You may be struggling with getting over an ugly and drawn-out divorce, complete with custody battles, financial battles, lawyers’ fees, and the like.
Or you may have had an amicable, “no-fault” divorce and split everything right down the middle with no opposition. Your marriage may have been brief, or you may have had 20+years together. You may likely never see your ex again, or you may always be connected to them through the children that you have together. Whatever your situation, the tips below can help you to heal and overcome the effects of divorce.
- Acknowledge it – divorce is traumatic! If you are divorced, you probably already know this and have stories of the pain and the hurt caused by your divorce. That is the very first thing to acknowledge in healing from a divorce. Acknowledge that you have had a traumatic experience and need time to heal.
Divorce can be psychologically traumatic, especially if it is unexpected, and you feel shocked and powerless. You may feel personally betrayed by the person whom you trusted and loved. You may be left with confusion, pain, and deep, emotional scarring. It is possible that you are dealing with guilt and shame. It is possible that you simply feel alone – abandoned and cast aside.
- Don’t play the victim. The decision to divorce may not have been yours. You may have been terribly wronged by your ex-spouse. Nothing about what happened is fair. You truly may have been victimized, but refuse to be a victim! Be proactive about getting your life back on track. It may not have been your fault, but it is your responsibility to take what is left of your life and build your future. The first thing that you may need to do is seek a counselor’s help, and that’s the next tip.
- Seek counseling. Counseling is not for crazy people. As the saying goes, “You can’t fix crazy!” It is for normal people dealing with normal human challenges and struggles. Find a counselor that you believe is a good fit for you. Get referrals from friends or others who have been through a divorce or healing from trauma. Plan to see your counselor for about a year and make the commitment to follow through. You owe it to yourself and your future to do so. Dragging your residual pain, resentment, guilt, shame, etc., into a new relationship is NOT what you want to do. You will sink your new relationship and develop unhealthy cycles in relationships you don’t want to create.
- Wait for it! Wait at least one year before you consider returning to dating or getting into a relationship. While this may sound extreme, it is only sensible to take at least twelve months to recover from what may have been twelve years of dysfunction. You need at least a year to be healthy enough to establish a healthy new relationship. You tend to attract what you are. If you are broken and needy, you will attract someone who is also or who likes to manipulate someone who is broken and needy. You need to dump all the emotional baggage that you can, or you will carry it into your next relationship.
Be honest with yourself.
- What part did you play in the failure of your marriage?
- Did you ignore red flags when you were dating/engaged? If so, why?
- Did you harbor resentments and not forgive your spouse for their shortcomings?
- Did you shut down and wall off your heart? Why?
- Did you belittle or shame your spouse? Verbally abuse them?
- Did you make excuses for your own shortcomings and unhealthy behavior?
- Did you have clear and healthy boundaries to be treated with respect?
- Did anything in your life take priority over your marriage? (work, hobbies, time on the internet, the kids, your family, your friends, etc.)
Forgive your ex-spouse. There is a saying that unforgiveness is like drinking rat poison and expecting the rat to die! Anger, bitterness, and resentment do nothing to the other person, but they destroy you from the inside out. As Lily Tomlin says, “Forgiveness is giving up all hope of a better past!” It’s time to stop wishing that the past was different, that your ex would make a complete and sincere apology, that you will forgive whenever you can understand why they did what they did, etc., etc., etc. Forgive your ex so that YOU can be free. Forgiveness is for you.
Forgive yourself. Refer to the list of things you did wrong – the mistakes you made, the offenses you committed against your mate or yourself, the things you should have done, and the things you should not have done. Go down the list and forgive yourself for each shortcoming or offense. Wipe the slate clean and begin to live and breathe again!