Nobody gets married with the end goal of divorce. I know that was not my plan. But here I am, almost two years divorced, and I am in a better place than where I was. It was not all roses – I’ve helped others get divorced for almost 10 years and it never is – but I got through it, and I’ve seen many others come out better off after the divorce.
You may be wondering, how did I and so many of my clients succeed in moving past our divorces and into better more fulfilling lives? Part of the answer is to take care of yourself during the divorce itself. Following are ten suggestions to help in this task. After all, if you ask any flight attendant in the world, they will tell you that you’re supposed to put your own oxygen mask on first, or you won’t be able to help anyone else.
Most divorcees plan to leave their children out of the fight, but many pull the children right back in by communicating with them about the specifics of the case or by using the children as leverage in a financial dispute.
Studies have shown that it isn’t the divorce itself that harms children, it is the conflict that comes along with it that harms children. You can control the amount of conflict in your divorce, it just takes a willingness to compromise. If you are not sure whether your actions are increasing or decreasing the conflict in your divorce, ask your attorney or another trusted adult.
Finally, “A letter from an adult child of divorce” is a great, and quick read that might really change the way you view your divorce and how you behave towards your soon to be ex-spouse.
Keeping your kids happy and mentally healthy during your divorce will, in turn, keep your spirits up and allow you to make rational decisions about your family’s future.
Sometimes even the attorneys in a divorce case can begin acting in a “tit for tat” or “eye for an eye” way that is reminiscent of an argument on an elementary school playground.
Don’t stoop that low. Look for win/win situations. Remember that how you handle your divorce will dictate the future of your relationship with your ex-spouse and your children’s other parent. If you have young children, keep in mind that you are going to have to co-parent for years to come and you’ll be seeing each other at your children’s events for even longer.
As humans, we all have relationships that we value in life. You are likely leaving what was, at one time, the most important relationship in your life. The loss of your marriage is going to leave a hole in your support network, and while spending some time with yourself to sort out your feelings is necessary, isolating yourself doesn’t help anyone.
How do you deal with the loneliness and lack of support that is so prevalent after the separation and during the pendency of, or even after, the divorce is over? The easiest way is to work on the other relationships in your life. Your kids, parents, siblings, other family members, and friends have likely all reached out to you and offered to help. Take them up on their offer and say that the best way they can help, is to spend some time with you.
Talking with others who are going through the same thing you are is almost always helpful. The give and take between similarly situated persons make the divorce process easier for everyone.
Sometimes, interactions with family, friends, and other similarly situated people is not enough to adequately help us deal with the feelings caused by divorce. A therapist can help you talk out your emotions and come to a healthier understanding of what your life is like now and how to move forward from here. Check with your health insurance and see if your employer has an employee assistance program for help with the financial costs of therapy for you and your family.
Many people abuse substances, shop or eat too much, watch too much t.v., etc. when they are going through a divorce. Not only are these sedentary activities likely to lead to weight gain – along with the self-judgment that brings – but they also drive us into isolation as we use “things” to bandage our emotions. The next four suggestions in this list deal with ways to handle stress in a way that actually makes your life better, not worse.
Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you know that exercise is one of the best ways that a person can deal with stress. The endorphins released during exercise produce the same brain chemical, dopamine, that drinking alcohol produces without the next-day hangover. Additionally, exercise can give you the opportunity to socialize with others, gets you out of the house so you don’t isolate, and improves your mental state.
I’m no dietician or nutritionist, and I can’t give you advice on what “eating right” means for you, but I can tell you to visit your doctor and find out what “eating right” means in your life. Eating right, along with good sleep hygiene and exercise, can go a long way toward making your physical health as good as possible. When you are physically healthy, it is much easier to be mentally healthy.
Once again, don’t forget that you are losing one of the most, if not the most, important relationship in your life, that hurts. If you don’t acknowledge your pain it can very easily come out as anger or other undesirable behavior. If you take the time to grieve for the loss of your marriage, you will be better able to be the person you want to be for your children and your soon-to-be-ex.
It’s natural to go over the mistakes you made in your marriage, the what-ifs, and the things that were truly out of your control. However, dwelling on these things and beating yourself up doesn’t help. Spend some time on these issues, but then put them down. Continuing to judge yourself for your actions, or even for your failure to act, puts you in a negative space, you have enough negativity in your life right now without adding to it!
These are just some suggestions about how to care for yourself during a divorce, they are not by any means an exhaustive list. However, by taking these ideas to heart, I can virtually guarantee, your divorce will go smoother than you thought possible. If you have legal issues and would like to chat with an attorney in your area, please reach out and let us help.
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