“Divorce is the psychological equivalent of a triple coronary by-pass. After such a monumental assault on the heart, it takes years to amend all the habits and attitudes that led up to it.”
Mary Kay Blakely
Mediation is over. The papers have been signed. The emotional roller coaster ride has finally stopped. You step on the platform and say, “Now what?” Divorce affects us financially, emotionally and even spiritually. It sometimes negatively affects old friendships and is undeniably life changing. For some, it feels as if a leg has been cut off. For those with kids, the process doesn’t end with the signing of the papers, it goes on and on and on as couples who may not have amicably split, are required to cooperate in high school graduations, marriages, and Baptisms along with splitting time with kids on Holidays and weekends. But as time goes by, we learn to walk again. So how do we function in this new normal?
Learn to let go. The first step is accepting that the marriage is over and that a failed marriage does not mean that the individual is a failure. Everyone makes mistakes. Learn from the experience by reflecting on what went wrong and figure out what steps can be taken to prevent such a thing in the future. Work on letting go of the anger as it is baggage that will affect friendships and relationships with the children. The opposite of Love is not “HATE.” The opposite of love is indifference. As long as one holds onto the anger and the pain, one is stuck in one place and can’t move forward. Journaling, talking to a good friend, and seeing a therapist are all ways to work through the anger and the pain.
Learn to be with others. Depression and loneliness are common among the newly divorced and these feelings should not be ignored. When overwhelmed with these feelings, some of us isolate and some immediately try to cover these feelings with a new relationship. These rebound relationships usually never materialize into anything of substance, especially if the marriage failed due to abuse or infidelity. Rebound relationships are profoundly unfair to the other individual if they are forced to hear story upon story about the evil, lying, cheating “ex.” Often, we harbor deep seated insecurities that we have a tendency to project onto the other person unfairly. It’s good to take a break from relationships and work on friendships with oneself and with others. New friends and support can be found anywhere, at work, at the grocery store, or at places of worship. Now is the time to rediscover the self. Consider taking a Park District class, learn to cook, join a bowling league, or volunteer for a charitable cause. All are positive and constructive ways to combat loneliness while learning something new. For single parents, groups such as Parents Without Partners, provide great ways to meet other single parents and participate in activities with other adults. Don’t go into these activities with the expectation you will meet the new Mr. or Mrs. Go into these for the adventure, for the knowledge and for fun.
Learn to be alone. The newly single, used to the noise of family life or the presence of the other person, have trouble being alone as it is equated with loneliness. The two are not related. Remember, you are the only person you are guaranteed to spend the rest of your life with. It’s important to stand on your own and enjoy your own company. Don’t spend every endless hour vegging in front of the television. Find activities best enjoyed alone. Some suggestions: reading, writing, antiquing, listening to music, learning a musical instrument, paint by number, browsing in a book store, gardening, catching up a full email inbox of forwards, building a doll house, fix up the house, and watch a movie that you’ve always wanted to watch but couldn’t. Guaranteed, you will come to enjoy the “me” time and it will become an inseparable part of who you are. Being part of a couple does not mean you’re half a person. You are a whole person who shouldn’t need to be completed and bringing a FULL self into a new relationship with a new friend, a new significant other, or a child will only enhance another life, especially your own.
Remember to be patient with yourself. There is no timetable for full recovery. Regard every new day as a new opportunity. In the words of Sister Hazel “If you want to be somebody else, change your mind.