Wednesday, June 14, 2023

How to move on after divorce and feel great again


How to get over a marriage breakup and move on

You’ve landed here because you want to know how to move on after divorce. That means you’ve already been through a really tough time.

In my work as a relationship therapist, I’ve supported hundreds of people whose divorce greatly impacted their self-esteem and confidence.

They also were unable to get over a divorce and move on and needed help. While they were able to come to see me for divorce counselling, I aim to help you right here.

Whether or not your divorce is finalised, I suspect you’re here because:

  • Your spouse told you unexpectedly they wanted a divorce. Usually, the spouse who instigated the divorce has long been ready to move on, but understandably, you’re struggling.
  • You feel traumatised divorcing an abusive spouse.
  • You’re mourning the loss of daily contact with your children.
  • You wanted the divorce but are struggling to move on.
  • You just don’t see a future for yourself.
  • You’re terrified of being on your own.

So, let’s get you sorted!

In this article, you’ll discover:

  • How to move on after a divorce, including:
  • 4 specific strategies to help you become much happier
  • How to deal with people and possessions
  • When you need professional help after a marriage breakup
  • When to start dating again.

I want to start with some words of comfort.

What you need to know about moving on after divorce

You’ve joined a band of brothers and sisters (and differently gendered folk)

You only have to look at the stats (opens in a new tab)!

They (and me) have experienced the kind of pain you’re experiencing now following a breakup. I suspect that most of us have been through a painful breakup at some stage in our lives.

You’re grieving

You feel emotional because you suffer losses – even if you had a lousy marriage. Regardless of what you read about the stages of grief, your experience of loss is personal to you.

Know that feeling angry, stressed, sad, anxious and depressed is normal. Those feelings can intermingle with times of relief and joy, depending on where you are in the process.

You’re going to be okay

Trust that you will recover and move on again!

No matter whether or not your divorce has come through or how long ago, you will be okay again. At some point, that sense of joy and peace will return.

Know that you are enough and far more resilient than you might give yourself credit for.

What it’ll take to get over that divorce and move on

The process of moving on after a divorce is a very individual one. You will move on – in your own time. As long as you know you’re making progress, no matter how slow, you’re doing just fine.

I’ll start with the obvious – better times won’t come flying in.

Neither will the ideal new love of your life. I’d even advise against dating when you’re not healed from what went on before.

How to let go of anger and resentment

Easier said than done, I know, but…

… I’d like you to let go of your anger and resentment. That means that you stop investing time and energy into keeping those feelings alive. Instead, you begin to invest in your future. After all, you’ve already made a start by searching for how to move on after divorce.

Remaining mad with your ex is only going to hurt you.

And just in case – revenge doesn’t work either (it might stuff your lawyer’s wallet, though). That’s regardless of whether or not your ex was cheating, lacking empathy, consideration, care, commitment or even abusive.

You need that energy to recover and build a new life for yourself.

Vertical image. Photo: happy-looking black woman. Text: Expert advice on how to move on after your divorce.
Getting over a marriage breakup and moving on

An effective structure to help you move on after your divorce

How to be much happier after a marriage breakup

You came into the world with a set of essential emotional needs. You were born with the resources to meet those needs. These are the Human Givens (opens in a new tab).

When you feel lost, lonely, listless and forlorn, focus on meeting those emotional needs. That’s going to be your goal from now on to help you move on after your divorce.

Here are your most important needs.

1. Time to take back the control

During a divorce, as throughout your life, there’s a ton you have absolutely no control over. Others decide for you, mainly your ex and their lawyer or solicitor. Your new financial situation is likely to limit your choices, also.

Nevertheless, we are born with the need for some control and volition. You want to be able to make your own decisions!

So, decide what you stand for. Take some time to consider the values and beliefs that underpin any decisions you make from here on.

Those values and beliefs become your guiding principles. You’ll be much clearer on the why’s and wherefore’s of your choices. What you can and won’t accept and what you can do and won’t do.

