Most of us will remember with a little embarrassment, shock and possibly horror, our teenage self after a breakup. It was the absolute worst thing in the whole wide world at the time, and how could your life ever possibly go on. It all seems incredibly self-indulgent with the power of hindsight. Especially if you have since experienced a separation or divorce with real complications and implications like living and holiday arrangements for children, dividing assets, and generally untangling your lives from one another.
As teenagers we could pick ourselves up, dust off and get back out there in a relatively short time. While every divorce is different, it’s unlikely that you will bounce back as quickly after the breakdown of a significant relationship that ends in separation or divorce.
Here are a few things you can keep in mind as you do dust yourself off and get ready to get back out there.
- Grieve the relationship
Whether you were the one to “decide” to separate or not, we all need to grieve a relationship that has ended. The five stages of grief are likely to be present: denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. Work through them at your own pace with the help of friends, family and other sources of information like books, podcasts and articles. If you aren’t able to move through your grief towards your new life it might be a good idea to seek professional therapeutic support.
- March to the beat of your own drum, and timeline
Some movie somewhere suggested that it takes twice as long as the relationship to “get over it”. That may, or may not, be true for you. It also doesn’t matter how long the relationship was, it’s about your own process for moving forward. Just because your friends think it is time to “get back on the horse” that doesn’t mean you are actually ready. Take your time and be honest with people if you don’t think you are ready. It is also really important to show yourself some love – spend quality time with yourself and find out what you want.
- Things ain’t what they used to be
It has likely been a while since you were on the dating scene. In fact, it seems like the dating scene changes daily right now and it is hard to know what app/website/bar/restaurant is the place to be today! Take your time, do your research and ask trusted friends about their experiences. Just because everyone else is doing it that doesn’t mean it is the right choice for you. If it feels too uncomfortable maybe reconsider firstly if the timing is right, and secondly if it is the right approach for you.
- Honest dating
If you have been in a long-term relationship, or even a shorter marriage, it is unlikely that you will be as bright-eyed and bushy-tailed about dating as you once were. It is far more likely that you will be looking to cut-through some of the BS and be really honest about who you are and what you are looking for in a relationship right now and into the future. Chances are that your potential mate will be in the same position (some 40% of marriages end in divorce remember) and will appreciate your honesty, repaying the favour as well. If not, appreciate that you are having dinner out of the house with a real life adult and you don’t have to wash up.
- Right-now or long-game
You may or may not be looking for something serious and that is absolutely fine as long as you are honest with yourself and the other person. If you aren’t ready for a long-term relationship just yet, say so. The other thing to remember is that the people who know and love you the most will offer opinions with the best intentions to look after you and your wellbeing. Do pay heed if they are worried you are getting out there too hard or too fast. But remember that the way you feel is the most important of all and be honest with yourself about that.
The period following a separation or divorce can be both the most harrowing and rewarding of times. Take it for what it is for you, and one step at a time. Remember that at the end of the day you, your children and family and friends are the most important people in the whole wide world. Love them for who they are and embrace what they give you now and into the future. You will get back out there when you are good and ready.