You've found yourself the recipient of an unwanted divorce. Your spouse may have just walked out, or left you for another man/other woman. There may have been a midlife crisis, and you didn’t figure into the “new life.” Whatever the reason, coping with an unwanted divorce can be very difficult. Many people in this situation find themselves depressed, tearful, and afraid. Moving on with your life may seem insurmountable, but there is hope.
- Time doesn’t heal all wounds.
It takes time. The old adage, “Time heals all wounds” is only partly true. Time does heal some wounds, but many wounds from an unwanted divorce will never heal. However, time does lessen the sting, and with time, the flood of memories and regrets will happen less and less often. You will one day appreciate the pain for what it was…an opportunity to learn and grow.
- You are worthy of love.
When a spouse files for divorce, your self-esteem can take a beating. Some report feeling worthless or unlovable. Just because you are not able to make the relationship work with that one person doesn’t mean you can’t move on and find a loving relationship. The divorce may have had much more to do with your spouse and his/her issues than being about you. Don’t blame yourself. Self-criticism only makes it harder. This is the time to be good to yourself, not beat yourself up.
- Cultivate positive friendships.
Evaluate current friendships and make new ones. Many recently divorced people are surprised to get a cold shoulder from some of their friends. If they were mutual friends with your ex-spouse, they may be more loyal to him or her than you. It is likely, though; that you have some true friends you can reach out to at this time. Make new friends by asking someone to lunch or to a movie. You need friendships to support you through this transition.
- Remember who you were before the bad relationship.
Remember the past. No, I don’t mean the past relationship. Reach back in your memory to your life before that relationship. What were your hopes and dreams? Were there places you wanted to go or new things you wanted to try? This is a perfect time to take that writing workshop, art class, or other activities that interests you. Maybe you want to go back to school. You have to make a new life for yourself and it should be self-nurturing.
- Take time to grieve.
Give yourself time to grieve. Take down old picture albums of the marriage, play “your” songs. Have a good cry. Cry deeply and then let it go. Give yourself a time limit on your grief, and then make a pact with yourself that you won’t let yourself dwell on the negative feelings any longer. Having a daily pity party is good in the beginning of your adjustment period, but you need to set a limit on it.
- Get re–acquainted with yourself.
Get to know yourself again. When you’ve been part of a couple, chances are many of the choices made in the relationship, such as where to eat or where to go on vacation, were not your choices but your spouses. You may not know what you really like anymore. Try new things and learn what makes YOU happy. You now have the freedom to explore yourself and you may be surprised to learn that you are a very interesting person!
- Explore all of your options.
Use this experience as a catalyst for your new life. Sometimes a traumatic experience can serve to move us out of a rut we’ve been in with our lives. Have you been stuck in a career that didn’t fulfill you? Now may be the perfect time to look at other options. Start your life over beginning today, and realize all the opportunities that are available to you.
- Celebrate being single.
Celebrate living single. There are many “die-hard singles” who really enjoy living alone. Even if they are in a relationship, there are advantages to being single. You don’t have to share a bathroom. You can stay up late without disturbing anyone. You can cook what you like to eat. You can spend your money the way YOU want to. You can’t change being single now, even if you didn’t plan it, but find ways to enjoy it. Some solitude can be good for all of us as a time of reflection and reorganization of priorities.
- Take your time when it comes to new relationships.
Be careful to take some time to get yourself grounded again before trying to tackle another relationship. Rebound relationships are never good for either person involved. Therapists generally recommend waiting at least a year to give yourself time to work through the issues associated with divorce before getting involved with someone else.