If you are going through divorce, you’ve likely heard the disheartening statistics: divorce is bad for your wallet, bad for your mental and physical health, and can negatively impact work performance. In spite of the much-discussed negatives, however, there can be a number of positives. Several studies have revealed that men are slightly happier and women are significantly happier following divorce. One study found that women reported feeling the happiest that they’ve ever been in the five years following divorce. I’ve found both personally and in my work with my divorce coaching clients that divorce can be a terrific catalyst for success. Here are nine powerful ways to ensure you maximize the upside of your divorce.
- Acknowledge how you are really feeling. Often my clients feel guilty about feeling happy after divorce, but if you’ve been in a difficult marriage for years, it’s normal to feel a sense of relief when you finally exit the relationship. Whatever you are feeling – anger, sadness, happiness, relief, guilt – is a normal part of emotionally processing your divorce. Feeling your feelings will help you to become a more resilient and empathetic person. As long as you are not getting stuck in a particular emotion for too long and it’s not interfering with your day-to-day life, this process is very healthy. If you find you are stuck, however, please seek out a good therapist who can help you process difficult emotions and start to move your life forward.
- Reframe your thinking. People often think that divorce is happening to them and fall into a place of victimhood. Even if your divorce was unwanted, try thinking of divorce as something happening for you instead. When you see setbacks in your life as lessons, you can learn from the experience and grow. Divorce often makes you braver and more independent as you learn to face tough decisions on your own. You learn to face your money issues as you dig into your finances. You learn what you really want as you articulate your goals to your attorney. Divorce often brings you closer to your children – whether minors or adults – as you are more focused during your time together. There are many positives that can come from divorce. If you see it as a training ground rather than as a punishment, you will be stronger on the other side.
- Use any settlement money to support your goals. If you are selling a house or are receiving a financial settlement from your divorce, you may find yourself with post-divorce money. While your ego may be urging you to buy a sports car, throw a huge divorce party, or hire a cosmetic surgeon to give you a revenge body, it’s better to think of that money as a way to safeguard and enhance your future. Consider using the money to start a business, or go back to school, or hire help at home so you can continue to perform well at your job. An investment in therapy or personal growth programs is also money well spent. You want to see the benefits of this money well into the future, so be strategic in how you spend it.
- Do some soul searching. Divorce is one of those events that makes you question who you are, as it impacts every area of your life. Instead of trying to get to a place of emotional stability as soon as possible, take some time to figure out who you are. Divorce is a great opportunity to focus on what you want for your life going forward. You may be surprised to discover how much you’d like to change. Maybe you want to improve your health and take up a new sport or activity. If you’ve been feeling spiritually disconnected, divorce is a great time to figure out what you believe. Take some time to read books on healing and self-empowerment and use this time to figure out who you are. Once you are clear on who you are and what you want, everything else tends to fall into place.
- Explore relationship patterns. We often fall into patterns when it comes to our relationships. Divorce shines a spotlight on this part of our life and may be giving us a message that we need to shift how we approach relationships. If you were in a co-dependent relationship, do some reading or therapy in that area. If you were in a controlling or abusive relationship, work on your healing with a therapist. If you felt poor communications were an issue in your marriage, you might want to study effective communication strategies. This is not about victim blaming, but rather about claiming agency and power over your future. We are able to change our patterns and reprogram our neural pathways, so we don’t repeat the mistakes of our past. Not only will this help in any potential romantic relationships down the road, but it will help with friendships and business relationships too.
- Leverage the divorce lessons. Divorce presents a steep learning curve as you learn how the legal system works, delve into your financial details, and learn to negotiate well. Take those lessons and use them in other parts of your life. Use your detailed understanding of personal finance to better understand the numbers at work or in your business. Try out negotiation styles used in family law when negotiating at work or when making a major purchase. Use the patience exercised when dealing with the court system to improve your relationships with your kids or your colleagues. Everyone is eager to put their divorces behind them, but make sure you extract the transferable lessons first.
- Reframe your relationship with money. No matter how wealthy you are, divorce is going to sting financially since your assets will usually decrease more than your cost of living. If you see wealth only as a number on a bank statement, you may sink into bitterness. If you see wealth in terms of the things that money provides – opportunity, comfort, power, and freedom – you may find you feel quite affluent after your divorce in spite of a lower net worth. When you feel optimistic and believe that life is abundant, your brain tends to find more opportunities, which can lead to material success. Emotional wealth often leads to financial wealth and your post-divorce mindset is critical.
- Enjoy a time of little compromise. No matter how lovely a spouse is, marriage involves compromise. Divorce gives you a rare opportunity to chase your dreams without having to bring another party onside. Launch the business, take that sabbatical, buy the cabin in the woods, sign up for that self-empowerment course, or go on a spiritual retreat. As long as you are able to care for yourself and your children, you have a lot of freedom in how you spend those post-divorce years.
- Find your people. Friendships often shift during divorce as couple friends disappear, and you spend more time with the people who understand your loss. Lots of people find that they grow closer to their friends who are also single. After divorce, people often seek out new friendships and find people who share common interests. I encourage clients to spend their first year figuring out exactly who they are by expanding their circle of friendships. If you are interested in cryptocurrency or art, find a likeminded group on Clubhouse. If you are into entrepreneurial success, join a local mastermind group. Join a fly fishing club if that’s your thing. After years of being with a spouse who likely didn’t understand you, it’s amazing to find a group of people who think more like you.
Divorce is never easy, but if you use the process to process your emotions, explore who you are, try things you’ve always wanted to do, and find a group of likeminded people, you are much more likely to thrive. Yes, your life will look different, but different does not have to mean worse. If you leverage the lessons and use the process to make you better, you can be happier, healthier, and even wealthier after your divorce.