As a divorce mediator for many years, I thought I was more prepared than anyone for what lay ahead as I faced my own divorce. Well, I was wrong! Here are some of the things no one told me, which I learned from going through it — and coming out on the other side.
1. Even if you are the one who wants to get divorced, you may often feel sad, loss, fear, anxiety.
Whether or not you initiated the split, one is often unprepared for just how big of a life transition divorce really is. It's a time that not only includes the loss of a marriage, but often also includes the loss of other relationships in your life (your ex’s family, certain friends, and less time with your children, for example). In the process of letting go of your past married life, you will need to begin to create your new life, which often brings tremendous personal growth. However, until you get there, you will likely feel a great amount of fear and anxiety of the unknown. It takes work, but you will find happiness at the other end!
2. Just because you are divorced, all of your problems don’t just disappear. You still need to deal with your ex — particularly if there are children involved.
I so often hear from others who are divorced, “Ugh, I cant stand him!” or “She is driving me crazy!” and I always respond with “That’s why you are no longer married to him/her!” Remember that the bad behaviors you lived with don’t just disappear when you get divorced — the buttons they used to press when you were married may still get triggered, and sometimes even more so after you split. Do your best to let it go and not let it get to you anymore. Easier said then done; it takes practice.
3. Once the divorce papers are signed, now the real work begins. You need to heal from the emotional turmoil of a bad marriage and learn to be happy alone before you can enter a new relationship.
Creating two new homes after divorce with the same resources is one of the first big challenges one may need to make. You may need to go back to work, which can be a huge challenge if you have been home with your kids for so many years.
Your self-esteem will likely need a boost after working so hard at a relationship that ultimately failed. I have found it to be so important to take time to figure out who I am again, apart from being someone’s wife: What are my interests and what kind of partner will really make me happy? Finding these answers takes time, and it can be a fun and interesting journey along the way if you let it be.
4. Your kids may not tell you how they feel, though it may come out through their behaviors.
It is so important to watch your kids' actions and behaviors (life if they start to sleep in your bed, fight with each other, or show signs of depression) and not just go by what they say or don’t say. I so often hear “my kids are doing great” but then when I probe a little further, I find out a very different story. Talk to your kids about what they are thinking and feeling continuously — I have been divorced for five years, and my kids are still sad, have questions and wish their parents were still together. Keep communication going.
5. Don’t rush through the process, as tempting as that is. Everyone needs time to adjust and make good, clear decisions that you can live with for many years to come.
During the divorce process there are so many difficult decisions that need to be made, and these should not be made swiftly or without a lot of time to think and process. If you rush, many of these decisions will be fueled by emotions rather than careful consideration. Try and always put your children's best interests first and you will be ahead of the game.
6. You may lose some friends — the ones you thought would be there for you may not be, and vice versa.
This was rather surprising to me: Some people actually think divorce can be contagious! And maybe it is? We all know that there are many unhappily married people out there who are frightened (and I don’t blame them one bit) to get divorced. These people often do not want you around their spouses, giving them any ideas or courage to take that step.
And then there will be the friends, sometimes even the ones you weren’t so close to in the past, that come forward and are tremendously supportive. The largest complaint I hear from divorced people is that their married friends no longer invite them out anymore. So it's important to create new friends — single friends and married friends that are comfortable including you in their plans.
7. Let go of your anger and resentment toward your spouse — this can only hurt you and your children and no good can come from it!
This is so important! Holding on to your anger about what was or what happened in the past will only hurt you physically and emotionally. This doesn’t mean you condone your ex’s behavior, it simply means you need to let go of it. If you feel stuck, seek help — a therapist, a divorce advisor, or a divorce support group.
8. Holidays are so hard, especially in the first few years. Start new traditions and make sure you are not alone.
This is definitely one of the hardest parts for me about being divorced. Holidays to me are about being with family and those you love the most. So each holiday where my ex has my kids, I make sure I do something special that makes me happy and I don’t stay home and sulk. I do continue to spend those holidays with my family and sometimes try and see my kids at some point during that day.
9. Spare your children from bad-mouthing your spouse no matter what: This can actually crush their self-esteem.
As tempting as it may be, bad-mouthing your ex to your children is a big no-no! Children want — and have the right — to love both parents. Saying bad things about the other parent will come back to bite you, as your kids will likely resent you for it (if not now, later).
10. Don’t rush to start dating again!
Our children are not ready to see us with someone new, and you need time to figure out who you are and who would make you happy. Take at least a year off to work on yourself and focus on your children. Trust me, you need time alone to figure out who you are again. Until you know that, you are likely to make bad choices and may even choose a partner just like the one you just divorced! Kids too need time to heal and are likely to reject your new partner if they aren’t ready.
Are you seriously considering a divorce? Ask yourself these six questions first.