Happily Ever After ... Divorce

So the story of your marriage ended less like a romantic comedy and more like a Shakespearean tragedy. You may feel like crawling into bed with Ben & Jerry's, but rather than giving into temptation, focus on the future. "Think of the time and energy expended on your former partnership and the divorce proceedings as a tangible asset," says Ellen Sabin, former executive director of the Institute for Equality in Marriage. "It's your choice whether this asset will be used for regret and self-destructive behavior or channeled positively toward writing your next chapter." The following "steps" to help get you on your way to post-divorce recovery.

  • Balance yourself. Don't focus solely on one area: emotional recovery, career, children or dating. Instead, rebuild your life in a holistic sense. Think about your priorities, and spend your time accordingly.
  • You gotta have friends. You may not have had time during your marriage to maintain a large network of friends and you may lose friends through the dynamics of divorce. But don't be afraid to lean on the important people in your life and strive to make new acquaintances through social activities, clubs, support groups, etc.
  • Give yourself a break. The fact that you get up every morning and are actively rebuilding your life is an accomplishment. Don't forget to reward yourself. Use some of the time and energy previously focused on your partnership to make you feel better. Get a massage. Go on a vacation. Read a book. Take a long bike ride.
  • Write a book. If you aren't feeling a wide range of emotions, then you are probably taking too much Valium. Make sure you record these thoughts consistently in a journal. This will help you make better decisions fueled by your wants and needs. It will also help you clearly identify the lessons you've learned and character you've gained through the process.
  • Lower your blood pressure. One study by the University of Tennessee attributes forgiveness as a key factor in lowering blood pressure and reducing anxiety. Divorce may leave you with a great deal of anger and resentment, but remember that energy spent on these emotions is a resource not being applied to your new life. Work through these feelings in your journal, with a therapist or in a support group. Letting go is essential for moving on.
  • Be practical, not pessimistic, about romance. Chances are, in the months following a divorce, you may find yourself sneering at wedding invitations. It's important to separate your feelings about your past relationship with your view on romance and partnerships in general. When you feel comfortable, it is important to think about your previous marriage to help identify what went wrong and how this might be avoided in future relationships.
  • Date casually with caution. Too often divorcees take extremes when reentering the dating pool, either avoiding it altogether or jumping in headfirst, anxious to fill their void with a new relationship. The higher divorce rate for second marriages is often attributed to this "rebound" process. Now is a time for fun and exploring, but don't forget that your newfound time and energy are for rebuilding your life and not questing for the next spouse.
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