1. Even if you are the one who wants to get divorced, you may often feel anxiety, sadness, loss, and fear of the unknown.
Don’t let any of that interfere with any of your decisions. We call it letting the tail wag the dog.
[All of that is that is the tail and your divorce is the dog.]
No matter which of you initiated the separation, you may be unprepared for how much of a life-changing journey divorce really is. It will include not just the loss of your partner and marriage, but may also include the loss of others in your life like your in-laws who you really got along with, or friends that will side with your partner/spouse, and then there is less time with your children as well because they are with their other parent part of the time. During this process of letting go of the life you had, you must start to develop a new life for yourself. Trust me, this, which more often than not, results in a new level of personal growth that will surprise you. It all works out in the end, if it all hasn’t worked out yet, you are not at the end is what I tell my clients. Keep in mind that while you are on this journey, there will be feelings of fear of the unknown, anxiety, sadness and many other feelings too. It takes time and work. The happiness that you discover at the other side of it all will be a pleasant surprise and you should be able to tell yourself it was a worthwhile journey.
2. Some friends you thought would always be there for you may disappear, and you will find new friends along the way.
It can be disappointing to learn that someone you thought was a trusted and close friend disappears during the process. It is, unfortunately, part of the process. They are either siding with your former spouse/partner, as mentioned at the outset, or not with either of you for reasons totally unknown to you. Don’t let it get to you. Some people don’t want to be seen as favoring you or your spouse/partner, so they choose to spend no time with either of you. It is an unfortunate part of the process. It is their issue, the friend, not yours. You have far more important issues to focus on than figuring out what their issue is. This is another take a deep breath moment where you just say to yourself ‘Ah well, there are other more important things for me to focus on.’ With a smile on your face, you move on and your children will be asking you ‘what is so funny, why are you smiling?’
3. Your children’s behavior may change, sometimes drastically, it’s their way of telling you what they are thinking and how they feel when they can’t figure out how to say it, or just don’t want to say it.
Pay attention to your children’s behaviors, all of them. This is very important because it may be the only way that they are communicating to you how they feel. Don’t just take what they say as actually how they are feeling. They may be depressed or mad or upset about the divorce but can’t, or don’t know how to, say how they really feel. They may say they are fine, or great when it is just the opposite. Remember children say what they think the adult wants to hear. Keep talking with them, about everything going on in their lives, they will open up about how they are really feeling. If not, they may need the help of a child therapist.
4. There is no need to rush the divorce process, as tempting as it may be BUT do not intentionally delay or drag it on either.
The entire family will be adjusting to this new life that is being created for all of you. Take time to make sound, good, thoughtful and clear decisions because they may impact how you will be living for a long time, maybe even years to come.
The decisions to be made during the divorce are most often very difficult decisions and should not be made lightly, quickly or without putting thought into them before coming to a decision. Take time to make your decisions and, with the advice of your attorney if you are working with an attorney, or a trusted close friend or family member. Always think of your children’s best interests first. You won’t regret it. AND do not let your emotions drive how you make your decisions.
Intentionally delaying or dragging out your divorce may cost you dearly in the end. A Judge can order you to pay the other party’s attorney fees, for example, for your delaying actions. You don’t want that to happen.
5. All of your problems don’t suddenly go away because you are divorced
As you know, life is full of problems. It is how you deal with them that determines the peace in your life. If you have children you will, under most circumstances, need to continue to deal with him/her. That person may be the last person you want to have anything to do with because of what you went through with him/her, you can’t stand to be anywhere near him or her or they drive you absolutely crazy. But remember, as I tell my clients, thankfully you are divorced and you cannot make someone be something that they are not. Those behaviors from your relationship with that person will, unfortunately, stay with that person, they don’t just get erased because of the divorce, trigger buttons are still triggered buttons, sometimes worse after you have moved on. Take a deep breath and tell yourself ‘whatever, here she/he goes again’ and walk away. U.S. Supreme Court Ass. Justice, Ruth Bader Ginsberg once said that the best marriage advice she got was on her wedding day from her soon to be mother-in-law, ‘In every good marriage, it helps to be a little deaf.’ You do not have to let it get to you anymore. If you are working with a therapist, work it out with your therapist. It takes time and patience, but you will get through it.
