Although my legal career has put me in the trenches of many legal battles, custody disputes, property fights, domestic violence, and more, I have always been curious about the aftermath for my clients. I am there throughout the legal process of a divorce, but I also often hear feedback from clients months and sometimes years after the big D (“D” = divorce). The feedback is surprising.
“I should have done this years ago” says one former client. “I waited until the kids were 18; looking back, that might have been a mistake,” says another. One gentleman compared his divorce to how he felt when he left his parents’ home as an 18 year old – freedom. One strong survivor couldn’t believe she was in an abusive relationship for so long, after swearing it would never happen to her, since she had an abusive parent.
First, answer this “Who are you?” Many people redefine who they are after a separation. They were in the role of a father or husband, mother or wife, and perhaps were good or great at both. You were a loyal and giving spouse, always patient. Perhaps you were even considered to be an excellent wife (or husband), for example. But, who were you? Were you yourself? As you go through your divorce, it is hard to believe there will be a life after. Change is hard to adjust to, but many of you will redefine and rediscover the real you. When you have been through a divorce, whether friendly or not, you will find that life is offering you a time to figure out a new and refreshing direction.
Go for it! Embark on those adventures you have always thought about. I have given these three initial ideas to most of my clients after their case is resolved. This is a “starter package,” so to speak:
- Stay True to Yourself: You must focus on who you are. Do you really know yourself? What are your top 5 core values in life, and are you REALLY LIVING them? What is preventing you from carrying out those values? How does your current life align with your ideal life? Visualize (or draw on a piece of paper) your current life vs your ideal life and see the differences; what new information becomes available to you when you compare the ideal versus the real? You should honor the part of you who wants to come out. Married couples are focused on the “we,” but now it is time to focus on the “me.” You might write a few sentences (3-4 suggested) starting with: “Ideally, I want to _______ … .” Brainstorm and be creative. There are no wrong answers. Focus on building your new outlook on life.
- Consider a Professional Coach/ Therapist: It certainly took courage and strength to get through your divorce, but it might take more courage and strength to embrace your next steps. Talk to a certified coach or therapist; this can be the additional support that you need to uncover the amazing power that has been inside of you this entire time and to discover the new you! It is important to honor all the emotions that come with change. Being able to slow things down and harness emotions in a responsible way or experiment safely with uncomfortable emotions can unlock parts of you that have been hiding for years. Conflict is a sign that change wants to happen, and a final resolution of your relationship ending was significant. There is no shame in getting help with walking down your new path. Talking to an objective, skilled coach can focus you on the future, positively, and address any left-over negatives stemming from the divorce process.
- List your Top 5 Things You Have Put on the Back Burner: Vacations, hobbies, and everyday activities were decided together, with your spouse, when you were married. That’s okay, but now, these are your decisions. What do you want in your living environment that you could not have before? Where do you want to go that you put aside? What activities would bring you happiness or thrills or peace or wellness? Close your eyes and try to put yourself at the age of 95, looking back: what advice would you give yourself right now? Here are some things we’ve heard: (a) take that trip you always wanted, (b) ask the man (or woman) of your dreams out on a date, (c) join that golf club you drive past every day, (d) join that dance group your friend raves about, (e) move across the country to be with your kids and grandkids, (f) jump out of an airplane (with a parachute, of course!). This sounds like a bucket list, right? Appreciate everything life has to offer and do yourself a favor, write at least your top 5 things now.
At VSSF, our lawyers help you get to Life After Divorce. Our lawyers work with coaches and therapists, some of whom may be a good fit for you; they can bring out and help you fulfill these ambitions.