Bouncing back after a divorce

after divorce

Whether it’s come out of the blue or is something that has been threatened for a long time, divorce often seems like the end of the world. It’s not just about the heartbreak of letting go of the marriage—it’s also about the tremendous sense of disorientation that comes from breaking up the household and having to reorganize multiple aspects of life all at once. People often become so used to depending on one another during a long marriage that, when it breaks down, they realize there are day-to-day skills they simply don’t have. This can lead to feelings of panic—but things are not as bad as they seem. In fact, many people are much happier after they divorce, and some even go on to say that splitting up was one of the best decisions they made in life.

Ending the pressure

Even when discussion of divorce is sudden and unexpected, there have usually been problems in the marriage for months or years beforehand. This could simply have been an absence of communication, leading to isolation and loneliness. It could have involved growing suspicion and the nagging feeling that something was wrong. It could have meant guarding one’s own secrets and desperately trying to hold everything together without much of a plan for the future. Or it could have involved constant bullying, sniping, angry outbursts and even violence. None of these things are easy to live with, and under the pressure of them it can be hard to make good decisions. Some people actually find themselves becoming more dependent in damaged relationships because they feel they cannot cope with the stress alone.

The thing is, once they are alone, these same people often discover that the stress simply isn’t there anymore. It’s often not until that pressure is gone that it becomes apparent just how bad it had become. In its absence, everything feels so much easier that anything might be achievable—even getting by alone

Addressing mistakes

It’s rare that the breakdown of a marriage is entirely one person’s fault. Where it is, often there are still lessons to be learned about identifying and escaping from bad situations. In the most amicable situations, where no one is really at fault, it’s still useful to reflect and consider how incompatibilities might have been recognized more effectively.

Divorce provides an opportunity to reflect. It’s useful to think about what the other person did wrong, to avoid getting caught up with someone with those flaws again, but it can be still more useful to look at oneself and identify one’s own mistakes. Even though this is a hard process, it makes it possible to move forward as a stronger, more capable person. When guided by a counselor, it can also be a cathartic process.

Thinking of the children

Perhaps the single factor that makes people most afraid of divorce is the thought of what it might do to children. Past studies have shown that children always suffer in the aftermath of divorce and that it always negatively affects their life chances. People are now beginning to question these studies, however, and for one glaring reason—they didn’t take into account the circumstances that preceded divorce. It now looks as if it might not be divorce itself that caused problems for the children in these studies but rather the impact of living with unhappy parents beforehand.  Many of the children themselves, now grown up, say that it was when their parents actually split that things started to get better.

A sensibly managed divorce with capable divorce attorneys, where children’s concerns are really listened to, will still be hard for them but doesn’t need to keep on hurting. If both parents go on to be happier, the children can also be happier living with the new arrangements. It can be a positive thing for them to have more than one home to go to, especially as they get older and want more control over their own lives. Meanwhile, although it’s hard to let them go when it is the other parent’s turn for custody, parents can themselves settle into a rhythm that gives them more freedom to do other things. Often previously strained relationships between adults and children get better in this situation.

Repairing friendship

In order for the custody of children to be sorted out with minimal trouble it is, of course, necessary to handle the divorce amicably—but this isn’t as hard as is often assumed. Generally the best thing is for one partner to move out as soon as possible, even just to a temporary place or onto a friend’s couch, so that the immediate pressure is off. If friends or family members can help to sort out those belongings that are needed immediately, it is possible to get a bit of space that can make a big difference. Practical matters can then be sorted out with less recrimination.

What many people forget when a relationship goes sour is not the romance that used to be there but the friendship. In fact, once the pressure for romance, sexual intimacy and being regarded as a couple is off, there can be room to discover that friendship again. A few months after divorce, exes who keep in touch often begin to realize how much they still like each other. This doesn’t mean that thoughts of getting back together are a good idea. It does mean, however that a much healthier, non-romantic and non-sexual relationship can develop—something more like that between siblings—which is to everybody’s benefit.

A fresh start

Divorce, especially for those who don’t have children, is also a chance to strike out alone. It’s time to recall those dreams that are inevitably sacrificed for marriage. It’s time to go adventuring, visiting exotic place and perhaps moving city—or even country. It’s time to think about a change of career. Even if one is staying in the same home, it can offer a chance to redecorate entirely on one’s own terms. Divorce can mean picking up on old friendships, returning to neglected hobbies and eating foods one’s spouse never liked. It might be time for a new romance but it’s certainly time to discover the joy of being single—or, as it is often called, free.