Studies show that it can take about two years to grieve a divorce, which can seem like an eternity when you’re in the beginning stages of it. While it’s important to acknowledge that moving on will not be an overnight event, there are some key steps that you can take to help you move forward in a healthy and productive way.
I asked relationship coach, Sarah W. Hale, MA, of the Interrelate Project for her top five tips to consider, whether you’re in the early stages of separation or whether you find yourself struggling to move on from a high-conflict divorce.
#1 Reflect on why it didn’t work out
Sometimes extended rumination, remorse, or anger drags on because we don’t want to acknowledge our role in why the marriage ended. Marriage is a two-person act, and even if the other person may have committed a wrongdoing, this is an opportune time to look at our part in how things went wrong too. Acknowledging past mistakes or blunders will give you a chance to make you a better person, and a more loving partner once you’re ready to enter a new relationship.
#2 Don’t rush into a new relationship, yet
Since it takes time to grieve the end of a marriage, or any long-term relationship, it’s important not to rush into getting married again right away. There’s a bit of nuance that should be applied to this, particularly in cases of extended separations or drawn-out divorces.
Regardless, make sure to give yourself space and time to do the personal work you need before immediately jumping into a new serious relationship with someone who will merely be licking your post-divorce wounds. Taking that much-needed time will only help you find the right partner the second time around.
#3 Set yourself up for success
In the early stages of divorce, you are no doubt grieving a legitimate loss much like a death, but you are also likely confronted with being a single parent for the first time-- running a one-income household, being the only one to do household chores, taking the dog out, etc. That is why this is a time that is not only sad but also suddenly very overwhelming. Acknowledge this lifestyle change by doing advanced planning so you don’t get burned out.
Create a budget, establish a carpool for the kids’ sports and activities, find cost-effective ways to outsource housecleaning, and find creative solutions by swapping services with a friend or neighbor. Things change after divorce in ways you may not expect—or even like—but this is a time to empower yourself to change your routine and lean into new ways of doing things that might improve your life—and your kids’ lives—for the better.
#4 Kickstart a new hobby
It’s true that you may understandably be overwhelmed by your divorce and the unexpected changes that come with it, but once you establish your new routine you’ll find that you may have more time for yourself on the weekends or in the evenings.
This may initially leave you feeling lonely or sad, but consider the things in your life that you missed doing—or thought about doing—when you were married but couldn’t for whatever reason. Maybe it was fishing after work or joining an adult soccer league. Perhaps it was getting back into drawing or landscape photography. Maybe it was pursuing your dream of writing a book once and for all. Whatever it may be, think about the unexpected slots of time you have in your new post-divorce life and pursue these hobbies you’ve been dreaming about.
#5 When you’re truly ready, dip your toes into dating
I say “dip” because dating may seem all-to-tempting as soon as you decide to separate from your ex. Beware that folks going through divorce set off major orange lights to prospective “datees.” Most people only want to date someone after their divorce is officially done, and for good reason!
Understand that people may not take you seriously until your divorce is over, or at least until you’ve officially settled your divorce case with your ex. Acknowledge what went wrong in your marriage and try to date with intention, learning from the past and pursuing a partner who has the kind of qualities that your last spouse may have lacked.
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Sarah W. Hale, MA, is a relationship coach for Interrelate Project, which specializes in providing support during separation and divorce, and navigating the complexities of second marriage and blended families. She provides solution-focused support to clients both virtually and in New York City. Email her at Sarah@sarahwhale.com to set up a 15-complimentary consultation and learn more about her services here: https://interrelateproject.com/. You can follow her on Instagram at @interrelateproject.