The Women’s Guide to Divorce:
How to Work Toward Acceptance and Happiness
Divorce is something no woman thinks will ever happen to her. I mean come on - all of our childhood movies ended with a royal couple riding off to the magical land of “happily ever after.” We never had The Princess and the Prenup or Ariel’s Alimony Adventure – we were shown that you find your soulmate, exchange some rings, and it’s all sunshine from there. So what happens when a woman’s lifelong view of marriage comes crashing down into the harsh reality of divorce?
The answer is that the emotional impact can feel devastating, and often makes a woman question her identity and self-worth. If you’re a woman struggling through divorce - there is hope. Try these tips to work toward a happy, accepting future:
1. Write a goodbye letter
The grief experienced during divorce can rival that of having a loved one pass away. Not only are you mourning the loss of your relationship, but you’re mourning the vision you had for your life story. Write a letter saying goodbye to each of the dreams and experiences that you expected out of your marriage. This will help you define exactly what you are grieving so that you can work toward acceptance.
2. Write a hello letter
Divorce is a beginning as well as an end. After you write your goodbye letter, write another letter saying hello to all of the things that you would never experience if you were still with your ex. Hello ballroom dancing lessons. Hello wine tasting trips with the girls. Hello rights to the remote control. Hello flirting with that ridiculously attractive cashier. Though nothing will eliminate the pain and process of grieving your losses, focusing on new hobbies and fun activities can add a silver lining in this difficult time.
3. Redefine your identity
Women often view themselves in terms of their caregiving roles to others. If most of your identity is wrapped up in being someone’s spouse, divorce can really throw a wrench in your self-worth. When you are feeling depressed or that you’ve failed, spend time thinking about your talents, character traits, and values that make you who you are. Remind yourself that divorce does not define who you are as an individual.
4. Find a supportive circle
Friendships can be a little tricky after divorce since many married couples hang out with other couples. When one duo splits up, it’s common for mutual friends to keep their distance, adding to the pain and isolation divorce can bring. The good news is, divorce can be a great catalyst to make new friends who understand what you’re going through. There are lots of online and in-person support groups for divorced women to discuss experiences and share coping techniques. Also, this can be a great opportunity to reconnect with family members or friends that you didn’t have as much time for during your marriage.
5. Take a break from social media
Resist the urge to cyber-stalk your ex. There’s no need to see the petty, “I’m doing great,” posts – they’ll just irritate you. It’s common for women to worry about what their ex and other people are thinking and saying about their divorce; to help avoid this, consider taking a break from social media for at least a few weeks to focus your mind on yourself and not the rest of the world.
6. If you have kids, model emotional intelligence
While emotional intelligence is important for everyone, it is especially important if you have children and are helping them work through your divorce. Emotional intelligence is being able to identify and process your emotions in a healthy way. If you have kids, they might have a hard time expressing their feelings, but you have the power to show them how to acknowledge and work through the difficult emotions divorce brings.
Example: “This is a difficult time for our family. I have been feeling confused and lonely sometimes, but I know that these feelings are temporary. We are a strong family and we will get through this together.”
7. Work toward acceptance
While it’s healthy to be aware of all of the emotions that you experience through divorce, remember that your end-goal is to accept your divorce and move on with your life. Try not to wallow in feelings of bitterness and resentment – when they arise, acknowledge them, but remember that you will be happier once you can learn to move past them.
8. Keep your heels on the high ground
Taking the moral high ground in divorce can be tough, especially if your ex is petty-posting pics with their new love interest or writing derogatory tweets about you. No matter how awful your ex is being, remind yourself that no good will come from you retaliating. If you’re a mom, don’t badmouth your ex to your kids or try to make them spies. Don’t attempt to get your ex fired or ruin their friendships. As hard as it may be, keeping civil is best for your long-term mental health.
9. See a specialist
Divorce can be one of the most difficult experiences a woman may face, challenging her identity, self-esteem, and emotional health. Many times, friends and family just don’t seem to get it and women can feel alone in their despair. Fortunately, there are many resources for women going through divorce and there’s no reason to go through it alone.
Dr. Daniella A. Davis, Psy.D., is an expert in dealing with the unique challenges that women face throughout each stage of life. If you are a woman struggling through the challenges of divorce or marital issues, Dr. Davis can provide support, understanding, and practical tips to get back to living your best life.
Cynthia Johnson, LMFT, is a specialist in Parenting and Child Therapy at Variations Psychology. She has years of experience in helping parents, teens, and children work through family issues and overcome challenges brought on by divorce. If you are worried that divorce or marital issues are harming your family’s emotional health, Cynthia can help.
Dr. Marta M. Shinn, Ph.D., is an expert in child and educational psychology. Divorce can impact a child’s school performance, cause them to act out, or result in anxiety and depression. If you are worried about the impact of divorce on your children, Dr. Shinn can provide evaluations, therapy, and educational consulting to ensure your child has support they need to overcome challenges and succeed.
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Variations Psychology is a group practice specializing in Child and Family Psychology.
Our specialists provide therapy to infants, children, adolescents, and adults to help them overcome the many challenges they may face throughout the lifespan of a family. We also conduct diagnostic testing of child and adult conditions that may impact the family’s mental health and development (e.g. ADHD, Autism Depression, Anxiety, Learning Disorders, college entrance exams).
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