6. This is important: If you are harboring anger and resentment against your spouse/partner, let it go. Nothing good will come from it and it will only hurt your children and you in the long run.
What happened to you in the past is what is causing you to hold on to the anger and resentment. It can be harmful not only emotionally, but physically as well. Let it go. It does not mean that you are condoning your spouse/partner’s actions. If you are having a hard time letting go of it, again, if you are working with a therapist, that is where you need to address these issues. A support group for divorcing people/parents may be a good idea as well. I once met a woman who 20 years after her divorce was still talking about what he had done to her, the fierce anger and resentment could be heard in her voice and seen in her face. When it was suggested she see a therapist, her response was always that she did not need to do so, she was ‘so over’ him, but clearly she was not. Don’t let this happen to you, man or woman.
7. Holidays can be difficult in the beginning, but they don’t need to be.
Now is the time for you to start some new traditions for yourself and your children. If your children will be with their other parent, make sure you are not alone. Because holidays are all about being with those you care about and love most, family and close friends, it may be very hard for you in the first year or so. Make sure that you are doing something, and are with those, you enjoy the most. If your children are with their other parent, try to at least have a phone conversation with them to wish them a happy holiday, it will be good for them and you too. If your family are not nearby such that you are unable to spend time with them, be sure to be with your close friends, but at least have a phone call with your family on the holiday as well.
8. No bad mouthing about the other parent to, or in the hearing distance of, the children by you, or others. This can work against you and can also affect them negatively.
I know that it is very tempting to bad mouth that other person to your children. Don’t do it. If a Judge finds out that you are, the Judge will NOT be happy with you. This includes in the hearing distance of the children too. Your children have a right to love both of their parents, despite the divorce and how the two parents feel about each other, and there is nothing wrong with that. If they hear bad things from you and others, for that matter, about their other parent, they will come to resent you and anyone else, who says things to them, for saying those things. It may not happen now, but certainly could later. Avoid it at all costs. You will not regret it.
9. STOP do not rush to sign up with that dating app and start dating again, no matter what others are saying to you, especially if your former partner/spouse has found someone new.
You may think this is a great idea and a way to help you move on but think twice. First of all, your children are probably not ready to see you with someone new and will be very uncomfortable being introduced to someone new in your life for quite some time. You need to take time for yourself to figure out what makes you happy, and what you want to do, as mentioned above. Some say 6 months, some say a year, but you are the only one who can decide. If you rush into a new relationship, especially if your former partner/spouse has found someone new, you are, more than likely, making a bad decision. Remember what was said above about making thoughtful decisions. It is understandable that you may feel you must seek out the company of a date early on. If so, do it so that the children never see the person, meet the date at your destination, drive yourself [always a good idea to have your own car with you just in case you
want to leave].
10. Your divorce is final, now what?
The healing from your bad relationship that caused you emotional trauma and turmoil started once the separation process started. You are learning to be happy and alone, surprisingly, liking it, knowing that is what you need before you can start a serious relationship.
A huge challenge for most people is the creation of two separate living arrangements after the separation and divorce with the same resources. Going back to work, or work for the first time, may be an issue for you. This can bring on additional challenges when there are children and if you had been a stay-at-home parent for some time, a challenge for the children as well.
Your self-esteem may have taken a hit depending on how your relationship ended. You will be surprised to learn that people are interested in you because of you, not because of who you were married to. If you have not already done so, take this time to think about what really interests YOU, what will make YOU happy, and what kind of a person YOU want to spend time with. It may take you time to figure these things out, but the answers will come and you may really be surprised what they are. Most importantly, have fun finding those answers along the way.
It’s a new day – a new life for you. Wake up with a smile on your face and enjoy what you are creating for yourself.