2. Time to give and receive attention

Instead of focusing on your ex and your losses, start paying attention to other people around you.

Without using any filters, make a list of all the people you know. When you’ve done that, consider who could do with a little extra attention by way of a visit, phone call, card, letter, text message or a bunch of flowers.

Enter the chosen actions in your diary and set to work.

The benefits work both ways!

This ties in with the following inborn need.

3. Satisfying your inborn need for belonging

You’ll need to know what your tribe is and where you can find a community of people with whom you can be comfortable.

Where do you find such communities (not online!)?

Here are some examples:

  • In a pub or club (though a community based on drinking alcohol won’t suffice)
  • Somewhere you can do some voluntary work (remember the need for giving and receiving attention?)
  • A community of people with the same interests or hobbies – regardless of your age (playing an instrument, political party, church, community centre, school, university, gardening, woodworking, etc.)
  • Your family, if you’re so fortunate to have much-loved family members living close by.

What to do about your existing social circle

You may have been part of a great community when you were married.

However, your divorce is likely to have had an impact with people taking sides, becoming overly hostile or even disappearing altogether.

Your troubles may have been too close for comfort for those you never see again.

The good news is that your experience may have made you more understanding and empathic, and less judgmental. Your attitude toward others may have softened, making you a great friend to others (more on that further down). 

4. Getting ready to achieve

The only way you’ll get over that divorce and move on is by getting off the couch!

Yes, that may be tough. But let’s face it – life is tough! You’re probably already experienced getting through difficult times. So, you can do it.

Here’s what to do when you want to move on faster to a different future than the one you were hoping for:

Make decisions and take control

Remember your new set of values and beliefs?

Some decisions are likely very challenging. But by avoiding them, they’ll take up more space in your mind – nagging at you day and night. If you can’t make the big ones (yet), make some small ones.

Focus on your personal development

That means doing all you can to heal.

Take the time to reflect on and learn from your marriage, including your relationship with your ex-spouse.

Be brave and, in particular, explore your role in what went well and not-so-well. Self-reflection and increasing self-awareness help you to become the best version of yourself. That’s so much more productive than blaming your spouse for everything.

The latter will lead to bad dreams and waking up tired in the morning.

Keep your brain engaged with interests and hobbies instead of the past

Learning new skills will also contribute toward that great sense of achievement. You’ll find plenty of ideas in my article on what to do when you think life is boring.

Being active in your recovery in this way – making small steps every day – will give you a wonderful sense of achievement.

It will also help to improve your self-esteem and be more confident in a new relationship.

Get a professional therapist to help you

Because you’re worthy of reliable help and support.

  • Individual therapy online
  • Couples therapy – online, so very near you
  • 1 live session à 45 min/week (video, voice or text)
  • Unlimited messaging
  • Change therapists with a click of a button
  • Therapy on a secure & confidential platform
  • Three subscription alternatives
  • Cancel or upgrade your subscription at any time.

Click the button to get started…

Just in case social media plays a big part in your life

  1. Don’t spill the beans all over social media
    The evidence of your – very understandable – unravelling and emotional upset will be forever publicly recorded!
  2. Don’t become the victim
    I understand you may be desperate for some loving kindness. And a kind word online from a friend (or even a stranger) can feel satisfying for an instant. However, I guarantee you that it won’t contribute to your recovery. In fact, there’s a risk that you’ll continue to make do with those brief interactions instead of making real progress towards healing yourself.
  3. Don’t start tracking your ex-spouse’s progress
    The two of you are finished. Use your time and energy to move forward. Checking what your ex is up to all the time will only get in the way of your recovery. It’s time to wean yourself off your ex-spouse.

How to learn to accept your ex’s new partner

I know that’s a ‘biggie’. Jealousy and resentment may lurk around the corner or even be all too evident. That is, particularly if your (soon-to-be) ex-spouse is living with someone with whom they had an affair.

