your marriage. Don’t go to therapy and explore your romantic attachment style. Instead, get drunk, and then jump on Tinder —
Yeah — ignore all that.
You did something wrong at some point. Relationships don’t fall apart solely because of one person; they don’t work that way.
Try and learn from your mistakes so you don’t get stuck in a cycle of repeating toxic relationships. It’s not as if you haven’t got the time to do a bit of soul-searching. Don’t fight the loneliness with a dating app — combat it by searching for ways to ensure you’re never sitting in a lawyer’s office arguing about a toaster ever again.
5. DON’T Try Anything New
You know that hobby you always wanted to try? Don’t do it. Don’t try and fill your time with anything new. Especially not if it might widen your (suddenly empty) social circle or broaden your mental horizons —
Idiot. Please disregard all that.
Do it. Learn to Tango. Study Mandarin. Sign up for that class on Brazilian capoeira. Volunteer for any local charity that will have you. Find ‘you.’
Once more, you’ve got the time whilst you grieve, process, and heal: Use it. Don’t give up the day job and embark on a wild life-changing dream; not yet. But do introduce slivers of ‘new’ to your life.
Start small — one night a week. Baby steps, baby. Baby steps.
And that’s post-divorce life in a nutshell: Minute-by-minute, hour-by-hour, day-by-day — baby steps.
Grieve, give yourself time, be sensible, learn, and try something (anything) new. None of those will guarantee you never have to go through this horrid experience again. But they will lessen the chances.
And maybe — just maybe — at some point soon you’ll find yourself in that amazing third act.
You know — the bit where all the wonderful stuff happens.
You’ve got this.
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