A divorce, or relationship breakup, is one of those things which is seldom easy to transition to.
When two people decide to share a life together it is never with the intention, or even the eventuality, that the relationship may come to an end. Breaking up is painful and scary, and even though it has become a norm, people who are breaking up are likely not prepared for it, and are little equipped to overcome the emotional challenges it entails.
So how do you heal after your relationship has broken up and how do you rebuild your life?
Although there may be many changes and some challenging ones, you are still you.
What is key, is to regain a sense of self. Too often, people lose a bit of themselves – sometimes a big bit – in relationships, especially in an abusive and toxic relationship. Facing yourself after a divorce will leave you feeling fragile, vulnerable, lacking confidence and facing an overwhelming feeling that you are not going to make it on your own.
I have good news! You are much stronger than you think, much more capable than you think and actually, you are not alone.
Whether you look at it in terms of picking up the pieces, rebuilding your life or reinventing yourself, all of these underline that something went wrong.
No one said life would be easy, but when challenges pop up, it’s good to start with hope in mind, and to understand that there are no failures, only learning opportunities. So although your divorce is hurtful and scary, it is first a learning experience and the first learning to evaluate is who are you and how did you get there? Accepting that life happens and owning your responsibilities for the role you played in your experience will empower you with managing destructive anger and oppressive fear.
When I say explore the responsibilities for the role you played in your experience, it doesn’t mean you did anything wrong. It means that you need to understand who you were at the time you met your partner. Who you were during the relationship and who are you becoming now? You see, throughout our lives, we grow. Not only physically, but psychologically and emotionally too. You are probably tempted at this time to say that your partner was not the person you knew when you met, but then, in all fairness, you must understand that nor are you.
Change and growth is inevitable and some relationships will change and grow together, while other relationships will change and grow apart.
So never mind that your partner has changed.
What is important here is how you have progressed and matured.
Realising this, you will understand that there are actually no pieces to pick up nor do you need to reinvent yourself, only affirming the person you are. Understand your needs and know what you want and that you are the only one with the power to design your future even if your current challenges seem shattering.
Here are a few tips on how to move on. No pieces to pick up and no need for “re-invention”, just taking the next step with more confidence.
- Firstly, there is no denying that you have lost something.
Let yourself grieve that loss. Of course it is sad and yes it does hurt. You’ll have better days and worse days. Take it a day at the time and be gentle on yourself.
- What do you need right now?
There is much to consider when a relationship ends. Emotionally, financially and legally. Be realistic where your immediate needs stand. If you need to move out quickly then prioritise that you need a roof over your head. If you can stay in your current property but aren’t coping emotionally, then seek emotional support first. No need to jump to the legal part if you cannot afford a lawyer. Do your homework and make sure your finance is considered before lining up new bills.
- What are you doing to get what you need?
Think about it. Is your current behaviour likely to get you what you need? For instance, expecting financial support from your soon to be ex while you are blaming, criticising and threatening your partner, is not likely to get you the desired outcome. Understand that to get what you want you need to have the proper behaviour.
- Focus on what you want, not what you don’t want
Focusing on the negative has never brought any solution. Formulating positive outcomes will.
- Know that no one can make you happy but you.
Right now you are most likely blaming your partner for being miserable, truth is, if you are blaming someone or a situation for how you are feeling, you are delegating your power to chose. Happiness is a choice, not a result.
- Make a plan.
Start formulating what you need to do differently to get what you want. Is it reasonable? Is it in your power to get started with it? Be realistic.
- Be 100% responsible.
Whatever decision you make about yourself and your life must start with you. If you let anyone else decide for you, you let go of your power. Taking full responsibility for your life and its outcome can be daunting, but it is the only way to move forward.
You have one life to live and saying I can’t is not the way to go if you want to reach old age without regrets. Only embracing your successes and learning from your mistakes will guide you on the path that is your life.
- And mostly, who would you like to be, moving on?
Without a clear vision on how things will change and who you want to be, you will remain lost in your hurt and sadness from not overcoming this major life transition. Don’t let your divorce define you and be the person who will define your life, no matter what it throws at you.
SADSA / South African Divorce Support Association