Cher probably asked it best: do you believe in life after love? Chances are that you know -- intellectually, if not emotionally -- that life goes on even if love does not. There is life after love, and there is life after divorce.
As monumental as divorce feels, like an earthquake shattering the foundation of the life you have built with another person, the fact is that divorce itself is a transitional state. It's not a fun or easy transitional state, but it is a transition nonetheless.
If you're looking for some help with that transition, we've prepared a handful of tips to ease you into life after divorce.
Why Do Most Couples Divorce?
There are dozens of reasons why people seek divorce, and each is perfectly valid. But if you are feeling, like many people do, that your divorce is unique, you might find some comfort in knowing the six most common reasons for divorce.
Most states in American consider "irreconcilable differences" a solid reason for divorce. What does the term mean? According to the law, "irreconcilable differences" is an inability to work through problems together. Maybe the couple has two different visions for their future.
Maybe their parenting styles are drastically different. Maybe one person expects traditional marriage roles according to gender and the other person expects total equality. Maybe there are just too many problems.
A lawyer views irreconcilable differences as a no-fault basis for divorce, but you might view it as a way of saying that you and your soon-to-be-ex-spouse were just too different to make it work. And that's a perfectly legitimate reason to get a divorce. If you are that different, then why should you be unhappy? Despite what people say about married people needing to "work it out," there is no reason to stay in a relationship that is not fulfilling. You should be happy in a marriage.
Financial reasons are often a cause for divorce. This could stem from any number of financial issues, such as having vastly different spending and saving habits or because one spouse is accumulating an overwhelming amount of debt.
Interestingly, divorce based on financial issues is usually not because of a lack of money but because the spouses have different assumptions and expectations about how to handle money. Financial habits are hard to break.
If you and your spouse can't agree on how to pool and spend your money, then you will inevitably run into problems. Divorcing because of financial reasons is not shallow. Finances are the root of modern stability, and we all deserve to feel financially stable.
A loss of personal identity is a good reason to leave a marriage. If you've lost your authentic self in the role you play in your relationship, or you cannot function without the support of another person, then a dysfunctional codependent relationship exists. Codependence is a poorly balanced equilibrium in which one person depends on being supported and the other person depends on being a support. Maintaining the equilibrium in such an intrinsically unequal situation is emotionally draining for both partners.
For many people in these kinds of relationships, codependence is about emotions: the person leaning on support needs approval for their behavior while the person giving support needs a sense of comfort from giving support. However, codependent relationships break down over and over again because of how emotionally fatiguing they are. Eventually, the dysfunction of the relationship will be too much to maintain and the relationship will deteriorate to the point that it splits apart permanently and the couple divorces.
Sometimes people fall out of love. Sometimes people don't grow and develop as people at the same rate. Sometimes life gets so busy that intimacy--sexual or emotional--falls to the wayside. Growing apart is a perfectly valid reason for getting a divorce. Your marriage might have been strong in the past, but that strength is not guaranteed to last forever.
When people grow apart, they also grow unable to live peacefully with each other, so being in the same house can feel like walking on eggshells. Growing apart can also mean that your spouse begins to feel like a stranger to you.
Contrary to popular belief, infidelity in a marriage is not the leading cause of divorce; but it certainly is a common cause. The core of the Western ideal of the sanctity of marriage is a monogamous, loving relationship. It's difficult to feel love for someone who does not honor this implicit expectation of fidelity. Sexual infidelity isn't just about the act of cheating itself, though Infidelity is really about broken trust. And if you can't trust your spouse, then you can't place trust in your relationship or your marriage.
Emotional and physical abuse in a marriage are valid, and all too frequent, causes for divorce. Unfortunately, physical abuse is common enough that we all know its signs. Emotional abuse is trickier to detect. Emotional abuse can include "gaslighting," manipulation through guilt, and constant nagging and criticism. If your sense of self-worth is suffering in a marriage, then divorce is sometimes the only way to recover your own personhood and your confidence.
Is There a Need for Counseling After a Divorce?
The end of any relationship is often followed by a period of grief. And you do have a lot to grieve about. You're letting go of an entire future you planned to spend with another person, and that letting go can take time. Sometimes the grieving process takes some professional help. Depending on what y
our marriage was like, you might find that seeking counseling after divorce is a good way to find closure.
What Will a Therapist Help You With?
Experts agree that the end of a relationship is as emotionally stressful as the death of a loved one. A therapist will help you cope with your feelings and help you move through the grief for the lost relationship.
A therapist might also help with cognitive and behavioral therapy to help change the way you think, to recover from emotional abuse, and to work on trusting others. Every marriage is different and so is every divorce. Talking about your feelings in the safe space of therapy is a great help for many people.
Do Children Need Counseling Too?
Many children benefit from counseling after their parents are divorced. For a child, divorce can be difficult to understand and cope with. Often it is the case that older children struggle more with divorce than younger children.
Providing counseling for children during and after divorces will help them adjust to the new reality and form healthy views about relationships.
Life After Divorce
It might feel impossible in the moment, but life after divorce is very much the same as life before marriage. The resolution of a marital relationship means that you are single once more. You've been single before, and you can do it again.
But that doesn't mean that you are instantly fine after your divorce is granted. Like all things in life you will need time to grow accustomed to being divorced. You will need to find a new balance and learn a new state of homeostasis. You'll be fine with your life after divorce, but it will take time. Here are a few practical tips that can help with the change.
Financial independence is the first step to regaining independence in life after divorce. You have to be able to support yourself, which means, if you haven't been working, finding a job and relearning financial responsibility on a single-income budget. This includes remembering to file taxes as single or head of household rather than filing joint taxes.
Independence in life after divorce also means learning to live independently. Find your own place to live. Do your own laundry. Make your own household repairs. Shop for one adult rather than two. And be okay with living by yourself.
If you have children, try not to let the divorce impact them more than necessary. The big no-no is putting children in the middle in any dispute with your ex-spouse.
Children are innocent in divorces and should stay that way. Unless your ex-spouse is an actual physical danger to the children, don't run down the children's other parent in front of them or try to keep kids from seeing their mom or dad. Kids need their parents.
Find or build a solid support system. Reconnect with friends and family. Find a community of people you can rely on and seek comfort from them.
Health and Self-Care
Make your physical and mental health a priority in your life after divorce. Not only are regular exercise and self-care good for your body and mind, they are also excellent coping strategies for getting over your divorce.
Being single again means you have to re-learn what it is to just be you. Chances are that you have changed as a person over the years, so a good time to find yourself again is after a divorce.
Try new things and go to new places. Take the time to familiarize yourself with who you are as a person. Learn how to love yourself as you are.
There is such a thing as life after divorce. No matter what you're going through, the world keeps turning and you keep turning with the world. Life after divorce means you have to keep moving forward. The end of a relationship is a grieving process that can be eased with counseling and a reliable support system.
Learning how to live independently and put your needs first are good steps to finding yourself in life after divorce. The process might be slow going, but you will find that life does go on and the new you will be right there.