Finally signing the divorce papers after months of litigating over child custody was both liberating and terrifying – I was officially single again for the first time in years!
Although relieved that the nightmare was over and I no longer had a court date looming over my head, I was also nervous about adjusting to my new life as a single mom. It didn’t help that making my divorce official didn’t provide me with the clear sense of finality I’d been hoping for.
Yes, the divorce decree had been signed. On paper, I was a free woman. But in reality, certain remnants of my broken relationship – old habits, thought patterns, and emotional reminders of my ex, as well as physical symbols of my marriage, lingered in my life for more years than I’d like to admit.
Luckily, I was eventually able to accept that my marriage was a thing of the past. The following six stages helped me embrace my marriage being over for good.
1. I Sold My Engagement and Wedding Rings
Maybe some women stop wearing their engagement and wedding rings without considering it as a defining moment in their divorce recovery process. But for me, removing my rings was a very conscious choice that I made for myself; it was a deliberate action to eliminate a constant physical reminder of an unhappy time in my life.
I took my rings off one year after our separation – and once I did, I felt freer than I had in a long, long time. When I realized I was no longer in love, I’d felt like an imposter wearing that symbol of our marital bond; removing it from my finger allowed me to feel authentic and true to myself.
It still hurt to look at my engagement diamond and my wedding band, even once I realized I was strong enough to no longer want to wear them. The next decision I made was to sell my wedding rings to get them out of my life once and for all. I sold my rings within 2 months of getting my divorce papers. Now I love wearing jewelry I buy for myself – symbols of independence and self-love – and haven’t regretted the decision to sell my wedding ring for a second.
2. I Said Goodbye to Our Marital Home
When the home we’d shared as a couple for 5 years was first placed on the market, I was heartbroken. I had loved living there, despite my unhappiness with my ex-husband. That house was the setting of some of our worst arguments, but also the home in which my children had taken their first steps.
However, I knew selling was the right decision for the whole family, from both a financial and emotional standpoint. I needed a fresh start that wouldn’t have been possible if I’d continued to live there after the divorce – too many memories, both happy and sad, still lingered in that house.
Soon after the home was sold, I moved into a bungalow with my two sons. I found myself hoping that the old memories we had made could be replaced with newer, happier ones. When the sale was finalized, I received some much-needed closure that helped me to accept my marriage was history.
3. I Stopped Thinking of My Ex-Husband First
There were signs that my marriage was over before we had even separated. Our relationship was suffering and reached a point where I was no longer excited to share good news with my then husband. He had always been the first person I told about major events in my life, such as when I got a promotion at work or when my girlfriend treated me to a weekend at a spa for helping with her own divorce.
However, after five years of marriage, keeping my partner in the loop and considering how he would react to my choices had become a basic instinct, as he always saw the negative in everything.
After we decided to separate, there was a period during which I would sometimes forget that my ex was no longer a fixture in my social life. I felt relief each time I remembered that I wouldn’t have to justify my decisions to him or that I didn’t need to dampen my excitement about anything.
Thankfully, I did eventually find myself calling a friend or my sister without thinking of my ex or even considering how he would have reacted. Once I stopped caring about my ex-husband’s opinion and no longer thought of him first – or second, or third – I began to realize that my marriage was truly over.
4. I Was Able to Imagine a Future without Him
During the final two months when it was clear that my divorce was going to be finalized, I would catch myself daydreaming about my future – when all this divorce drama would be behind me – and realized that I couldn’t properly visualize a post-divorce life without my husband. Try as I might, it took more than a year to fully redevelop my sense of independence and create a vision of my future as a successful single mom.
When I was married, my ex-husband had naturally been part of my future plans. Immediately after my divorce, even though I knew logically it made no sense to imagine a future with him by my side, I still did it automatically. Eventually, I found myself excited about potential vacations and experiences without him in the picture at all! Allowing myself to fully accept that my marriage was over went hand-in-hand with planning for a happy future without my ex in sight.
5. I Expanded My Social Circle for the First Time in Years
Expanding my social circle after my divorce was a big step for me. Being in a long-term relationship can create a comfort zone that is difficult to escape. Sure, there are benefits to having a partner at all family gatherings and a date to every wedding, but my relationship had become tense, stifling, and detrimental.
The stress from my marriage made it challenging to meet new people. It’s extremely hard to connect with strangers and acquaintances when you’re struggling every day to connect with the person you’re supposed to be sharing your life with.
Of course, as a single mom, I have even more family responsibilities – and I wouldn’t want it any other way. But the difference is that now I am more eager to meet new people who share similar interests as me. I’ve made new friends through my divorce support group, including several single parents who can relate to my situation.
My sons and I often get together with a group of new friends and their children, which allows me to spend more time socializing outside of the home than would have been possible when I was wasting energy on an unhealthy relationship.
6. I Started Flirting Again
Of all the adjustments I made in transitioning from unhappily married to happily divorced, beginning to flirt again has been the most fun. Whether or not you are ready for a new relationship after your divorce, there is something freeing about openly flirting with anyone you want. I’m not sure when I’ll be ready to start dating again, but flirting has made me feel alive, which has helped me realize that I am comfortable with being single.
Even after my divorce decree was signed, it took some time to let go of the past and acknowledge that my marriage was really finished. Recovering from my divorce has been challenging, but by saying goodbye to my rings and the marital home, imagining a future for myself, and opening myself up to new friends and experiences, I’ve truly been able to accept that my marriage is over. I’m proud to say that I’m no longer stuck in the past and am looking forward to sharing every new day with my children, my family, and my growing collection of friends.
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photo credit: portrait via photopin (license)
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