Nobody plans to be divorced. However, for a ridiculously high proportion of the population, it is what happens. Whether you left, or were left, there is a huge adjustment to be made. It is still a common expectation; most people will either marry of forge a lifelong relationship with someone. When it doesn’t work, there is a huge feeling of failure and loss, even if your feelings towards your former partner have soured.
It’s almost like a new generation of war injuries, worn on the inside – there are countless adults walking around, looking to outsiders like perfectly normal people, yet inside, there are parts bruised, bleeding or missing.
It gets easier – you learn to live alone, you learn to go out and meet new people, you learn to parent in a different way, but divorce is still tough. Many people I know have leapt headlong into new relationships, too conditioned or lonely to go through the grieving process. This only delays the inevitable or ends up hurting someone new, when they aren’t ‘whole’ enough to commit to someone new.
I chose to spend time alone. One’s own company is challenging in tough times, but in the end, it’s good. Here are a few reasons I have found through my own experience why taking the time to be alone helps you heal:
You rediscover your own identity
It’s easy to get lost in a relationship – you are somebody’s something – wife, husband, mother, father. The time you get to just be ‘you’ diminishes, until it’s almost nonexistent – snatched in scarce hours at the gym, or catching up with old friends, when you find yourself wondering why you’ve let so much of your own life and priorities go.
It is only when you have space and time to breathe that you will begin to remember (or discover) who you truly are. Who are you when you remove duties and titles?
You’ve got to grieve
It’s sad, finishing a relationship, even if you wanted to. There are inevitably things you miss, or feelings of failure. You have to be brave and feel the tough stuff. It’s not necessarily a bad thing. It helps shape your priorities. It gives you focus. It makes you humble and empathetic. The time it takes is the time it takes – you can’t schedule grief in a calendar. If you invested yourself in a relationship, it’s going to take time to feel better. And feel better you will – but commit to coming out of a hard time a more whole human being than you went in. Nobody else can or will heal you.
It makes you confident
I often look at my married friends now and see how much they cling – to a person, a role, support. It is amazing how confident you can feel, knowing that you are in charge of your own life. Not having someone to rely on makes you resourceful, creative and brave. That’s worth celebrating.
You can re-examine your life goals and ideal partner
I now have a clearer idea of the traits and goals that are important to me – and conversely, they things I will now avoid. I’m grateful for the time I have spent alone. It allowed me to be the kind of parent my children needed (their lives turned upside down too).
There is no way to be perfectly prepared for a future relationship, or ensure the success of any subsequent one, but at least now I know that I am not sad and angry anymore. I know where I still need to work, and what I need.
Divorce is not fun, but it surely isn’t all bad. There’s lots of interesting discovery, fun times, new people, new lessons and hope.