Life After Divorce: How to Take Care of Yourself And Your Family
Divorce can be a difficult and drawn-out process. Even if you are the one who requested the divorce or it was a mutual decision, it can still be a sad and painful end to a relationship. It also brings many life changes, both logistically and emotionally. Suddenly, your life may look very different from the way it was, especially if your relationship was several years long. The stress increases when children, pets, and other family are involved.
During the process of divorce and just after it has occurred, both parties need to take care of themselves and their family, especially children who may struggle to understand what is happening. There are steps you can take to ensure a smooth transition to your new normal.
Own The Responsibility
Ideally, when couples divorce, especially when children are involved, both parties will refrain from playing the "blame game." Placing blame does little good for either party, the history of the relationship, the relationship going forward, co-parenting efforts, or the health of the parental relationship. Additionally, it is almost never appropriate to discuss blame or responsibility with the children—doing so many lead them to believe they are at fault or damage their relationship with a parent they believe caused the divorce.
In most cases, unless there has been infidelity or domestic violence, divorce cases occur when couples have grown apart and no longer find happiness in the relationship. In these cases, no one party is to blame. Instead, each person must admit their responsibility in the situation and agree to work together to have a civil divorce. Doing so will allow both parties to heal after the divorce.
Show Maturity And Calm
Divorce proceedings are inherently stressful. Little can be done to eliminate the situation and the effects of divorce on one's emotions. However, your reaction to the situation can affect your level of stress. Reacting strongly with anger and outbursts will make an already stressful situation even more stressful. However, if you demonstrate maturity and calm, it can help diffuse the situation.
However, for someone who does not want a divorce, it may be difficult not to react with strong emotions. Being mature and calm does not mean you will not feel your emotions or perhaps talk about these emotions with the supportive people in your life. However, it should mean you will not lash out at those around you, including your soon-to-be ex. In the end, reacting poorly will not accomplish much other than adding to your stress, making the process more difficult, and making it harder to get along. Keep this especially in mind if the two of you need to get along to co-parent your children.
Seek Support But Avoid Gossip
In many cases, when you are going through a divorce, you are losing one of the more significant relationships in your life. Turning to your other social relationships for support is important. Talking about your feelings helps you to process them. It also allows you to gain other perspectives. It can help you to find a sense of calm so that you do not react strongly in other settings.
Find supports who will listen to all your intense and negative feelings. A good support will validate them and will also help you find ways to let go of your emotional reactions. Sometimes, good friends will be the ones that even challenge you to keep yourself and your emotions in check. Unload whatever you want with your friends and family, but do not unload on your children.
Although communication with your children about the divorce can help them to understand the situation, do not put them in an adult role by talking to them about your emotional reactions. Instead, you will likely be providing them lots of emotional support. Also, let them remain children in the situation, and allow them to hold yourself and your ex-spouse in high regard.
While it is good to talk and seek support, it is important not to engage in gossip about your ex and the situation. Talk to people you trust, whom you know will keep the information in confidence. When others inquire about the situation, be careful of what you share. It may be tempting to say things out of spite, but those negative comments could hurt your children and affect the co-parenting relationship.
Ask Others For Help
As your life entirely changes during the process of the divorce, you may find yourself needing help with things. There may be things that your spouse always did that you are now responsible for. You may have a hard time finding a new balance in your life. You may need help with small and large tasks. Childcare may be another area you need extra help with. Sometimes a culture tells people to be independent and manage everything on their own. However, that is not always productive or helpful.
Instead, ask others for help. Your close friends and family will likely want to support you in whatever ways you need. Ask them for help with whatever tasks will alleviate your burden. That may be mowing the lawn, dropping off dinner, picking up the children from school, and more. As you start to find a new balance in your time and routine, you may need less help, but being a single parent or a co-parent can be a tough job. So, it is always okay to seek out an extra set of hands.
Practice Self-Care And Self-Compassion
There is a hierarchy of needs that everyone must have met to be healthy and well. At the base of that are basic self-care needs such as food, water, shelter, and other basic resources. When you go through a difficult situation like divorce, you may neglect these needs. This can be especially true if you are also taking care of children. However, it is important to make sure you meet these basic needs.
Above that, people have safety needs such as personal safety and good health. During a divorce, your sense of safety could be disrupted. Your life may feel very different, and it can be hard to manage all the changes. This is when it can be helpful to make sure your finances are in order and ask for help from others if you need it. Knowing that you have help can increase your sense of security.
When you are feeling unsafe and stressed due to life's circumstances, you can also combat those feelings with relaxation techniques. Often, the body remains geared up to deal with stress, and that can eventually leave you feeling tired or even sick. Use deep breathing, muscle relaxation, and mindfulness meditation to calm your body, and in doing so, you can calm your mind, restoring a sense of good health.
Above that, people need a sense of love and belonging to others. This is why social support is so important. As you lose a significant relationship to divorce, you may feel a sense of grief because it could also reduce your sense of love and belong. However, you can turn to your other family and friend relationships to maintain connection and a sense of belonging to people who care about you. Also, you might consider attending a support group or getting connected to others who are in a similar situation.
Beyond that, you also need esteem. This includes a sense of respect for others, self-esteem, strength, and freedom. A divorce can disrupt one's sense of self-esteem as the loss of a significant relationship can leave you feeling differently about yourself. You might even start to engage in negative self-talk, telling yourself the situation is your fault.
To combat this, instead, practice self-compassion. Treat yourself nicely and give yourself positive messages, just as you might to a friend going through a similar situation. With self-compassion, you can help to maintain your sense of self-esteem.
Finally, people have a basic need to become the best they can. A divorce can disrupt your plans and leave you worried you will not get to live the life you planned for. This may even make you concerned that you will not get to be the person you planned to be. When you struggle with this, sometimes you may need outside help to resolve the confusion and get yourself back on track with life.
Get Outside Help
Divorce is a stressful time for both parties. For this reason, many people choose to seek out support through counseling. Today, many people even elect to go to couples counseling. There is a misconception that couples counseling is just intended to repair relationships. However, it can help any pair of people to resolve conflict between them. An impending divorce is a great time to seek couples counseling because the therapist can help the two parties figure out how to civilly end their marriage and be good co-parents.
Couples counseling can be obtained in your local community or online. Many people choose to participate in online counseling or teletherapy because it is easier to do so on their schedule and it is more discreet. Online counseling can help each party involved, and it can also help to support the family unit to still have good interactions and relationships, even after the divorce.
ReGain is an online therapy platform offering counseling from licensed therapists trained to help those in relationships, whether that's to help them work better together or to help them through a separation or divorce. You can talk with your ReGain therapist alone, together, or both.
You don't need to go through your divorce alone. You may have a family to worry about, and a therapist can help you work through all the challenges your new situation brings. With support and hard work, you, your partner, and your family can get through the divorce and come out on the other side happy and healthy.
Commonly Asked Questions
How hard is life after divorce?
Does life get better after a divorce?
What are the 5 stages of a divorce?
Who is happiest after divorce?
How long does it take to heal from a divorce?
Who regrets divorce more?
Is it better to divorce or stay unhappily married?
How does divorce change a woman?
Is there life after divorce at 40?
Does the pain from divorce ever go away?
How do you cope with divorce and separation?
What are the most deleterious effects following a divorce?
What is the impact of divorce on the family?
Why is divorce considered a stressful situation?
Can divorce be traumatic?
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