Starting Over After Divorce - How to Navigate the Transition

Starting over after divorce can seem overwhelming. Not only do you have to adjust to being single again, but you're probably still dealing with the hurt and anger over your marriage ending.  

By | Answers by Gloria Swardenski

To help you move forward, here are some tips to help you navigate this transition:

  • Nurture your physical and mental health: Divorce is physically and mentally taxing, so focus on taking care of yourself. Eating nutritious food, exercising regularly, and getting enough rest go a long ways towards making you feel good. Consider changing up your daily routine to one that supports your well-being and helps you move forward. It’s also a good idea to engage in activities that bring you joy and help reduce stress.
  • Seek emotional support: Divorce can be a significant loss and it's important to acknowledge and process your emotions. Having close friends to lean on and talk to can help you process everything you've been through. You can also join a divorce support group to share your feelings and experiences. And there is no shame in seeking counseling or therapy to help you work through the emotional challenges of divorce. 

  • Reflect on the past and learn from it: Take time to reflect on your marriage and what lead to the divorce. Understanding what happened can help you to gain insights into yourself and what you need in future relationships. 

  • Set new goals: Determine what you want to achieve in different areas of your life, such as career, personal growth, and relationships. Setting new goals will give you a sense of direction and purpose as you start over. 

  • Rebuild your social life: Reconnect with old friends, join new social groups, or participate in activities that interest you. Building a network of friends can help you feel connected and less isolated after divorce. 

  • Take a financial inventory: Assess your financial situation and create a budget that aligns with your new circumstances. 

  • Rediscover yourself: Use this opportunity to reconnect with your own interests, passions, and values. Explore new hobbies, take up new courses, or pursue long-standing aspirations. 

  • Embrace the future: While starting over can be daunting, remember that it also presents new possibilities. Embrace the opportunities that lie ahead and maintain a positive mindset. Believe in your resilience and your ability to create a fulfilling life after divorce.

Remember, starting over after divorce is a process and it will take time to adjust. Be patient with yourself and seek support when needed. Over time, you will find your footing and create a new life filled with happiness and fulfillment.

FAQs about Starting Over after Divorce

The following questions deal with some of the fears and emotions that go along with this transition in your life: 

I'm terrified of being alone and starting over after divorce

Adrienne's Question: My husband has continuously told me throughout our 4 year marriage that he doesn't want to be with me and that I am horrible to live with. I feel that he is exceptionally unreasonable and is possibly abusive, even perhaps controlling. He persuaded me to dramatically reduce my work schedule, and I have become financially dependent on him. He is now starting divorce proceedings and has left our home. I am terrified of being alone, supporting myself and finding a new home. I am an emotional wreck and am finding it difficult to accept that he wants a divorce and that I'll have to start a new life. I don't want any of this chaos. Help.

Gloria's Answer: You may not want any of the chaos, but the truth is, you are in the midst of it anyway, and I want to encourage you that you can get through this! And that is my challenge for you - take some time to reflect on the truth . . .

Were you truly "horrible to live with"? If not, throw it out. If so, how would you like to learn and grow from that? Was he abusive and controlling? Either way, reconcile to the truth of it, and move on. And take some time to figure out why you are so afraid to be alone.

It sounds to me like at one time you did have a good job that brought in money. You gave it up for a time. But the truth is you have the power and the experience to go back and get another job. You can begin to work again, stand on your own two feet, and begin to remember the strong and amazing woman you are. Hold to the truth in all of these things for the truth will set you free!

What are the chances of starting a healthy relationship after divorce?

Janet's Question: After 21 years, my husband left our marriage for a woman at work (12 years younger than me). She and her three kids are now living with my ex. What is the percentage of success for situation like this? At 43, what is the likelihood that I will find a healthy relationship for myself? I am in the process of healing and dealing with the emotional scars of an evil divorce process.

Gloria's Answer: Your ex's situation and who he is with now has nothing to do with your chances for healing and success. NONE! A divorce is very difficult, but you can get through it, and you can begin to rebuild a life of your choosing that is filled with love and joy at any age!

I can remember when I was faced with the very question you are asking yourself. Will I be alone forever? I'm a Mom to 4 kids and soon to be 40. Who in their right mind would love me AND all that comes with me?? . . . But it didn't take too long to find a crazy guy who tells me that he fell in love with who I was first, and the rest just didn't matter anymore.

Janet, you can be anyone you want to be. You can attract the perfect man for you. You can be strong and beautiful, in shape, and confident. When you are at your best, loving yourself and taking wonderfully great care of yourself, you are irresistibly attractive, and the rest falls into place - be it with a man or without!

How do I start rebuilding my self-image and self-esteem?

La Tarsha's Question: How do I begin rebuilding my self-image and self-esteem following a divorce?

