Some people find the process of moving on after divorce surprisingly uncomplicated. (You know, the kind of folks who say they had moved on from their ex long before their marriage was legally over.) For others, closure is a lot harder to come by.
The good news? Your brain may be hardwired to help you move on. According to a study published earlier this year in the journal Review of General Psychology, humans may be built to experience the pain of a split and move on to a new partner.
Even so, getting through those first initial months and even years after divorce isn’t going to be easy. To help you out, we asked relationship experts and HuffPost Divorce readers for their best advice on moving forward after divorce. Read their tried-and-true tips below.
1. Understand that there’s no timeframe for recovering from divorce — and that’s OK.
There will be days when you feel amazing and glad to be free of your ex — and days when getting out of bed seems like more trouble than it’s worth. As divorce coach Kira Gould discovered firsthand, divorce recovery is not a linear process.
“There were times in the beginning of my divorce when I knew in my soul that I was done and over it — and there are days now, six years later, when I am surprised to think fondly of my ex,” she said. “When you have a past that was long and intricately entwined, those feelings don’t go away overnight.”
2. If you have kids, note that the process will be even harder.
While it’s great to behave like grownups and co-parent for your kids’ sake, having to see your ex every time he or she swings by makes it a lot harder to move on, said HuffPost reader Diane Caron.
“Whether you have children together does make a difference,” she said. ”It’s something that we have to live with for the rest of our lives, even if we do move on.”
3. Remind yourself that you’re capable of moving on after divorce.
Don’t get too hung up on the theory that it takes half the length of the relationship‘s duration to process a breakup. You’ll feel more empowered once you accept that you’re in charge of moving on, not a calendar, divorce coach Emma Heptonstall said.
“Recovering from divorce is ultimately about being willing to let go,” she said. “Letting go frees up emotional space, physical space and creates a path on which you can move forward. Being open to the possibility that you might be able to move on is the first sign that you already have.”
4. Make a point to define who you are outside of the marriage.
Instead of fixating on moving on, try focusing on yourself and re-embracing the goals and interests you may have put aside during your marriage, said reader Barry Fraser.
“I don’t think there’s an exact timeframe for moving on but what I do think helps immensely is regaining confidence in yourself,” he said. “Chances are, your relationship changed who you were and you lost your identity or self worth.”
5. Take comfort in knowing you might experience a moment where you finally feel free of the past.
For writer Amy Koko, the moment she knew she was over her ex (or as over an ex as you can be when you have kids) happened unexpectedly on Thanksgiving, two years post-split.
“The year before I had looked around and felt an overwhelming sadness for the one person who would never again be sitting at head of my table,” she said. “This year as we laughed at the table, I felt a flush of warmth remembering how my ex always drank a glass of egg nog with his turkey dinner. In that moment, I hoped he was enjoying his day as much as I was…and that’s when I knew.”
6. But don’t be surprised if a new wave of sadness hits after you thought you had processed your grief.
Six months after her “drama”-filled divorce was finalized, HuffPost blogger Lindsey Light felt emotionally ready to date again. But then, seemingly out of the nowhere, she experienced another bout of sadness.
“Today, I find myself still dealing with some of the repercussions of my divorce and marriage,” she said. “We were together seven years; I think it’s good that I’m aware of this as I move forward in my life and relationships. That said, I can say with certainty that I am no longer bitter or heartbroken — and I definitely don’t have any romantic feelings left for my ex.”
7. Don’t put too much pressure on yourself to get over it.
We put a lot of pressure on ourselves to move on after divorce — but maybe instead the goal should be some version of closure from the past, said psychologist Andra Brosh.
“One of the greatest misperceptions of divorce is that it’s something you move on from,” she said. “The end of a marriage can be grieved and embraced as a life experience, but the mark it leaves can never be erased.”
8. Down the road, try to look back fondly on the good times you had with your ex. (You know there were some good times.)
It’s healing in its own way to look back on the years you spent with your ex with a sense of appreciation, said Gould.
“I like to think that my ex still has a small place in my heart that’s compartmentalized,” she said. “I honor the time we had together, but limited in a healthy way.”
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