Adjusting to Life After Divorce
Tips to help you start the recovery process after divorce.
Every divorce story is different. You may have been the one who chose to leave. You may have been the one who was left. You may be happy the marriage is over. You may be devastated that you lost your spouse. You may still be close friends with your ex. You may not be on speaking terms with your ex.
Regardless of the specifics, several common themes emerge when you ask parents about the process of adjusting to life after divorce when it comes to your children, time, finances, and friendships.
Adjustments for your children after divorce
Adjusting to the reality that your children now live in two separate households is one of the hardest parts of life after divorce. Regardless of how well parents get along and how consistent they try to keep routines between homes, your children now share a household with another person or people.
Everyone parents a little differently, and everyone’s rules and expectations vary. If you share custody after divorce, you will not always have your kids with you anymore, which can be hard.
To adjust, you must give up some control, or you will drive yourself insane with worry and guilt. Worry and guilt are emotions that won’t do you or your children any good in the long run. If you feel guilty, you may overcompensate by spoiling your kids or slacking on discipline. If you feel worried, you may inadvertently communicate that stress and instability to your kids.
Remember, this is still your child’s mother or father. You want your child to feel safe and stable in both of his or her homes. You and your ex may consider signing up for a co-parenting communication service, like TalkingParents, to help organize your shared parenting responsibilities. TalkingParents can help you and your co-parent communicate and coordinate when it comes to schedules, routines, and other important information regarding your child.
Adjustments with time after divorce
Time is a double-edged sword for the divorced mom or dad. On one hand, there are instances when you have more time to yourself than you’ve ever had before. After divorce, you have time to work on yourself, time to rediscover who you are as a person rather than a couple, time to figure out what your values are, time to pursue hobbies that interest you, and time to decide what priorities you want to make central in your life moving forward.
On the other hand, there are some days when you have much less time for yourself after divorce. When you have your children, you are a single parent. There is no one to share in the responsibility of getting your children back and forth to games or practices, pack lunches, or help with homework. Depending on where you move to and where your ex resides, you may also spend more time traveling back and forth between the communities in which the kids live, go to school, and participate in activities.
To adjust, embrace the time you have to yourself and use it to get your sense of self back. Working with a counselor or therapist may be extremely helpful to keep you from falling into depression and loneliness, to help you grieve the loss of your marriage, and to put you back on the path to loving yourself.
On days when you do have the kids, embrace the chaos, and carefully consider where you want to live when the divorce is final. Moving far away from your ex may be your initial reaction, but it’s important to think past that. If your relationship with your ex allows, living in close proximity to your ex can benefit your kids and your time.
Adjustments to finances after divorce
Adjusting to a new financial reality is an essential consideration for the newly-divorced. If you were once part of a two-income household, after the divorce, you are part of a one-income household.
If you and your ex live in separate residences, that same amount of income must now maintain two house payments or rents, two sets of electric and gas bills, two sets of cell phone and cable bills, and much more.
There are also new expenses that may come up for divorced parents, such as paying for assistance with chores like lawn mowing, housecleaning or tax preparation. Not to mention, there is the cost of the divorce itself and paying for the attorneys and court fees.
To adjust, learn about how divorce affects your credit and take steps to protect your financial future. Create a new budget for yourself as soon as possible and accept that you may have to make some temporary lifestyle changes, such as forgoing monthly luxury items or downsizing your home or car.
Adjustments to friendships after divorce
Friendships and relationships with people around you may change after divorce. As a couple, you may have shared many friends and relatives. As a single person, you may find that there are friends who took your spouse’s side in the divorce or that the in-laws are no longer a part of your life.
While time to work on yourself alone or with a counselor or therapist is extremely important, so is a strong support network. After all, the top two predictors of living a long and healthy life are close relationships and social interaction.
To adjust, find your tribe! Divorce will quickly make it obvious who your true friends are and who was just there by association, but it’s not the end of the world. Be grateful for those who are standing by you and make time to cultivate those relationships.
Build new relationships too. Invite a co-worker to lunch. Call up old acquaintances you’ve lost touch with over the years and rekindle friendships. Join a gym or a running club. Volunteer at church or a new charity. You may even want to consider joining a divorce support group. And once you’re ready, it may be time to start dating again.
Adjusting to life after divorce isn’t easy, but it’s also not the end of your story
Though there are many adjustments after divorce, they are not all bad. If you look at these changes as a chance to learn and grow, you might be surprised at where you end up.