A contested divorce is one in which the divorcing couple can’t agree on how to divide their assets or how to handle child custody arrangements. Contesting a divorce can’t prevent the divorce from taking place, but it can drag out the process, costing both parties time and money.
Sometimes, divorces are contested because of a genuine disagreement over assets or custody, while other times, one person contests the divorce more because they want to make it as difficult as possible for the other person. In either case, a contested divorce is often even more difficult and emotional than an uncontested divorce. So how do you move on once the divorce is finally complete? Take a look at some steps you can take to get on with the process of living the rest of your life.
Take Time to Grieve
It may be that you’ve been too busy dealing with the legal and practical aspects of getting divorced to take time to process your grief at the end of your marriage. If so, now is the time to do that. A divorce is one of the most disruptive life events that you can experience, and it’s normal to feel grief, even if you’re still angry with your ex, and even if you’re relieved or happy to be out of the marriage.
In some ways, a divorce is like a death. It’s the death of a specific vision that you had for your life. It’s the death of your image of the person you thought you’d spend your life with. It may be the death of any number of shared dreams – not that you can’t achieve your dreams alone or with a new partner, but it won’t be the same as what you originally envisioned, and it’s normal for that to feel like a loss. If you’ve been holding yourself together to get through legal paperwork and court proceedings, now is the time to give yourself permission to fall apart if you feel like you need to. Take a few mental health days from work. Get a babysitter. Eat ice cream and watch sad movies – or funny movies, or scary movies, whatever feels right. Cry if you need to. Give yourself permission to feel your feelings and process them.
Eventually, you won’t feel as much grief or loss. But moving on can still be difficult. You may be coping with becoming a single parent without a partner to pick up the slack. You may be on your own for the first time in years – or the first time in your life. You may no longer feel sad about the divorce, but the life changes caused by divorce may leave you struggling in other ways.
Take this opportunity to learn how to practice good self-care. Do nice things for yourself in small ways. Treat yourself to a new book or a freshly-baked cookie, or set aside 10 minutes of the day just to relax and enjoy some peace and quiet. Take a bubble bath. Do something for yourself that you’d normally want from a romantic partner, like buying yourself a flower.
Make New Connections
Sometimes divorce, particularly a contentious divorce, can leave you feeling isolated. Friends may take sides, family members are not always supportive, and the loss of in-laws you might have been close to can be upsetting in and of itself.
Now is the time to make new connections. If you have kids, make an effort to get to know the parents of their friends, if you don’t already. Join a book club in your area. Get involved in local politics. Take a class or join a club. If you have trouble getting out in your own community, look for support groups and interest groups online that you can join. The point is to fight feelings of isolation by finding ways to connect with people who share common interests with you. You may also find that having something to do that is not work or childcare helps you establish new routines and patterns as a single person.
Don’t Rush Romance
After a marriage ends, it can be easy to form a goal of getting into another long-term relationship. It’s understandable. You’re used to being one-half of a couple, of working as a partner, not a solo act. However, it’s worth spending some time rediscovering yourself as a single person.
Don’t prioritize finding a date or a relationship right away. That doesn’t mean that you can’t be open to the possibilities, but spend some time prioritizing yourself instead. Try going out to restaurants or movies alone once-in-awhile – it can be liberating to order and watch whatever you want without having to worry about anyone else’s preferences. You may decide that you enjoy being single more than you thought you would. And even if you don’t, you’ll get to know yourself and your preferences better in the meantime, and that will help you find a partner who’s more suited to you in the future.
There probably won’t be one single day when you wake up and realize that you’ve moved on completely from your previous marriage. Moving on is gradual, and the timeline is different for everyone. If you had children with your ex, you’ll be tied to them for life in some ways. Even when your children are adults, you’ll see your ex at graduations, weddings, baby showers, christenings, and other major life events. Hopefully, by that time, years of co-parenting will have helped you and your ex find some kind of comfortable understanding between you, but you may occasionally feel twinges of sadness or nostalgia about your previous relationship. Alternatively, you may feel completely over your ex and ready to move on very quickly. Neither is wrong – everybody processes divorce differently. The key is to stop focusing on your ex once the divorce is over, and instead focus on taking care of yourself and your children and discovering the new direction that your life is going to take.