Many people wonder how to move on after divorce as a woman. What I mean by that is, perhaps a woman’s life was defined as being a wife. That was her identity. Now she feels lost. This reader is in that situation:
I’m struggling with a lot of conflicting emotions about my situation. I’ve been married for almost 24 years and my husband has just decided that living his best life means without me. I’m not exactly sure who I am anymore, if not a wife.
Here is my advice on how to move on after divorce as a woman–not a wife.
This must be an incredibly challenging time for you. When we get married, we don’t picture the end of our marriage, especially if we are not the one who initiated that ending.
You sound like you are in shock right now so it’s completely understandable that you have so many conflicting emotions. Allow yourself the time and space to experience those emotions. They are all part of your healing journey. Many former divorced people have described the early days of divorce as traumatizing and extremely painful. Take time to take care of yourself through this.
If you are feeling hurt, that very much makes sense. Who wouldn’t be hurt if their partner of 25 years decided to end the relationship? Hurt does hurt but avoiding it won’t help. Let the pain of that hurt move through you and sit with it while you are contemplating next steps.
Within that hurt maybe start to consider what your life might be like without your husband and without all of that pain. There will be a day in the not so distant future in which you start to feel much better. Hold on to that knowledge.
How to move on after divorce as a woman…
Picture yourself a year from now. What will be different for you? Picture yourself feeling confident and empowered. Vision a place where you live that is filled with comfort and ease. Think about the people you want in your life a year from now. Envision people who love and support you and will be there as you start to identify yourself as a thriving and powerful individual. If it still feels too painful to fully do that, just envision a time in your life when you aren’t in so much pain.
As you start to shed the label of wife, start to think of other ways you might define yourself. Maybe smart, creative, empowered, kind, funny, etc. as some basic descriptors of who you really are.
Remember being a wife was only one small aspect of your identity and now you have the opportunity to expand that identity into anything you want. Right now because you are hurting, it feels like wife is all that you are. However, as you start to come to terms with this you will see that you are so much more than that.
Think back to your childhood and young adulthood. What did you like to do? What were you good at? What did you dream of doing as an adult? Maybe while you were married you dreamt of opportunities that weren’t available to you as a married woman, now they are available! The world is yours for the taking and when you are ready, you will go out and take it. First, however, let yourself mourn the loss of your relationship.
If your soon to be ex husband believes that his best life is without you then even if it is terribly painful, your best life is without him.
Who wants to stay with someone who truly feels that way? Accept all the feelings that are coming your way and know that they are part of the growth of this experience. Those feelings will ultimately lead you into trusting yourself and your ability to build a beautiful future after marriage.
If you are comfortable doing so, seek out other women who are separated and divorced and see if you can’t put together a support team for yourself. Your best life lies in finding your own power and strength and putting together a group of friends who will help you get there. Friend can be one of your first new definitions of yourself. From there you can add any descriptors that you notice as you redefine your life.
Ending your marriage this way is understandably devastating. It’s not the life you pictured and now, not by your own choice, you are redefining who you are and what your life is going to look like.
You probably won’t see it right now but one day you will look back at this time and understand that it’s the greatest opportunity of your life time. You get to choose who you are, who you want to be with, how you find joy, and your true gifts. Until then, be kind to yourself, allow yourself all emotions and responses, and let other people support you and care for you. You’ve taken a painful hit, healing takes time but it will happen.
Lisa Kaplin, Psy. D., CPC is a professional certified life and executive coach, psychologist, and professional speaker. She helps people tackle that “One day I’ll do this and then I’ll be happy” goal, today. You can reach Lisa at Lisa@lisakaplin.com or lisakaplin.com
Like this article? Check out, “20 Things I Wish I Could Have Told My Newly Separated Self.”