1. RELEASING THE ANGER
Get the anger, frustration, hurt and fear of both your financial and emotional future out in a healthy way. This is often the “He’s a bastard/She’s a bitch” stage which is when you may want to tell anyone who wil listen how unfairly you have been treated. DO NOT go to friends/family members for comfort who have gone through bitter divorces and are still angry after many years. If you have children, be mindful of talking about the details of the divorce in their presence or even within earshot. This can be particularly painful for children if they hear their parents speaking disparagingly of each other. Remember, they are also devastated by the breakup of the family and you are talking about their other parent. Don’t make children feel as though they must “choose sides”.
Support groups, church, temple can be a good resource. If you fall into a major depression, particularly if you have feelings of hurting yourself, do not hesitate to speak with your doctor and get a referral for a good therapist or psychiatrist. Speaking wth friends or family members who are happy and well adjusted, whether they are “happily married” or “happily single” can be extremely comforting.
2. MAINTAIN GOOD SELF CARE
Resist the urge to overeat, drink excessively, to stop exercising and to isolate socially. If you belong to a religious, spiritual, athletic or social group, now is a good time to maintain your involvement. Don’t neglect medical care. During this highly stressful time, it is easy to skip medical checkups or to assign any physical symptoms only to the stress of the divorce. Check with your doctor to rule out medical issues.
Be careful driving. Often this is a time when people are distracted and unfocused and the risk for accidents can be higher. During the initial stages of divorce, DON’T DATE YET. Give yourself some time to process what went wrong in your relationship and how you would like to change your own behavior in order to ensure a healthier future relationship. You will probably be a lot more vulnerable and your selection of a new partner will be very different from when you are stronger.
Remember-All of this adjustment is temporary.
Good self care also includes resisting the urge to fight with your ex. When feelings of anger, frustration or hurt occur, call someone who is safe and trustworthy as well as nonjudgmental and “get it out”. Allow them to help you to calm down so that when you do speak with your ex, you are less reactive. Stick to the issue at hand rather than becoming emotional. Keep in mind that there is a reason that you are divorced and it usually involves no longer being able to negotiate differences.
The relationship must contain some healthy and respectful distance and boundaries. You are no longer spouses. If you have children, you are now “coparents”. Even if you do not have children, it is actually better for your mental health not to hold on to anger or to identify as a “victim”.The sadness of the loss must be accepted and grieved.
3. IDENTIFY AND CHALLENGE YOUR COGNITIVE DISTORTIONS
An example of a cognitive distortion usually involves any statement that you say to yourself in absolutes like:
I am a total failure.
I have no ability to select a good partner for myself.
I will never be able to have a healthy relationship.
It is all my/his/her fault.
I will be alone forever.
People will blame me for the divorce.
My children will not be able to survive this.
I will never get over my divorce.
If you can actually identify these ideas as faulty, you will be able to challenge them. This may be where your support system comes in. Sometimes it takes another person, a good friend or family member to remind you that there is still hope.
4. START NEW TRADITIONS
Maybe you always spent holidays with your in-laws. Maybe Valentine’s Day was very special between you and your spouse.
One woman began an “Orphan’s Thanksgiving” for friends who did not livenear their family, for those whose parents had passed and for anyone who was isolated for any reason. Another started a Valentine’s Day tradition where she invited all of her single girlfriends over, wined and dined them and gave them chocolates and flowers.
Begin new activities or hobbies. One woman always wanted to learn to salsa dancing but her husband was not interested, so now was her opportunity. A newly divorced man had always wanted to run a marathon but his wife felt that all of the training was too much time away and that it would be selfish. He was now free to do that. Traveling, learning a language,volunteering, remodeling your home are all things that can be beneficial to begining your new life. The bonus is that you end up meeting new people who like the same things that you do.
If you follow these guidelines, particularly if you are struggling with the after effects of a divorce, you too can be “happily divorced”.