There are two things I know to be true about the divorce process. First of all, no matter how amicable the split between you and your former partner is, divorce is an emotionally tumultuous time that calls for deep introspection and healing. And second, in the wake of your split, you have an unparalleled opportunity to rediscover and reinvent yourself—and that’s part of the healing process too.
Reinventing (or rediscovering) yourself seems like it should be simple, but I find that most of the women I work with need permission to really let go and explore their interests and desires. I think that hesitation comes from spending years compromising and finding a middle ground with our ex-spouses. Having the freedom to do what we want can be a little intimidating!
So… if you’re in need of permission to check in with yourself and ask yourself what you really want, consider that permission granted.
Now that that’s out of the way, here are the four “rules of the road” I give to my clients as they begin to strike out on their own and uncover what being happy means to them.
1) Let yourself work through your feelings
Unfortunately, our emotional state underlies and affects everything else we do. That means that while I whole-heartedly encourage you to experiment with a new passion for French cooking, I’ll also mention that ending up with a few slimy vegetables isn’t the end of the world… because some nights, zoning out on the couch and watching tv is what you need to do instead of cooking.
I always recommend really “feeling your feelings out”… If you let yourself take the time you need to go through the stages of grief, you will come out stronger for it in the end. (Need a quick recap on the 5 Stages of Grief and what you can expect? I’ve got that here!) I also highly recommend finding support from a therapist, counselor, or divorce coach to help you process your thoughts and feelings. It can seriously shave years off your healing process.
2) Dare to be alone
Those first nights alone, after your friends have quit calling and you’re supposedly “all okay,” can be really rough. Some of my clients really dread those nights alone, and understandably so. If you’re used to spending time with a partner or with your kids around, the quietness can be overwhelming.
Instead of dreading it, I suggest spending a few minutes before those nights happen to envision how you could spend the time engaging in nourishing and fulfilling activities. And while you’re at it, try to imagine the positive sensations and emotions you might feel as you take care of yourself and your needs.
For example, two of my favorite “alone night” activities are spending some quality time with a good book and a cup of tea, or indulging in a luxurious bubble bath and a glass of wine. Do those activities fix everything? Nope—but learning how to enjoy my alone time and using that time for self-reflection really helped me think about who I was and what I wanted out of my post-divorce life.
3) Discover your hidden passions
Okay, not to get all awe-inspiring with calling them “passions” here, but what have you always wanted to try or do that you never could before? Maybe it is sampling ethnic food from that new place around the corner, or hiking on the weekends, or trying some new hobby. But because your partner wasn’t into “different” cuisines or hated the woods… you couldn’t act on your desire.
My point is—now you have the opportunity to try whatever you want, so you should go for it! You might try it and hate it, and that’s okay too! But I’m willing to bet that you repressed some interests of yours because you didn’t have the time, space, or energy to devote to them before. As you try new things and expand your horizons, you’ll automatically start discovering new things about yourself—and it feels really good.
4) Embrace your new independence
Confession time: even though I really miss my kids when they’re at my ex-spouse’s house, I have also really grown to love my alone time. My kid-free days are when I sleep in, indulge in a book, or tackle projects that I have really been wanting to do, but can’t do when they’re around.
I try to help all my clients get to the same place so that they can really enjoy their alone time and make the most of it.
One of my coaching mantras is, “It’s your life, so do what you want—when you want.” I’m all about supporting my clients as they discover what it is they really want out of their lives, and this saying is one of my frequent reminders that we can all create lives that we truly love. Keeping these four stages in mind will help as you explore your new freedoms and reinvent yourself.
Are you ready to explore what a truly fulfilling life looks like for you? I’d love to talk with you about where you’re at in your divorce process and how I can help. Feel free to email me, or follow me on Instagram for practical tips and advice.