There will always be regrets – but you have to move on.
About a year before I first thought about separating from my husband, when I was still busy convincing myself I had a happy, rock-solid marriage, my best friend got divorced.
During one of our many long, soul-searching conversations about all the changes in her life as a result of the split, she confessed that although she knew getting divorced was the right thing to do, there was one thing she couldn’t stop feeling sad about.
“I’m never going to have a 50th wedding anniversary,” she sighed. “No matter what happens now, I’ve lost out on the chance to have that kind of history with someone.”
I tried to console her, telling her it didn’t matter, that silver and gold anniversaries weren’t such a big deal. But really, I didn’t get it. I felt bad for her, but I thought that was a silly thing to be upset about. Then I got divorced. Now I totally get it. I feel sad all the time that I won’t have a 50th anniversary with anyone. (In fact, I’m always doing that math – I’m 41 now, so if I get married in the next year and live as long as my grandmother, then maybe…)
You just can’t predict the things that will haunt you after you get divorced; you may not regret the divorce itself, but there are always other things to regret. Divorce is sad, no matter the circumstances. But here are four things you absolutely must do, if you want to move on…
1. Forgive yourself
No one goes into a marriage planning to get divorced. But sometimes we don’t see the red flags that are right in front of our noses. And it’s not because you’re desperate, crazy, or dumb. You’re just human. As psychiatrist and relationship expert Scott Carroll says, “as a species, I don’t think we have a good understanding of which qualities and traits produce marriages and relationships that work at the deepest levels.” That’s why we so often marry the wrong person. Whether you’re the one who left, the one who got left, or the split was mutual, the first step to moving on is to truly forgive yourself.
2. Forgive your partner
Once you’ve forgiven yourself, you’re ready to tackle the harder thing – forgiving your partner. Especially if they’re the one who ended things, you might be carrying a lot of anger and bitterness around. This comes out in lots of different ways; some people wage a campaign of outright hostilily towards their ex, while others claim not to be angry at all, then proceed to do everything in their power to drag the divorce process out and make it painful for their ex. If this is you, just know that while you may need to do what you need to do, you’ll never be able to move on with your life until you move past your bitterness. That means forgiving your ex, no matter how hurt you are, or how awful you think he is. Staying angry will ultimately hurt you more than it hurts your ex. So let it go.
3. Make peace with your new reality
Getting divorced almost never feels the way you think it would. If you’re the one who left, you might be blindsided by how sad you are once you actually move out. You’ll miss things you didn’t expect you ever would, and you might be intimidated by the prospect of a future you didn’t anticipate facing alone. No matter how unhappy you were in your marriage, being single again takes some adjustment. A good therapist is a must for any newly divorced person. Supportive friends are great, but having someone you can vent and cry to, who is trained to listen and offer expert guidance, is indispensable. Don’t be afraid to reach out and ask for help.
4. Get excited about the future
No matter how you feel about your divorce or who initiated it, one thing is certain: your future isn’t going to play out the way you expected it to. But that doesn’t have to be a bad thing. Getting divorced gives you the freedom to dream a new future for yourself – one that might be far better than any you imagined. So give yourself permission to feel excited about the possibilities that lie ahead. Maybe they won’t include a 50th anniversary celebration. Go ahead and mourn that loss. But then think about everything you have to gain. Was there something about your parter that you always struggled to accept? Maybe he hated to fly, so you could never go on far-flung vacations; now is the time to start racking up those frequent flyer miles!
Moving on from your divorce won’t happen overnight, and it won’t be easy – it’s a process. But if you can be patient with yourself, surround yourself with loving, supportive people, and work on forgiving yourself and your partner, you’ll come out the other side with your heart intact, and stronger for the lessons you’ve learned.
GIFs via tumblr.com, diorandimovie.com.
Comment: What’s the most helpful thing anyone ever said to you after your divorce?