Being married can become a big part of your identity, especially if the marriage is a long one. You begin to think of yourself as someone’s husband or wife, and you get used to making decisions as one half of a couple, not as an independent person.
Maybe not all the decisions, but most of the important ones come with discussion and compromise when you’re married – you don’t unilaterally decide to buy a house, change careers, or make an extravagant purchase when you’re married, for example.
When you get a divorce, suddenly you’ve lost that part of your identity. You’re no longer someone’s partner, and there’s no one to consult, compromise with, or bounce ideas off of. While that can be freeing in many ways, it can also be disorienting.
If you’ve been married for years, people no longer know who you are as a single person, and more importantly, you may not know yourself as a single person. If you got married at a very young age, you may not even have memories of yourself as a single adult to draw on.
Even if you do have those memories, you’re at a different place in life and have a different frame of mind than you did then. You’ll have to learn to be single and learn to get to know yourself all over again as a single person. Take a look at some tips that can help.
Take Some Time to Mourn
Nobody should expect you to jump into single life with both feet right away. A divorce is a traumatic experience, and it’s like a death in some ways. It’s the death of your marriage, the death of plans that you may have had for your future as a couple. That’s a lot to deal with, and it’s OK if you’re not ready to explore the singles scene right away. Take your time.
Make Some Lists
Think about all of the compromises that you’ve made over the course of your marriage. Maybe you always wanted a pet, but your spouse was allergic. Maybe you love spicy Thai food, but your spouse hated it.
Maybe you’ve always dreamed of owning a water bed, but your spouse disagreed. Sure, these are things that are worth compromising about in a marriage, but you’re not married anymore. What do you want to do now that you’re single?
Write down anything you can think of – places you’d like to travel to that your spouse wasn’t interested in, decorating schemes for the house that your spouse wouldn’t have liked, restaurants you want to go to, ways you’ve wanted to spend a free day. Anything. Then try to cross off as many things as you can from the lists.
Paint the bedroom walls pink. Try out that restaurant that you’ve been dying to go to. Adopt a dog. Spend one of your days off in bed eating ice cream. You may not be able to do everything you’ve always wanted to do, but there are bound to be some things that you’ve always wanted to do but couldn’t do with your former spouse.
Set Some Long-Range Goals
If there’s something on your list that you couldn’t just go and do right away – maybe it’s too expensive, maybe it’s something time consuming, maybe there are other barriers – that item could be a good candidate for a long-range goal.
It’s always good to have something to work toward. Setting goals helps you focus on what’s really important to you, and you can learn important things about yourself as you work toward your goal.
Find out what you need to do to go back to school. Start saving for an extended vacation. Sign up for classes to learn a foreign language, learn to play an instrument, or learn to code. Now that you’re getting some idea of what’s important to the new, single version of you, work out a way to go after those important things.
You don’t have to start dating right away, and you probably shouldn’t. But that doesn’t mean that you should isolate yourself either. Get in touch with your friends or get out and make some new ones, and spend some time doing social activities.
Of course, you don’t have to do anything outside of your comfort zone. If you prefer staying in with a friend and watching a movie together to going out to a bar with a group, that’s fine. But everyone needs human contact and interaction.
Friends can help bring you out of your shell, help you create new routines, and help you find the fun in your new life. They can also be an important source of support when you’re feeling down.
Practice Doing Things Solo
For many people, even those who have never been married, it can feel strange to do things like go to a restaurant or a movie alone. And these activities can feel even stranger to do by yourself when you’ve been part of a couple for a long time and you’re used to always having a partner.
But it’s good for you to practice doing things solo, whether that means eating alone at a restaurant or fixing a leaky pipe under the sink by yourself. Even if you haven’t done these things by yourself before, you can do them.
Don’t be limited by your prior experience. Divorce is the end of something, but it also offers a new beginning. So just because you haven’t done something by yourself before doesn’t mean that you can’t do it now, in your new single life.
Know What You Want Before You Start Dating Again
It’s important to know that you’re not required to start dating again at all if you don’t want to – and even if you do, you don’t have to be looking for a potential life partner. Some people find that they’re happier single, and some people enjoy dating just for fun, without the expectation of eventual commitment and marriage.
The important thing is to figure out what you really want before you start dating again:
- Are you looking for commitment or just temporary company?
- What qualities do you want to see in a date or a potential partner?
- What would be a dealbreaker for you?
The more certain you are of what you really want before you jump back into the dating pool, the more likely it is that you’ll find what you’re looking for. Getting over a divorce may not be easy, but it is achievable.
Using a legal resource group like National Family Solutions can help you to get through the legal divorce process with less hassle so that you can get back to focusing on your new life as a single person.