Recover a sense of self, make a new home and even date again. Cortney Rene shares experience and advice on navigating the waters of post-divorce life.
It’s a heavy word, a word that conjures a certain stigma—even though roughly 50 percent of marriages in the U.S. fail. Going through a divorce or being divorced can summon all sorts of negative feelings. It can make us feel ashamed, saddened, disappointed or like a failure.
But, it can also bring positive feelings—feelings of starting anew. Feelings of freedom. How you feel post-divorce depends on the way in which your specific circumstance played out.
When I went through my own divorce, it was a bag of mixed emotions. My soon-to-be ex and I had been seeking counseling to try and work things out. But sometimes you realize your paths in life are different, or maybe they’ve changed direction, and that’s okay. Still, it’s hard to break those ties and even think about building a life that exists without that one person you’d come to rely on for so long.
In my case, six and a half years of marriage and eight and a half years of memories would cease to be my present or future and become simply a part of my past. We had no children, so our divorce unlike many others, was for the most part, amicable. Yet, I still went through a gamut of feelings from incredible sadness and loss, to anger, to a sense of hope for the promise of what my future may hold. Our therapist likened dealing with a divorce to the five stages of grief we experience when someone close to us dies: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. To me, it was like experiencing a death, only that death is of your relationship.
In the process, I would lose the person who’d been my best friend, my partner, my confidant, the single person who knew every high and low of my life for the past 8 years…and I his. We’d weathered many storms, including a horrific accident and two separate bouts of cancer in his family. Yet, there we sat in our therapist’s office, deflated, harboring resentment for each other and unable to see a road forward except for the fork which would lead him one direction and me the other. For two people who seemingly never fought nor lacked things to talk about, the conversation had simply dried up.
Fear of the Unknown
What scared me most were all the unknowns. What would my future now hold? How would our family deal with the news of our impending divorce? Who would get the dog? Would our mutual friends take sides? And, how—exactly how—was I ever supposed to date again?
To date means you must open yourself up to the possibility of rejection, fear of the unknown, good dates and bad and awkward “getting-to-know-you” moments. I had been out of the dating pool for nearly a decade. It was scary to think about all those firsts you have to go through when getting to know someone new. Hadn’t I already had enough heartbreak? But, I reminded myself, dating also opens you up to the possibility of love. Without risk, there is no reward.
I spent several months post-divorce just focusing on me. What do I enjoy? What would I like to do today? Who do I want to spend my time with?
I moved into my own apartment. I took a new job. I volunteered at an animal shelter. I cooked healthy meals for one. I spent time with friends. I spent time decorating and nesting and reveled in the “me-ness” of being able to enjoy my solitude. I was free to do as I pleased. I pursued activities that interested me: I played tennis (badly), I took my dog on hikes, and I signed up for a new fitness class. Sometimes, I cried. But mostly, when I felt sad or down, I called on my support system of wonderful friends who were there to lend an ear to listen or give advice when asked.
One evening, after purchasing a new dresser, I invited a few girlfriends over to help me assemble this “some assembly required” beast. It was a disaster. There were too many parts…or not enough parts. It sat, half put together (and would take me two more days to finish assembling) in the living room of my new bachelorette pad. We laughed. It felt good. I knew in that moment, I was going to be okay. I was simply beginning a new journey—one that could become whatever I made it.
The Necessity of Feeling
What is important in moving on post-divorce is that you allow yourself to grieve or to feel whatever it is you’re feeling in that moment. Be aware, be present, and accept those feelings and then release them. Know that you are not defined by that relationship or any other. Remind yourself of the positive traits you possess, the positive qualities you have to offer.
Personally, I have never been a good “dater.” I am a self-professed “relationship” girl. I met my now ex-husband when I was 26. We were introduced by a mutual friend. Nowadays, it seems organic connections like that are harder to come by. Today’s singles are busy, career-minded, over-worked, over-stimulated and suffer from shorter attention spans.
Technology has taken over our lives and no one has time to meet anyone, let alone cultivate a relationship, which is why online dating websites and apps have become so incredibly popular. Sometimes fate just needs a little push. And yes, it can be difficult to put yourself back out there after divorce, but I felt determined that I would not let this define me, nor cause me to become jaded about love or relationships.
Not long after I had moved into my own place, I took stock of the things I value in a partner and I sat and wrote myself a list of what qualities were most important to me because if you don’t know what you want, how will you ever find it? I’ve kept this list and it serves as a reminder to me, not only of what I want, but of what I deserve.
Whether you’re going through a separation, or are newly divorced, remember that life is about the journey and you have your own path to follow.
Allow yourself to grieve, to be sad, or angry, or happy—whatever emotion you’re feeling let it in and then let it go.
And, when you feel the time is right, take that next step, put yourself out there and believe in possibilities. It may not always be comfortable, but it’s worth it. I can attest to that. It’s been almost three years since my divorce and opening myself up to love again hasn’t always been easy. But, at the end of the day, I truly enjoyed being married. I hope to be again someday.
[image: via slalit on flickr]