Divorce is a shock to the system. People jest about the divorce diet, that period of time when, usually the aggrieved, goes into hiding amidst the chaos and emerges looking svelte when the dust finally settles. Hot body? Check. Makeover? Check. New mindset? Not so fast. Looking good and feeling good are two separate issues. Dropping a few extra pounds is a much less difficult task than losing those interminable thoughts that threaten our emotional well-being during a separation or post-divorce. Attention to appearance is an important step, but emotional health must be the end goal in order to successfully begin life anew. Here is my detox strategy for the divorcing or newly divorced. Cutting out these unnecessary extras will surely put anyone who is recently single on the road to happiness.
1. Pity. It’s your party and you’ll cry if you want to? That’s okay, as long as there is a set ending time for that pity party. When my marriage dissolved, I cried every day for about a month. One day I simply got sick of crying. Enough was enough. Not that I don’t still have bad days. I do. But they are fewer and farther between. Taking time to mourn the loss of your marriage is healthy, as long as it is not ongoing. Stop feeling sorry for yourself. You are not the first person to get divorced, nor are you the last. People survive divorce and are actually better for it in the end. Think of divorce as a new opportunity, a clean slate, and as a chance to right the wrongs of your past by building a new, healthier, and more fulfilling future. You are divorcing because your marriage was lacking, though you may not have been aware at the time. So stop feeling bad about a relationship that was or is making you unhappy. Better times await.
2. Bitterness. Divorce can be a tough pill to swallow. I know. The catalyst in my marriage’s hasty end was a mistress. Sure I was resentful. All of a sudden my husband was focusing all of his attention on another woman and I was left in the dust. Bitter? Absolutely. But my bitterness was not preventing him from living his life to his satisfaction. I wanted to enjoy my life, too. So I let go and started to live. Be conscious when you start feeling resentful. Understand you are not going to change the past or manage someone else’s behavior. Focus on your own behavior and your own future. You will be surprised how much more pleasant and productive a day becomes when you set meaningful goals for yourself and they don’t have anything to do with people or circumstances you cannot control.
3. Anger. Anger is a natural emotion after divorce. You may believe your partner has wronged you. Or you may be angry with yourself for having wasted so much time in a bad marriage. I know I was. I constantly thought how much better off I would have been had I left years earlier. Whatever the reason for feeling angry, anger can be empowering if channeled in the right way. Take that anger and turn it into strength. Harness it. Use it for good. Begin a project you have been putting off but always wanted to tackle. Pursue a new hobby. Go back to school. Find a job. Discover your passion. In the end, you will have something worthwhile to show for your anger, instead of nasty scowl lines.
4. Blame. Remember the old saying, it takes two to tango? Well, it applies to marriage as well. When a marriage fails, like it or not, there is enough blame to go around. When my marriage ended, I second-guessed many of the decisions I had made and wondered whether or not my situation would be different had I acted otherwise. Perhaps. But there is no way to know, so why spend needless energy worrying about it? What’s done is done. Stop blaming yourself for your divorce. Yes, there will always be instances we can reflect upon where we wish we had behaved differently. But beating yourself up about it is not going to change the past. Nor will placing all of the blame for your marriage’s demise on your partner, another ineffective strategy for moving forward. Self-reflection is part of the healing process, and accepting responsibility is important. After all, we want to come away from our divorce improved, and not in the same position to repeat our mistakes.
5. Doubt. I have had many moments of self-doubt since my separation more than two years ago. There have been days when I was absolutely convinced I would not be able to handle life as a single mother. But I take each day as it comes, and somehow I manage to get through every time. I can do this. So can you. If you are lucky, divorce will be the most difficult obstacle you will ever face. Mistakes are to be expected along the way, but that is how we learn and grow. And isn’t that what healthy living is all about?