My Story Mondays: Divorce, Part Four
How to Navigate the Post-Divorce Afterlife
Check out The Quixotic Jedi's Story on his blog!
Once a relationship ends, everything sort of "starts over." You are not the person you were when the relationship started, and there may be new lessons to learn, or even some life skills to re-learn. For those who are navigating the post-divorce or post-relationshp afterlife, here are a few tips that I gleaned from my own experience.
1. Get help. Whether you call in a professional, or simply find a go-to friend with a willing ear, make sure you have someone you can talk to. For me, I had a whole mess of issues I was dealing with besides the end of a relationship. I had never lived on my own before, had never been in control of my own finances, and suddenly found that I had to learn how to do all the things that most college kids had already done. Then, throw in the mess with my family...yeah, I really needed someone to listen. If you're seeking professional help, I'd highly recommend asking some friends for referrals. Online reviews are ok, but it's nice to have a good review from someone who has already visited a particular counselor.
2. Get moving. When I started going to therapy, I told my therapist right away that I would not take anti-depressants. My body has a hard enough time processing most over-the-counter meds, and the last thing I wanted was to be in a fog for the next few months. My therapist agreed with my assertion, mostly because, at the time, I was making sure to get some sort of aerobic exercise on a daily basis. I had already noticed that the physical activity made me feel better; she said that all those endorphins were medication enough. Obviously, situations vary, so my decision not to take meds may not work for everyone. But, either way, don't sit in your apartment and wallow in misery. Get outside, walk the dog, work out your problems on the pavement. You'll feel better, and look better, to boot!
3. Get honest. Take time each day to do a self check-in. How are you really feeling that day? What do you really need? Even if you're talking regularly to a therapist or a friend, it is easy to neglect those personal issues that may have contributed to your break-up and need to be addressed. For me, I realized that I was a bad communicator and I had a hard time being truthful about my emotions. So, I started to journal again in a very, very frank manner. I forced myself to write EXACTLY what I was feeling, and through that writing, I found several aspects of "me" that I wasn't particularly proud of. Being honest about it, though, allowed me to assess my shortcomings and start some much needed self-improvement.
4. Get out there. Dating after a serious relationship can be scary and tricky. How much should you reveal to a potential suitor, and how soon? Should you even be dating in the first place? I had never really dated before, so going out and meeting new people was a whole new, exciting world for me. I decided that, as long the dude didn't strike me as a total rapist, I'd say yes to about any first date. Turns out, I met a lot of cool people, dated a few losers, but in general, had a TON of fun. Of course, your trust time-table may vary from mine, but don't miss out on the joys of being single.
5. Get over it. While you'll never completely get over a divorce or long term relationship, it is possible to let go of a lot of the grief and bitterness in time. One of the bravest things I think a person can do is open themselves up to the opportunity to love again...even after the pain of a divorce or break-up. I think there's a misconception that as humans, our emotions are one-use-only ("I will never feel this way again!") when in reality, our emotions are so much bigger, more infinite, even more finely tuned that we think. We do have the capacity to love again and again, to laugh, to have great first dates with many, many people, to care and to cry, to hurt and ache, and to get up the next day to do it all again.
What advice would you give to navigate the post-divorce afterlife?
Don't forget to stop by TQJ and read his story!