If you have kids, they’re going to have to get on with that new carer in their lives. Don’t make it harder for them by sharing your likes, dislikes, resentments, rumours and ruminations. They’ll end up feeling torn and very distressed.

Just acknowledge your resentment when it arises. It’s normal for you to feel aggrieved – you’re human!

Trying to push it away won’t work. So, accept that feeling, but don’t nurture it.

Divert your attention to your action plans instead and move on.

Sharing time with children

Of course, the two of you may need to stay in touch if you have children. For more information, help and guidance, see my articles:

People and possessions

Moving on from the past to the future after divorce

1. Choose reminders carefully

Jewellery, clothes, photos etc., are all receptors and containers of memories. Keep only those that bring a smile to your face, and remind you of progress and a life well-lived.

If you have children, consider their feelings when deciding what to keep and ditch. Better still, undertake the task together.

2. Honing your home

Do you have the (mis)fortune to stay wherever you lived together?

Rearrange the furniture, and get new or second-hand cushions and throws. Paint the walls (or even part of one), and get new bedsheets (or swap with friends).

Even small changes make a big difference. It’s about making choices retaking control, and building on that sense of achievement. This is an opportunity to get in touch with your own taste without the need to compromise.

3. Welcome the change in your social circle

  • You’re likely to grieve for the loss of some friends and perhaps some of your ex’s family members. Yet, some you won’t mind not ever seeing again.
  • Be sure to speak to or write a card, at least to those you might bump into – it could be ever-so awkward if you don’t.
  • Don’t be guided or distracted by people who thrive on gossip and other people’s misfortunes. Ignore people who try to convince you that you ‘should be over it by now’.

Look forward to having the space in your mind and heart to welcome new people into your life – in your own time.

When can you start dating after your divorce?

  • When you’ve stopped welling up when thinking or talking about your divorce.
  • When you can talk about your marriage without just blaming your spouse – even if they had narcissistic traits or had an affair.
  • When you’ve stopped ‘needing someone’.
  • When you’re able to live by yourself and just miss a loving partner sharing your life.
  • When you’re as happy in your own skin as you can be.
  • When you’re prepared to sift through hundreds of online dating profiles and deal with inappropriate messages.
  • When you can join real-life clubs, initiatives, charities and classes or socialise in other ways to increase your chance of meeting someone you like.
  • When you feel strong enough to deal with a number of (semi)disastrous dates before hopefully finding a great partner.

Bear in mind that I don’t know you and that there are a ton of variabilities. So predicting when you’re ready to date again is like looking into a glass ball.

All of the above can take anything from about six months to a year or maybe even longer.

When do you need professional help?

Getting through a divorce can be oh-so challenging. So, there’s no need to feel guilty or ashamed if you need a little extra help.

I recommend you ask for help from a professional (therapist, coach, counsellor or minister) when:

  • After about three weeks, you still feel on the verge of a nervous breakdown.
  • After about three months, you’ve not made any progress in getting over your divorce.
  • You lack any kind of social support
  • You’ve taken to drinking more alcohol, medication or illegal drugs.

Finally

Are you prepared to reflect on what’s happened and adjust your sails to enter a safer harbour?

If you are, expect to manage, heal and move on after your divorce. 

Once you’ve done the work, you’ll have changed. You’ll have moved past the hurt, disappointment, grief and anger. And you’ll have grown in awareness, understanding and wisdom.

Trust that you were born with the resources necessary to get you through this time. You are enough. You’ve got this!

Get a professional therapist to help you

Because you’re worthy of reliable help and support.

  • Individual online therapy
  • Online couples therapy
  • 1 live session à 45 min/week (video, voice or text)
  • Unlimited messaging
  • Change therapists with a click of a button
  • Therapy on a secure & confidential platform
  • Three subscription alternatives
  • Cancel or upgrade your subscription at any time.

Click the button and…

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