Happily Ever After…Divorce.
7 Steps to Moving On
So the story of your marriage ended less like a Disney cartoon and more like a Shakespearean tragedy. Now that all the legal and financial matters are settled, staying in bed with a carton of Ben & Jerry’s and watching rerun Lifetime movies may seem appealing. After all, there are all those love struck couples walking around on the street and not enough things to throw at them.
“Think of the time and energy expended on your former partnership and the divorce proceedings as a tangible asset,” says Ellen Sabin, Executive Director of the Equality in Marriage Institute. “It’s your choice whether this asset will be used for regret and self-destructive behavior or channeled positively toward writing your next chapter.”
The Institute has developed the following “steps” to help get you on your way. You can get more tips and tools for rebuilding your life at www.equalityinmarriage.org
Balance Yourself: When trying to reestablish yourself outside the context of your marriage, remember to use balance. Don’t focus solely on one area: emotional recovery, career, children or dating. Instead, rebuild your life in a holistic sense. Remember, now is a time to be selfish and focus on your priorities.
You Gotta Have Friends: You can’t do this alone. You may not have had time during your marriage to maintain a large network of friends. You may lose friends through the dynamics of divorce. But don’t be afraid to utilize the important people in your life and strive to make new acquaintances through social activities, clubs, support groups, etc.
Give Yourself A Break: The fact that you get up every morning and are actively rebuilding your life is an accomplishment. Don’t forget to reward yourself. Use some of the time and energy previously focused on your partnership to make you feel better. Get a massage. Go on a vacation. Read a book. Take a long bike ride. You do deserve a break today.
Write A Book: If you aren’t feeling a wide range of emotions, then you are probably taking too much Valium. Your mind will constantly race between reflection on the past and ideas for the future. Make sure you record these thoughts consistently in a journal. This will help you make better decisions fueled by your wants and needs. It will also help you clearly identify the lessons you’ve learned and character you’ve gained through the process.
Lower Your Blood Pressure: A recent study by the University of Tennessee attributes forgiveness as a key factor in lowing blood pressure and reducing anxiety. Divorce may leave you with a great deal of anger and resentment, but remember that energy spent on these emotions is a resource not being applied to your new life. Work through these feelings in your journal, with a therapist or in a support group. Letting go is essential for moving on.
Be Practical, Not Pessimistic About Romance: Chances are that, in the months following a divorce, you may find yourself sneering at wedding invitations. It’s important to separate your feelings about your past relationship with your view on romance and partnerships in general. When you feel comfortable, it is important to think about your previous marriage to help identify what went wrong and how this might be avoided in future relationships. This experience has helped redefine your notion of relationships and what makes them work. Take the time to understand your new perspective.
Date Casually With Caution: Too often divorcees take extremes when reentering the dating pool, either avoiding it all together or jumping in head first, anxious to fill their void with a new relationship. The higher divorce rate for second marriages is often attributed to this “rebound” process. When you are ready, feel free to pursue the possibility of dating. However, don’t fantasize about china patterns on the first date. Now is a time for fun and exploring, but don’t forget that your newfound time and energy are for rebuilding your life and not questing for the next spouse.