Have you ever heard the anecdote that “Time heals all wounds” or conversely “Time wounds all heels”? Believe it or not, both are true to some extent. Time definitely wounds all heels and every other part of your body. While time may not completely heal all wounds, it definitely lessens the sting. And yes, that also includes divorce.
I’m not making light of this situation because let’s face it; divorce is no trip to the Bahamas. Like every other hardship in life, however, it gets better over time, and what I’ve learned is, that second year is infinitely better than the first!
For example, my divorce was final in January 2014. Consequently, I had to stumble through my year of “firsts”. Not the good ones either; like a first date or a first kiss. Nope. Instead, I got first weekends without a spouse; first holidays without my intact family around; first time learning that the ex was cohabiting with the woman who helped him destroy our marriage.
That was fun… Not!
I don’t imagine the first year is pleasant for anyone and in case you are one of those people just now living through their first year of divorce; hang in there because it gets much better.
Here are a few tips to ease the burden during this difficult time:
1. If you were married for any length of time, it’s very important that you allow yourself the appropriate amount of grieving time before you jump into a new relationship. When I was single, when one relationship ended, I was never alone for more than a week. This practice did not translate after more than two decades of marriage. Case in point: shortly after my divorce was final I reconnected with a former lover. We knew the drill so to speak so it didn’t take long after our initial reconnection for things to take a sharp turn to serious. And hey, we’ve all heard that the best way to get over a man is to get under a new one!
Not true in my case because ultimately this whole experience, while a nice trip down memory lane, didn’t do anything but delay my healing process. Please don’t make this mistake. The first person you should fall in love with after a divorce is yourself.
2. While I don’t think you should become celibate, you should definitely date the following men in moderation: Jack Daniels, Jose Cuervo, Pino Grigio, his cousin Pino Noir, Captain Morgan and Sam Adams. Remember the kid’s song about hunting for a bear? When looking through tall grass for the bear: “You can’t go under it, you can’t go over it, can’t go around it, gotta go through it.” Going through a divorce and its aftermath is pretty much the same thing. You have to go through the grieving process. Drinking in excess just delays the inevitable.
3. A wise man named Tom Cruise once said, in the movie Cocktail, “All things end badly, otherwise they wouldn’t end.” This is an understatement when it comes to high conflict divorces. To that end, I found that mastering the art of “no contact” or “as little contact as possible” is the way to go when it comes to high conflict divorces. Due to my children’s adult status when I divorced, I went with option A: no contact.
I had received incidental emails related to tying up loose ends in 2014 and had absolutely no contact in 2015. One could argue that my “better year status”, earned in 2015, was due in part to my strict enforcement of no contact. And one would be correct. Do yourself a favor and bring on that better year status quicker by having no contact as humanly possible, ASAP!
4. Getting a divorce is like being on the precipice of a dark, scary void. Taking those first few steps into that abyss is definitely frightening and often times challenging, but after being there for a while you appreciate the unknown and start to embrace it. Only when you embrace it does the world become open to new possibilities for you.
New possibilities could include starting a new job, furthering your education, trying new hobbies or meeting new people. This is another great argument against committing yourself too soon to another person after you divorce because those doors might close prematurely. And let’s face it; divorced moms who have spent the majority of their time caring for their children and their husbands often get their needs pushed to the bottom of the pile. You’re traveling lighter now; act accordingly.
5. Divorce is NOT a tragedy. Staying in a bad marriage is a much bigger tragedy because who wants to waste their time? Even if you didn’t want your divorce, look at it this way, why would you want to stay with someone who doesn’t want to be with you? Learn from the relationship; think about what you might do better next time and save that for a person who will truly cherish you.
6. Weekends and holidays can be especially painful during the first year. During my first year, I dreaded weekends more than a root canal. It’s not like I had particularly awesome weekends when I was married either but we humans love our routines, even if they are nothing special.
To combat my weekend blues my second year I accepted invitations to anything I was invited to whether I wanted to go or not. Soon I started creating my own opportunities by volunteering, joining Meet Ups and even creating a Meet Up of my own. My weekends are no longer lonely!
7. With regard to holidays; those can be more challenging but they are also an opportunity. You can re-create them into something you fashion with your children, siblings or parents, or any combination of the three. Let’s face it, some of our old family traditions with our in-laws were probably not the best, or in my case, worthy of an appearance on the Jerry Springer show. This is a great reason to switch things up.
What’s the bottom line? Divorce is a huge change for everyone involved. It’s not what we anticipated when we walked down the aisle and said “I do” but life is full of surprises. Everyone has their own road to go down. And some of the truths of divorce are universal. One of those truths is that it gets a little bit less painful and a little easier with each passing year. It’s even possible that if you follow the above tips, it could work towards making your first year less painful. The best way to move on from an old life is to build a new one that is more enriched.
That’s my story and I’m sticking with it!