After a divorce, you may feel a bit lost. You may be wondering about your finances or your living arrangement, and you may have questions regarding your future overall. Everything that used to be certain is no longer, and no one is there to provide you the answers that you seek. It is entirely up to you.
Just as it is your job to figure out the ins and outs of your daily life after a divorce, so is it your job to figure out your identity and who you want to be after the decree is finalized.
In “Learning from Divorce,” Christie Coates and Robert LaCrosse describe divorce’s effects on us, saying that it has a way of shaking us up. According to them, it can destroy the beliefs we have held about ourselves and provides an opportunity for introspection and connecting with your authenticity.
Struggles with authenticity
Many people struggle with the ins and outs of being themselves and connecting with their authenticity, even without a divorce in the mix. Researchers at Louisiana Tech University surveyed people about their authenticity, life satisfaction and levels of distress at two different points of the year and found that those who showed greater authenticity at the first time point were more satisfied with life and less distressed at the second time point.
However, distress and satisfaction at the first time point did not predict authenticity at the second time point, leading the researchers to hypothesize that authenticity leads to happiness.
Divorce and identity
In many cases of divorce, one or both spouses may feel that they are not themselves in the relationship; that they have lost their own identity in the marriage and they can no longer see the version of themselves that they are accustomed to.
In pursuing a divorce, you are looking to correct that and see the best version of yourself in the mirror. Even with aspects of the marriage remaining, like alimony or child support, you still can pursue your authentic self.
The Huffington Post highlighted a divorce case, where the silver lining of the end of their marriage was the ex-spouses finding their authentic selves. This drastic change to their life led to new careers, and they became closer to their children because of the experience.
They also were able rebound in healthier relationships as well. Some found a little bit more life in their day, instead of having to deal with heartache and turmoil that is often associated with marital conflict and divorce.
Abby Rodman, a psychotherapist and author, felt that even though divorce can be painful and should not be glorified, it can be a beginning point to a happier life.
“The gifts of divorce may take some time to reveal themselves, but there are gifts,” she said to the Chicago Tribune. “One day, you wake up, and it hits you that you no longer have to manage an unhappy marriage. You no longer have to manage your spouse’s unhappiness. That clears the way for more of your own happiness.”
This does not necessarily mean that you have to treat your ex-spouse unfairly or unjustly. If the marriage ends amicably, there is no need to burn bridges unnecessarily, especially if children are involved in the situation.
‘These things happen’
John Tarnoff, a psychologist at Carnegie Mellon University discussed how ending a relationship is not necessarily the problem, but rather how they handled the ending of it.
“Don’t burn bridges,” he said to the Los Angeles Times. “Stay positive no matter what. Stay humble and stay authentic, which is to say you have to be human about this and shrug your shoulders and go, ‘These things happen.’ ”
This is not insinuating that the marriage did not mean anything, but given the prevalence of divorce in modern society and how many relationships in general end in a given year, it is not out of the ordinary that we, as individuals, would find ourselves taking time to understand why things ended and ways of finding yourself again after the experience.
Be the best you that you can be
It requires you finding the best you that you can be, which can be difficult given the circumstances. Many exit their marriages at their lowest, beginning to believe all of the negative things that their ex-spouses may have said about them.
However, it is important to chin up. While you should not enable yourself or deny your fixable shortcomings, you should be true to your core identity, rather than faking a different one because you think it will be attractive or more acceptable to others, according to Psychology Today.
You have to be honest with who you are in relationships moving forward. As much as marital conflict may create a sense of disingenuousness about you, you cannot let that perception that existed before your divorce to control who you are after it. You need to maintain an authentic and honest you, so that you can move forward for yourself.
Dan Pearce is an Online Editor for Lexicon, focusing on subjects related to the legal services of customers, Cordell & Cordell and Cordell Planning Partners. He has written countless pieces on MensDivorce.com, detailing the plight of men and fathers going through the divorce experience, as well as the issues seniors and their families experience throughout the estate planning journey on ElderCareLaw.com. Mr. Pearce has managed websites and helped create content, such as the Men’s Divorce Newsletter and the YouTube series, “Men’s Divorce Countdown.” He also has been a contributor on both the Men’s Divorce Podcast and ElderTalk with TuckerAllen.
Mr. Pearce assisted in fostering a Cordell Planning Partners practice area specific for Veterans, as they deal with the intricacies of their benefits while planning for the future. He also helped create the Cordell Planning Partners Resource Guide and the Cordell Planning Partners Guide to Alternative Residence Options, specific for seniors with questions regarding their needs and living arrangements.