Let me begin by stating that divorce is not a good thing! It is a traumatic experience for everyone involved; it tears families apart, adversely impacts the lives of children, harms people’s self-esteem, confidence and finances and satisfies no one but the divorce lawyers.
Every effort should always be made to try and save a marriage, and I also truly believe that all marriages – except those involving abuse and repeated infidelity – can be saved, should be saved and are capable of becoming marriages that fulfill each partners’ dreams and wishes. However, this requires the will of both parties and sometimes that will is missing. Which brings me to the 7 lessons I have learned through working with people to help them overcome the pain of their marriages ending. These are especially important lessons over the Holidays when many people often feel the impact of divorce the most.
1. No good marriage ends in divorce
The fact is that despite how much you may have wanted a perfect relationship and fairy tale marriage, it didn’t happen. There may be numerous unforeseen situations that caused the demise of your marriage: job loss, family illnesses or death, personal health issues or whatever, but the sad truth is the marriage just didn’t survive. That means that one, or both of you, were not sufficiently committed to making it work. If it was your ex-spouse who ended the marriage, then this means he or she was not right for you. As upsetting as it is, if you would have done more to make your marriage work but your ex-spouse did not, this means they weren’t right for you because their values did not match yours. One day you will meet someone whose values do
2. You lose yourself to find yourself
Divorce hurts. It hurts like a death. The mourning process can be long and no one should tell you how long you should mourn for. You completely lose yourself after your divorce. You lose your sense of knowing, your self-esteem, your sense of safety, you lose your confidence, maybe even your friends or your home. You totally lose yourself, but eventually you find yourself.
Eventually, you realize you actually lost yourself in your marriage, not your divorce. You realize that in your marriage you lost who YOU were. You realize you lost your own identity. Divorce allows you to find You again, the individual you were before, and it is a wonderful feeling to be “you” again.
3. You have control over your time
Although initially the loneliness is isolating, eventually it becomes exhilarating. If you have children, maybe you now have every other week to yourself. Even if you have primary custody, you may still find you have the occasional weekend or Holiday to yourself that you have not had in years. You may rediscover the joy of sleeping until noon, or hobbies and pastimes you’d not been able to experience in awhile. You may even find new hobbies you never knew you would enjoy!
The world really now is your oyster, so why not take that salsa class you’d always wanted to, or the painting workshop, or take up rock climbing, or zip lining, or go on that vacation you always dreamed about, or jump out of a plane! Whatever you want to do, you now have time to do it, so take advantage of this new found free time and enjoy yourself in a way you haven’t been able to in years!
4. Your appearance improves
Admit it, we all kind of fall asleep in marriage when it comes to our appearance. We all get a little lazy, a little out of shape. Maybe we don’t look after ourselves quite like we did before we were married. During the marriage that felt like one of the plus points, but now that you are divorced there is every need to.
How many people have you seen who within a year or so after their divorce looked better than they had in years! Now, I don’t say these things for superficial reasons. I am not saying that physical appearance and looking good are the most important things in the world, but what I am saying is that looking good makes you feel good. After divorce your appearance will improve, and you will feel better and more confident for it. People will begin noticing you again, you will begin noticing yourself again, and if you also begin eating better and exercising more, your health will improve also – which is a priceless gift!
5. Everything can be a lesson, even when pain is the teacher
As I wrote above, divorce hurts, but everything that happens to us in Life is a lesson, even when pain is the teacher. Maybe you were too trusting or too focused on your career. Maybe you neglected your own happiness for his or your children’s. Maybe you did nothing wrong at all and this unfortunately just happened.
Whatever the reasons for the divorce, there are still valuable life lessons to be learned. Yes, those lessons can be very painful, but it may just be the very lesson your soul needs. You also learn that just because it’s not the Life you planned, it doesn’t mean it is the wrong Life for you. It may not be what you wanted, but it’s what you have and that can be very liberating because you realize that life doesn’t always go the way you want it to and that’s OK. It’s OK if you don’t get the job you really wanted. Its OK if you don’t get the promotion you expected.That is just part of Life. You don’t always get what you want, but you still – always – have to try and make the most of it, and that can be very freeing and empowering to learn.
6. You value the Present
Divorce rips your world apart. It undermines your very being and robs you of a security that you hoped you would always have. But, of course, that security was an illusion. It never existed. You simply thought it did. Divorce teaches you to enjoy and value the present. When you are with your children, value that time. When you are not with your children, value that time too. When you are out with friends, value that time. When you are sat alone at home watching a TV show alone, value that time.
Divorce teaches you that you can spend your entire time thinking about the past, and what could have been, or what you or he/she could have or should have done differently, but ultimately you realize that those thoughts are worthless.You realize that as much as you may wish to change the past, you can’t, and that all you have is the present. So begin to try and enjoy that present.
You also learn that anger towards your ex, doesn’t harm your ex, it only harms you. Like Ghandi said, ‘anger is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to become ill.” Anger only harms you, so eventually you must and will learn to manage your thoughts and live in the present in a way that you never did before the divorce.
7. You become stronger and it makes you who you are
I do not know where you are on your divorce journey. Maybe you are recently divorced; maybe you’re going through the process right now, maybe it was a year ago, or maybe ten years ago. But I do now that eventually you will get through it. Eventually the feeling of betrayal and disappointment will subside. One day you will no longer feel the anger or loss you felt. You may always question why and you may never truly forgive, but one day you will get through it and find Happiness again. It will happen and when it does, you will be stronger for it.
I believe that divorce is a ‘disrupter’ designed to make us question whether we are on the right path. Divorce is a very personal journey, a journey that can only be defined and understood by you. But it is a journey, and a journey that is hard. But it is does come with some expected benefits. Dare I even say Blessings. In life, it is always important to count your blessings and not your problems. Everything happens to us for a reason. Detach from it all and surrender to what is. Everything that happened is simply making room for a new and better experience to come into your Life. The “reason” may not become known for many weeks, months or even several years, but one day, it will all make sense and you may even be grateful that your divorce happened.
Note: Divorce is a life changing and traumatic situation and one that should only be undertaken once ALL avenues to having a successful marriage have been fully exhausted. I believe all marriages, except those involving abuse or repeated infidelity, can be fixed and would encourage anyone thinking about divorce to reach out to a qualified professional to help save their marriage.
Featured photo credit: Woman alone on the bridge against cloudy sky via shutterstock.com