Gloria's Answer: There are lots of ways! So, I'll throw out a few options and you can decide which one or which combination is a good fit for you.

Journaling is a great way to work through your thoughts and feelings. You can write down whatever comes to your mind without judgment and throw it all out there. Eventually, you'll begin to see recurring thoughts and patterns that you can begin to address. You can structure the journal whatever way you want. You may consider giving titles to sections such as: How am I feeling today? What have I learned today? What did I learn about myself today? How am I most proud of myself today?

Friends and other support groups are also a great way to begin to see yourself in a new way. These wonderful people can help us see the wonderfulness inside of us that we often dismiss. Ask them what they see as your strengths? Ask them how they see you in 5 years?

From there, you might also consider a life coach. (Yes, I know that I am one, but I would be doing a disservice to my profession if I didn't mention this resource!) Coaches are truly objective people who challenge you to rediscover who you are, encourage you to tap in once again to your own inner wisdom and resources, and support you to stay on course and succeed in this next phase of your life. Often a coach will see and acknowledge something within you that you didn't even know existed, and hold a vision for you that you never thought was possible.

Journaling, friends, and coaches are all great resources that can support you in remembering the amazing woman you are - whether you've been through a divorce or not!

How do I get over how he treated me so I can move on?

Cindy's Question: I got divorced last year and I just found out that my ex was cheating. His affair led to the divorce, but he blamed me for everything. Now the other woman has moved in, and he still has not told my teenage children about her (but they know). I am so angry. I was married 22 years and he cheated on me at least three times. Now I feel so stupid, and he continues to hurt and lie to us on a continuous basis. Is it wrong for me to stop all communication with him? My kids are 17 &18 and I feel they can now talk for themselves, but he makes me feel guilty. Please help. I need to get over this so I can mourn and move on.

Gloria's Answer: Hi, Cindy. You do have a lot of things mixed up together in here, so let's see if we can sort it out a bit and support you to move on well. It often does get confusing when we try to sort through what to tell the kids, so let's begin there.

When it comes to the kiddos, I would encourage you to stop trying to convince them that your ex was/is a scumbag who cheated on you many times, and the divorce was not your fault. It really doesn't matter anymore. The kids don't care! They only want to know that both of you love them, and they are going to be okay.

The other factor is the other woman. Your kids have to see her, and have to accept her as part of their life for as long as the relationship lasts. It doesn't help them to know "the truth" about her, and the real truth is, as you have said, they already know. But again, in their minds, it doesn't really matter. It doesn't support them to dislike this new woman or hold a grudge against her. It only makes their life harder.

So, by letting go of the past and all of the anger that is attached with it, you can begin to deal with the present. The current lies that are being passed around, if any, can be dealt with by simply holding open the door of communication with your kids. When they come to you with questions, you can answer them simply and honestly, and always with their best interests at heart.

Lastly, your ex has no power over you anymore, so stop giving it away! He has no power to make you feel guilty, tell you what you should do or say, or create conflict between you and your kids. Hold to the truth of that, begin to live more fully in the present, and begin to move on. Keep it simple!

I want to move, but feel guilty about leaving my family behind

Rhonda's Question: I am getting divorced, and it should be final any day now. I have met another man that I am deeply in love with, and we are planning on moving in together. He lives in another state, and I'm having a Real problem with leaving my daughter and grandson. They have lived with me since he was 3 months old, and every time I think of leaving them I have a "breakdown". I realize that I can't live my life through my daughter and grandson-but sometimes the pain is unbearable. My grandson is the love of my life, and I feel like I will be abandoning them. I want to be with my partner, but am having a hard time letting go of my family. How do I do it?

Gloria's Answer: Here is a truth for you to hold on to - If it is good for you, it is good for your daughter and grandson. I think where the pain is coming from is in thinking too small. You are thinking about the day after you leave and not necessarily the year or five years after you leave. Let me paint a new picture for you . . .

What if . . . because you leave, your daughter begins to feel the joy and exhilaration that comes because she is maturing and being responsible for herself and her son? What if . . . because you have left, your daughter begins to develop a deeper and stronger relationship with her son because you aren't there and her son runs to her more often when he is hurting or needs something? What if . . . because you have left, you can plan special visits with your family where they can now experience new things in a new place? What if . . . because you have left and are taking such wonderfully good care of yourself with a man who adores you, you have so much more love to give to your daughter and grandson when you do talk with them on the phone or see them. What if . . . because you took this chance and moved, you are setting the example for you daughter and grandson to take a few risks, enjoy life, and not be afraid to change things for the better!

Think about the possibility that by you taking care of yourself and moving away, you are also creating a whole new space for your family to do the same. The dynamics of your relationships will change, but in reality, that may not be a bad thing either. Remember - You aren't dying, you are just moving!!

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