The end of a marriage is never easy – whether it seems to happen overnight with an abrupt declaration from your partner or the idea has been simmering between the two of you for years. It can be challenging and life-changing no matter how much it was expected or how healthy you think it will be for you and your life.
No one enters a marriage thinking it will end. Each of you makes promises to each other with the intent of keeping them – thus, ensuring a long, happy life together. But the reality is that marriage and long-term partnerships inevitably hit bumps in the road.
People grow and change over time and that sometimes brings couples closer and other times it pulls them apart. Marriage does not come with a blueprint. A successful marriage entails numerous ingredients including love, communication, honesty, respect, patience, sharing, compromise, and forgiveness.
Sadly, about half of all first-time marriages end. Second and third marriages have an even higher rate – closer to 70 percent.
If your marriage is not successful, there’s probably several reasons why. Some of the most common causes of divorce include:
Loss of commitment
Conflict and arguing
Marrying too young
Lack of intimacy
Regardless of the reason, a divorce is not something you just “get over,” but rather something you will need to navigate through. The journey will be difficult and will not happen overnight. It will take hard emotional work. Grief will come. But resilience will also show up.
The hope is that you will eventually arrive at a place of peace and contentment and no longer define yourself by the divorce.
Here are some tips on how to get through and recover after the end of a long-term marriage:
Grieve the loss. Divorcing is similar to any other loss. It represents the end of a friendship, a family unit, a romantic partnership, and a future you had planned. Processing the loss (which can include sitting with uncomfortable emotions, working with a therapist, or reaching out and leaning on others for support) is essential to creating a new healthier, emotional you.
Let go of blame and forgive. The aftermath of a divorce is sometimes plagued by asking whose fault it was, which partner did not keep their word or which partner did not try hard enough. These questions are fruitless and a waste of energy. The end of a marriage rarely falls on the shoulders of one person. It takes two people to be in a relationship with both having their own faults and shortcomings. Rather than spending the time on the “why,” focus your energy and attention on healing and moving on.
Lean on others. Losing a long-time partner can feel lonely and daunting. A void will inevitably take root and if you do not try to fill that void with love and support it may lead to deeper pain, loneliness, and even depression. Having people to support you and building a sense of community can help you create a new normal. Equally important is staying socially active. Fill your calendar. Having personal relationships will help you move past the hurt and begin to help you chart a new course.
Recreate a new you: Working to save a marriage or navigating the divorce process can take an emotional, psychological, and even physical toll. But now that you are no longer in the marriage and it doesn’t require so much of you, it’s time to redirect that extra time and energy to reconnecting with yourself. That may mean creating a new routine, making new friends, joining a new class or taking up a new hobby. The wonderful thing is that you get to decide what you want to do – you are in total control.
Date again when you are ready. It can feel intimidating getting back into the dating scene after a long marriage. Remember that dating again may not be the next best step if you are not ready – especially if you are not fully healed from your ex-spouse or marriage. However, if you are ready, dating again can be just what you need to finally move on from your divorce. Whether it is a short-term fling, or you end up finding a new long-term partner, realizing that you can be happy again without your spouse can improve your emotional, physical, and mental health.
Ultimately, this is your process. Trust yourself and do what you think is best for you. So, if you need a year to grieve and to spend time working on self-growth or you just want to jump right back into the dating world – that’s okay.
Take the time to honor your feelings and emotions. Every person gets through divorce or break ups in their own way.
Interested in therapy? Reach out today to set up an appointment with one of our therapists at Turning Point Mental Health Center.