I’ll never forget the loan specialist who congratulated me on my divorce.
I was getting a cashier’s check from her to bring to the closing on my townhouse, and she asked why I was selling.
“Moving to the suburbs?” she inquired cheerfully.
Nope, I told her. Getting divorced.
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That was a first. From friends and acquaintances I had heard plenty of, “Oh, I’m so sorry!” And, “I had no idea!” And, “How are the kids holding up?” I had not one single time been congratulated.
I told her as much.
“It usually means a better life is ahead,” she assured me.
She was right, of course. But you rarely hear that. Or read that. Or find an expert who will tell you that.
Divorce is messy and painful and expensive and not to be glorified nor entered into lightly. But it can also be the beginning of a more tranquil, authentic, happier – indeed, better – life.
And that’s worth telling people.
“The gifts of divorce may take some time to reveal themselves, but there are gifts,” says psychotherapist Abby Rodman, author of “Without This Ring: A Woman’s Guide to Successfully Living Through and Beyond Midlife Divorce” (Lulu). “One day you wake up and it hits you that you no longer have to manage an unhappy marriage. You no longer have to manage your spouse’s unhappiness. That clears the way for more of your own happiness.”
Rodman, who surveyed hundreds of women about their divorces for her book, said very often divorcees rediscover passions they shelved, friends they ignored and talents they allowed to atrophy. This goes for men, too, of course.
“A bad marriage corrupts your entire existence,” she said. “Once you’ve extracted yourself from that, you have the opportunity to think about the things in your marriage that didn’t work for you. We all make sacrifices in marriage – and we should. But did you make really big ones that you can now revisit? Do you want to go back to school or become a writer or go to church every Sunday? Things maybe your ex-spouse wasn’t supportive of? In some ways it’s an opportunity for reinvention.”
A clear-eyed focus on what you want your post-divorce life to look like can help you through the toughest parts of the breakup process, says family attorney Angie Hallier, author of “The Wiser Divorce: Positive Strategies for Your Next Best Life” (Megeve Press).
“It is so important for people to start planning what they want their after-divorce life to look like as they go through the divorce and to make every decision during their divorce through the lens of how it will impact their next life,” Hallier said. “This includes being very clear about what their budget will look like, but also focusing on things that will change for the good that cannot be measured – the lack of conflict, the lack of emotional intimacy, pursuing dreams and activities that were set aside during the marriage.
“Creating a vision for your new life is actually easier than staying in a soul-killing marriage,” she said. “And your attorney should help you create this vision.”
An eye toward the happier future can also keep you from getting bogged down in revenge fantasies and other toxic energy expenditures.
“Accept who your ex-spouse is and isn’t and move forward without wanting revenge and without anger,” Hallier said. “Get rid of the notion that this divorce will somehow vindicate you as the one in the right. Certainly there are emotions that have to be dealt with, but if you focus these negative energies on the process of divorce you lose this golden opportunity to reshape your life for the better.”