The Value of Single hood Post-Divorce
The grieving process in divorce can involve complicating factors unseen in other types of grief. In addition to mourning the death of an intimate relationship and partnership, the loss of family, financial stability, social contacts, and extended family relationships lead to lifestyle adjustments. Additionally, in many instances, trauma is experienced as a result of hurt, blame, and betrayal. The result is often unbearable pain and sadness, as well as feelings of isolation and low self-esteem. When long-term marriages end, partners can feel such a loss of identity that they are unsure of who they are as individuals. The risk of “feel better quick” remedies can exacerbate matters rather than alleviate hurt and loneliness. Some examples are alcohol and drug abuse, excessive spending, over participation in exciting activities, and entering new relationships too quickly. It can appear that a new love will help to heal or ease the pains of rejection and solitude. Feeling liked, wanted, loved is a quick self-confidence boost, right?
The danger of entering a new relationship before being fully healed is that the good feelings of new love mask the unprocessed pain and anger of divorce, preventing true growth from occurring. Immediately following a marital breakup, emotions churn in rapid, frequently changing ways. Sadness, guilt, anger, resentment, fear, relief, regret. And life is also changing rapidly in terms of career, moving, re-allocating finances, co-parenting, legal conflict, family reorganization, etc. All this emotion and change makes it difficult to see clearly. And sifting through the fog is essential in understanding what went wrong in the marriage. This takes TIME! How you make sense of the marital issues will change from six months post-split to one year later to two years later. Issues become apparent over time and growth happens based on understanding your role in what happened. The failure to do this can result in repeated mistakes and unhappiness in future relationships.
Some “alone” goals in the period following divorce:
- Become comfortable with alone time. Work on enjoying your own company. Become your own best friend. Rediscover yourself and enjoy the journey.
- Heal yourself with positive, affirming messages. Learn to soothe, comfort, and encourage yourself by rewriting self-defeating thoughts that do not serve you well.
- Practice gratitude. Although your life is different, it still contains blessings. Every day. Choose to focus on those blessings.
- Make short and learn term goals for career, finances, creative pursuits, and fun. Make a “bucket list.”
- Learn new skills.
- Rely on yourself. Your instincts, judgment, and strengths may need some TLC. Remember that you know yourself and your needs and desires better than anyone else.
- Rediscover your purpose and passions.
Allowing yourself the space and time to become whole means that you will be able to love more fully in the future. It makes you stronger in self-trust, self-confidence, and self-knowledge. So be patient! Take your time and love yourself through the pain and loneliness rather looking for someone to save you.
Deirdre Shaffer, MSW, LCSW