Divorce is one of the most traumatic events in a person’s life, listed second only to the death of a spouse or child on the Holmes and Rahe Stress Scale. It is a turbulent time where the very foundation of your life is being uprooted, finances are being crunched, social pressures abound and everything feels completely disoriented.
Depression is a common side-effect and comes with the territory of losing your stability — even if the marriage was on rocky ground to begin with and even if you were the one to file the papers. Like any breakup, it can take a long time to get over. However, divorce is usually much worse than your typical puppy-dog heartbreak because you are also losing out on the shared dreams and goals that you likely once shared with your former spouse.
Since each individual and situation is different, there is no formula for how to move on from such a devastating experience. You should take as much time as you need, but here are a few suggestions that might help speed the recovery from your divorce.
Allow yourself time to grieve
No matter how miserable and terrible your marriage ended or how bitter and contentious the divorce proceedings became, it is normal to feel a sense of loss once it is all said and done. Your ex-wife was a big part of your life, sometimes for decades, and it is typical to feel that you might have made a mistake — even if you have spent the past several months or years hating her. This is a normal part of the breakup process, so don’t dwell on whether or not divorce was the right choice. If you got to the point of following through with a divorce, chances are it was the right thing to do.
Don’t hold everything inside
Men are born and raised to deal with problems alone. It’s just more comfortable that way. However, with a major, life-changing event like divorce, it is unhealthy to keep everything inside. Going into isolation mode can extend the time it takes to move on and increase the risk of slipping into negative coping habits, like alcohol abuse. You need to find someone you can talk to, or even someone who will simply listen while you vent your frustrations. You probably have a friend or family member who would be more than willing to be your sounding board, and if not, don’t be afraid to seek professional counseling. Therapists will likely be helpful in moving on, no matter how your non-professional support system looks.
Continue to have a normal social life
People naturally start drifting away from friends and social interactions when attempting to deal with extremely stressful situations. This can be even more noticeable during divorce, when like your marital property; friends naturally start to be divided. Now is not the time to start blowing off invites to watch the game, play poker, go golfing, have some beers at your buddies or any of the other social activities that you are invited to do. It may even be an opportunity, now that you are divorced, to partake in some of the events you couldn’t attend before when you were married. It is important to maintain the good relationships that you have, otherwise you risk sacrificing friendships and a good source of support further down the line.
Take up new hobbies
The fresh start offered by divorce gives a great opportunity to try the things you have always thought seemed interesting, but never got around to actually doing. Have you always wanted to go sky diving, but you’ve been a little hesitant? Go for it! It’s probably not nearly as scary as facing down your wife’s attorney in a deposition. And that recreational softball league you’ve always thought about but never really looked into would be a perfect spot to meet some new people and relieve some stress. Anything you can do to stop dwelling on the divorce, get you out of the house and start interacting with people will be a good step in the right direction.
Avoid the common mistake of jumping into a new relationship
All too often, men go from being recently divorce, to in a new relationship and then remarried without hardly taking a minute to catch their breath. It is natural to want a replacement for the routine you once had, but jumping into a brand new, committed relationship right after a divorce is usually a very, very bad idea. You are in an extremely vulnerable place and are not in the right state of mind to be making that sort of decision. It is best to wait until you are good and ready to even begin dating, let alone embarking on a new relationship.
There is no easy way to move past a divorce. It will be easier for some than it will for others, and there is really no way to tell how a divorce will affect you until you are experiencing it. Simply try not to feel pressured, and hopefully some of these tips will be useful. Otherwise, time will work it’s magic.
Mat Camp is a former Lexicon Services Online Editor, who focused on providing a comprehensive look into all aspects of the divorce experience. On MensDivorce.com, he concentrated on issues, such as parenting time, custodial rights, mediation, the division of assets, and so much more.
Mr. Camp used the wealth of experience of Cordell & Cordell attorneys to bring tangible answers to reader questions in Ask a Lawyer articles, as well as offer a step by step process through the divorce experience with Cordell & Cordell Co-Founder and Principal Partner Joseph E. Cordell in Divorce 101: A Guide for Men.
Mr. Camp used thorough research to highlight the challenging reality that those who go through divorce or child custody issues face. He helped foster the continued success of the Men’s Divorce Survival Guide, the Men’s Divorce Podcast, and the Men’s Divorce YouTube series “Attorney Bites.”