Self-Examination: Key To Life After Divorce

For many, after living as a pair for so long, it’s important to recognize that you are a unique and valuable person on your own. I often tell my clients, “You are a whole person by yourself and not half of anything.” You may have some work to do to get back to recognizing that and the point when you begin to enjoy living life post-divorce may depend on where you are in the timeline of recovery.

You may have children to care for, or you may not. You may be under 40, exhilarated and ready to start anew; or you may be over 50 and anxious about starting this new journey alone. No matter who you are and what your past experiences, your road to recovery after a divorce will depend on your actions.

You can choose to rehash the past and hold on to negative feelings, or you can view this life-altering experience as an opportunity for self-examination and a new beginning.

You may have put your best efforts forward to save your marriage or you may have been the person who wanted out, but now that the relationship is legally over, regardless of who made the choice, you may still be dealing with a host of difficult emotions and thoughts. Feeling alone, you may not have the tools to deal with a loss of this magnitude.

Consider the following scenarios…

Julie was miserable for years before telling her husband she wanted a divorce. With no children, she is still lonely and angry but doesn’t understand why and is lost as to how to turn her negative thoughts around.

Sarah fought hard to save her marriage but also feels lost. She’s experiencing much hopelessness and grief. The despair has become almost too much and she wonders how she will continue alone.

A breakup forces us to enter an unknown world of new experiences. By understanding your feelings and thoughts, you can make a final break with the emotional remnants of the relationship. The feelings you may experience are similar to the death stages introduced by Elisabeth Kübler-Ross, M.D., a Swiss American psychiatrist, in her pioneering theory where she outlines the five stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. In fact, the end of your love relationship is very much like the death of your hopes, dreams and expectations but with some self-examination you can pick up the pieces.

First you need to understand why you chose your ex to begin with; examine what went wrong in the marriage; and understand the role that you and your partner may have played in its demise. Once you understand what went wrong, you have a blueprint for the work that you need to do in order to feel comfortable with yourself again; see yourself as a single person; forge new purposes and goals; and learn to trust and love again.

While you work on yourself, you can concurrently care for your children (if any), make new friends, go out and engage in new activities, and take care of your job or maybe find a new one. But don’t forget that the work that you do on yourself will ensure that you have a better relationship in the future.

To start the process of self-examination, let’s reveal its stages:

  1. Grief. Grieve the loss of your relationship and charge on. After the initial stage of grieving, allow yourself to feel bad two to three times a day for up to ten minutes each time. Set a timer if it helps. At the same time, begin to normalize your life by doing things with friends. It’s important that you put on your brownie smile for the children as well. Act as if everything is all right and eventually it will be.
  2. Denial. Don’t ignore what when wrong in your relationship. Why did you choose the person you did? What were your communication skills like? How did you resolve conflict? How did you deal with one another’s families? Were there stressors from either or both of your jobs? Answering these and other important questions will help you to avoid making the same mistakes in the future.
  3. Anger. Learn to listen to your feelings. Once you know what went wrong, learn to listen to your feelings and understand the thoughts that lead to your negative feelings. Don’t be angry just because you are now divorced.
  4. Bargaining. Avoid jumping into another relationship and telling yourself by just finding another man or woman everything will be alright. The idea that having another partner will solve all your problems is a romanticized notion. Dig deep and discover yourself before diving in and dating.
  5. Depression. Differentiate between being alone and being lonely. Missing having a partner or the state of being married may bring on some confusing feelings. Differentiate between that and missing the partner you had. Listen to your gut and trust yourself above anyone else.
  6. Acceptance. Come to terms with your new status and a possible change in lifestyle. Now that you’re on your own, you may need to start focusing on getting a new job and even making new friends. Most importantly, you need to focus on the new you, that whole person, who is worth just as much even if you’re not married.

For most, depending on the length and nature of the previous relationship, it may take some time to feel confident again. This time may seem to go on forever, but it’s important to discover who you are as an unattached individual.

It’s important to note that my article does not talk about abuse, serious financial issues or custody battles. These can create an entirely different set of difficulties during the recovery process.

If you feel that therapy could be a source of helping you to learn to self-examine and live completely again, please feel free to contact me to schedule an appointment.

All material contained on this blog is for information purposes only. This information is not intended or implied to be a substitute for professional psychological advice. Always consult a qualified professional prior to utilizing any of the information provided in this post.