Marriage is one of the most significant milestones in one’s life. It marks the beginning of a new phase of life and brings with it many changes in responsibilities, aspirations, and lifestyle. Even though we know, on a rational level, that the fabric of life is woven with uncertainty, when we tie the knot we take a leap of faith and hope for a happier future. With the passage of time, we grow and change — our behavior, outlook on life, ambitions, feelings, and thoughts are all liable to change. Sometimes, these changes can prove to be a detriment to a marriage and cause conflicts and differences that are irreconcilable.
The Challenges of Divorce
When this new reality is fully acknowledged and the rays of hope start to dim, the grief over the loss of the relationship and the anxiety about the uncertain future takes hold. Divorces are difficult not only because of the emotional anguish they cause, but also because they force you to reckon with the myriad changes that your life will undergo throughout, and even after, the divorce. This sudden whirlwind of chaos and dysfunction is extremely disorienting, even if the divorce itself may have been amicable. The drawn-out process of divorce – splitting up assets and personal belongings, terminating joint contracts, relocating, and finding work – piles up exhaustion on a mind that is already drained from all the emotional turmoil.
Even after the legal and practical matters are taken care of, there still remains a new life to adjust to. Without a spouse, all the couple-related activities are gone; friends are forced to pick sides, and some just decide to leave; family members of the spouse that were previously very close may choose to withdraw because of the awkwardness. The ambiguity about what remains of the social network after the divorce can be deeply unsettling, causing a profound sense of loneliness, rejection, and embitterment.
The future may seem bleak, but it doesn’t necessarily have to be. The pain you may be feeling cannot be denied, but this juncture in life also affords you an opportunity for change. You can use the autonomy to enrich your social life with new friends, pick up new hobbies or work-related skills, develop greater awareness of yourself, and do things that lead to personal growth. Change feels daunting, but moving on requires you to embrace it, chisel away the negativity, and architect a happier, richer future for yourself.
Allow yourself to mourn
The breakdown of a marriage is a devastating experience. In order to heal, you must allow yourself to feel despair, anger, wretchedness, and all the other harrowing emotions. Hasting to move on will, in fact, keep you trapped in the darkness. You might feel overwhelmed initially, but the pain will ease over time. Process your emotions bit by bit and take your time.
Seek support from loved ones
There will be times when you feel the need to vent your anger or find a shoulder to cry on. Close friends and family can be indispensable resources – they can listen to you with empathy, offer you emotional and practical support, and even help with day-to-day tasks. Remember that you do not have to deal with your struggles alone.
Divorce can shake your sense of identity and make you question if you’re the same person post-divorce. You can leverage this to build a new identity that is more aligned with your needs, desires, and preferences than your ex’s. This is a good time to evaluate your needs and goals, carve out a new routine, and establish new plans that will boost your personal growth.
Take care of your health
When sadness comes knocking at your door, it is easy to give in and turn to alcohol or drugs to escape the heartache. Tempting as it may be, this is not a solution. To better process your emotions, you need to eat healthily, get enough sleep, and exercise. Good health will further boost your self-esteem and provide you the mental bandwidth to assess your situation objectively and approach life with optimism.
Seek out new friends
After a divorce, it is not uncommon for mutual friends to pick one partner over the other. Some of your friendships might have broken, and the best way to fill that void is to find new friends. Socializing may seem tiring, but there are ways to get to know new people easily. You could choose to volunteer for a cause, take a class in an activity you enjoy, or simply invite a colleague to coffee. Socializing will help you beat loneliness and gain you some kind and interesting friends.
Pick up new hobbies
When you’re married, your hobbies and interests can blend into your spouse’s. And you may have given up certain activities you enjoyed because your spouse disapproved of them or found them boring. Now that you have complete freedom to try out new things, you can cultivate hobbies and interests that make you happy. It can be something simple like cooking, something adventurous like rock climbing, or any creative avenue like painting, writing or even reading. Anything that promotes a sense of renewal and allows you to have fun and relax is a good choice.
Travel to someplace new
The divorce process is extremely taxing, and getting used to the novelty of life after divorce can be tough. To take a break from the relentless stresses and upheavals the divorce causes, you could take a trip to someplace you always wanted to visit; even a short trip to a nearby city will do. You can go solo and unwind or invite your friends for a fun trip. Some distance from all the familiar places can also spark introspection along with the excitement of discovering a new place.
Shed your old identity
When we’re in a relationship, we mold a certain identity that is integrated with our partners. Being single again can make us question who we are. After the divorce, you have the opportunity to cultivate your individual identity and nurture your unique attributes. The ideal way forward is to rediscover what makes you happy, what you excel at, and what you want your life to mean. This will propel you to do more of what you value and envision a future that makes you proud of yourself.
Give romance another shot
Once you feel free of the clutches of your past relationship and reach a state of acceptance and emotional stability, it might be a good idea to explore the dating landscape again. You need not look for deep and intense relationships right off the bat, nor would it be wise. But a thoughtful and caring companion can lift up your spirits and revive your hope in romantic relationships.
While our past experiences invariably shape us and govern our behavior in the future, we have it within us to let go of negative experiences, learn from our past mistakes, and approach the future with wisdom and hope.
Seeking Professional Help
Divorce is an unbearably difficult experience to go through, and the transition to life after divorce can be extremely intimidating. If you are experiencing deep and pervasive grief, anger, or feelings of guilt, worthlessness, or hopelessness, a mental health professional could help you learn how to process and cope with difficult emotions. A therapist can provide compassionate guidance and a safe space for you to express your worries and anxieties without being judged. Therapy can help you process your emotions in a constructive way. The mental health professional can also gauge if you could benefit from medication and refer you to a psychiatrist if required.
We Can Help!
MHThrive provides Individual Therapy, Couples and Marriage Counseling, and Family Therapy at our locations in Katy, The Woodlands, and the Clear Lake area of Houston, Texas. We also provide telehealth therapy for anyone who resides within the State of Texas. To schedule an appointment with one of the MHThrive therapists, contact us at 713-477-0333 or visit www.mhthrive.com to learn more.
If you or someone you know is experiencing any mental health or substance abuse issues, New Dimensions can help. Our team of experienced therapists and psychiatrists can help you overcome these challenges and help you develop the skills you need to thrive. To schedule a complementary assessment or to find out more about our programs, contact us at 1-800-685-9796.
Online Treatment Programs provides Teletherapy Partial Hospitalization and Intensive Outpatient Programs allowing participants to receive intensive therapy with our licensed therapists and psychiatrists without having to leave home. If you or someone you know is struggling to overcome depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, trauma, panic attacks, PTSD, alcoholism, drug abuse, or other mental health or addiction issues, we can help. To schedule a complementary assessment or to find out more about our teletherapy programs, contact us at 1-800-685-9796.