Divorce is a difficult, emotional process. Even after the separation is complete, complicated, messy emotions can often linger for years. Dealing with conflicting or downright negative emotions can often hinder your ability to move on in your love life. What are the best ways to handle feelings of loss, and loneliness? How can you cope with feelings about your ex, whatever they may be? And for some the most gut-wrenching question of all is, are there any ways to protect your children from the complex issues surrounding divorce?
Right after the divorce, your heart will be battered and bruised. You may be feeling cynical about the prospect of ever being in a romantic relationship again. But you won’t always be this angry or heartbroken. It’s possible that someday you may want companionship and possibly even marriage again. And that means that you will have to jump back into the dating scene. Rest assured, there are ways to make dating a positive experience and not an emotional roller coaster.
What are the steps you can take to ensure that dating after divorce is a positive thing, and not fraught with thorny, negative emotions?
1. Don’t skip the grieving process. Whatever the circumstances, divorce is a huge loss. It’s just not possible to sweep it all under the rug and avoid grieving. Divorce is the death of a relationship or the end of a family. Even if both partners are amicable, the process is still intense.
Many people will make the mistake of rushing into another relationship without giving themselves the necessary time to process their emotions and grieve the loss of their marital relationship. They may rush into things because they want to cover up their negative emotions, avoid feeling lonely, or prove to their ex that they are fine and better off without them. These aren’t healthy ways to cope with the loss of your marriage.
Everyone needs time to heal after divorce. That time can make a huge difference in the kind of partner you choose after the divorce. If you don’t take the time to grieve and process your emotions after the separation, you will bring those negative, confusing emotions into your next dating relationship. And the last thing you need is another broken heart.
Thriving in your love life will take time and some awareness of what wasn’t working in your marriage, and what you can do to have a better outcome next time. When people rush into relationships, they often end up bringing the same problems that their marriage had, into their future relationship.
2. Let go of feelings about your ex. No matter what your ex did or didn’t do, your best chance to thrive in your love life after divorce is to examine what happened and find a way to get some closure. Finding a way to move forward and put your ex in the past where they belong will make you more emotionally available for your next partner.
If you’re struggling with this step, get the help you need to find peace of mind. Getting help is a sign of strength, not weakness.
3. Consider your children, if you have any with your ex. You probably realize that they need just as much time to heal as you do. Despite any lingering, negative feelings you may have about the children’s other parent, your children will still deeply love your ex. They will want an ongoing relationship with both of their parents, regardless of their parents’ feelings toward each other.
Ideally, your ex isn’t a danger to them, nor will your children have to feel like they need to take sides in the divorce. Blaming the other parent, or otherwise bad mouthing them in front of the children is incredibly stressful for them. But it can be tough not to lash out when little ears are in the room, especially if you’re now struggling with isolation as a single parent.
If you’re struggling with blaming your ex in front of the kids, or if you have a tendency to look to them for sympathy, you might not be aware of how much it’s impacting your children. Children will interpret these actions as you expecting them to take sides. You’ll need to keep them away from the divorce drama as much as possible. It’s crucial that you don’t bottle up these negative feelings, but you can’t express them in front of, or to, the children.
The best way to keep the kids out of the drama and still get your feelings heard and acknowledged is by speaking to a trusted friend, family member, or a therapist who is experienced with the aftermath of divorce.
It’s already hard enough for your children to cope with the loss of security in their lives. Try to empathize with your kids and help them deal with their feelings, instead of them having to help you cope with yours.
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Are you coping with a divorce or a difficult break-up? What is the hardest part for you? Please share your struggles and your triumphs in the comments.