People have a stereotypical image of what divorce is like - drama in the courtroom, two ex-partners turned bitter adversaries and in the middle of it all, the kids as collateral damage.
In reality, there may not be as much drama. However, it’s also much more complex than what most people have in mind. The aftermath of a divorce does not necessarily have to be all heartache. There can truly be golden nuggets of wisdom you can take with you after all the dust of divorce has settled down.
What really goes on when a marriage ends? You may be surprised by the impact of divorce no one tells you. This is what many relationship experts, counsellors, and divorce lawyers say.
1. Divorce Feels Like A Death
In a figurative sense, divorce is really a death - the end of a relationship that at some point may have been vibrant and alive. It marks the loss of your ex, and even your ex’s family, the relationship and all the dreams you had for that relationship.
And because it is such, you need to allow yourself time to grieve. Denying yourself this crucial step will make the process of moving on more difficult.
2. Moving On is a Choice and a Process
Understanding the above is a step towards moving on. And this in itself is a choice. Some people may choose to wallow in bitterness and unforgiveness. However, for your own eventual happiness and for the sake of your children, moving forward is the healthier choice.
You have to understand, though, that this does not happen overnight. Here, we go into another analogy - moving on from a divorce is a marathon. You’re in it for a long-term. And like in a marathon, you may hit a wall. But you need to take it one step at a time, albeit painfully at times, until you reach your second wind.
Along the way you may have to grapple with feelings of anger both towards your ex or yourself, guilt, self-doubt and self-blame. As excruciating as the process may be, things do get better. If you give yourself time, these negative feelings eventually do give way to a healthier understanding of yourself and what transpired that led to the divorce.
It’s important to find help for your journey. You may need to seek professional help if things get overwhelming. It’s also important to surround yourself with people who can give you positive energy so you can stay focused on your healing.
3. You Have Your Own Timeline for Recovery
Some people feel that there is a definite timeline you have to follow in terms of recovery from a divorce. Just as the period of mourning cannot be dictated, you have to follow your own timeline for recovery. And it’s perfectly okay to take as long as you need.
Because everyone is unique, some may be able to bounce back, even get back into dating immediately after. But if that is not your scene, there’s no sense in giving yourself unnecessary pressure.
Speaking of dating, experts agree that jumping back into the scene soon after a divorce may not be a good idea. If you’re dating to get into a new relationship even before the ink on the divorce papers have yet to dry, so to speak, it may lead to more heartaches later.
Without understanding the issues that led to the dissolution of your marriage, you may be bringing in the same problems into your next relationship. While it is exciting to feel loved and appreciated again, it’s also important to enjoy the freedom of being single again before plunging into another relationship.
4. You May Repeat the Same Patterns with a New Partner
This is closely related to the topic above. Divorce may have finished your relationship with your ex-spouse but you are still you.
While divorce does bring change in your life, you may not necessarily be a different person after. And you can find yourself surprised in encountering the same relationship problems with your new partner.
This becomes doubly so if you date prematurely. Hopefully, giving yourself time in between your divorce and a new relationship can take you to a higher level of maturity that helps you see the problems and deal with them differently this time around.
5. There’s No Shame in Divorce
In this day and age, there’s still a stigma on people divorcing. Divorce is viewed as a failure and people who go through with it are seen as too lazy to make things work or immoral.
Because of this antiquated view, it results in more rancor than necessary come time to divorce. It becomes tempting to point fingers and shift blames in order to be viewed as a victim rather than the perpetuator.
However, if you take the shame out of the equation, it is better for both parties. In fact, it can be a positive move out of a situation where things are not working out anymore. It can even be viewed as a final act of love between exe’s - giving each other the “out” to have a chance at a better relationship.
And it can be a relief, as well. Some people hesitate to go through a divorce for fear of its devastating effects. As difficult as the divorce process may be, rebuilding your life after may make you realize that getting out of a difficult marriage can set you free from pain and grudges.
6. Your Friends and Family React in Different Ways
One impact of divorce no one tells you and may surprise you is how your friends and family react to it.
Do not be shocked if you lose some friends in the process. Though it may seem narrow-minded, some people who are happily married may view divorce as “contagious” and may avoid you for this reason alone.
Or if you’re a divorced woman, your friends may steer clear of you because you’re seen as a threat who’s out to go after their husbands or partners. With friends like these, who needs enemies?
Or you may lose friends you share mutually with your ex. It may be due to them taking sides or it may be just because of the change in dynamics. For instance, if you used to double date with a couple, it’s understandable to have a falling out just because you’re no longer part of a couple.
If you think your family will be supportive, think again. Some may blame you, thinking that you should have “worked harder” to make the relationship work. Be prepared to be called the “black sheep”.
On the flipside, you may also find yourself rekindling relationships with friends you have not seen in recent years. Some may have stayed away because they didn’t really like your ex. Or perhaps it’s because you have more time for yourself that you are able to renew old friendships once all the drama of your divorce has settled.
7. Joint Custody Has Its Perks and Drawbacks
If you share custody with your spouse, it has its positive and negative aspects:
You Will Have More Time for Yourself
Some people find that they have more time to themselves once divorced. They find it surprising that being married was time consuming. Even if you have kids, you may find yourself with more time on your own as your kids split their days and weekends between you and your ex.
This extra time can be put to good use for self-care. This is not just being self-indulgent. It’s a wonderful opportunity to grow as a person.
When you were married, your actions and decisions were done in partnership with your husband. However, divorce allows you to explore possibilities on your own. This journey of self-growth can make you be a better role model for your children.
The downside of having time for yourself? You will find that after all the drama of the divorce settles down, it can become boring and routine, as well.
You and Your Ex-Spouse Become Better Parents
No doubt, divorce is devastating for your children. However, it can also bring out the better parent in you and your ex. Because of the shared custody arrangement, both parents exert more effort in making their time with their kids matter. Quality time strengthens bonds between them and both parents.
You Will Miss Your Kids
This is the biggest drawback of a joint custody arrangement. When you’ve been used to having your kids around all the time, it's natural to feel their absence acutely when they spend time with their other parent. If there’s one thing that may make you second guess your decision to divorce, this maybe it.
However, as in all things, you do get used to the new arrangement. And, as mentioned above, it’s a great time to rediscover and improve yourself so you become an even better parent to your child.
Co-Parenting Can Be Exhausting
Co-parenting can be challenging, both emotionally and physically. When you were married, the duties of parenting were divided more easily. However, post divorce, you are responsible for all the duties on your own when your kids are with you. (The same works for your ex-spouse).
For instance, if before your husband may be responsible for taking the kids to school while you pick them up after, you have to take up both drop-off and pick-up duties, post divorce.
Another consideration you may not have thought of before - your kids will need two sets of essentials when you’re co-parenting, one for your home and one for when they spend time with their other parent.
This may mean things as basic as separate toothbrushes, beds, and sheets as well as other things they may need like sports equipment, toys, or lunch boxes. You will realize that moving their stuff constantly between houses is impractical as this may result in things being lost or misplaced or broken. You would not want to deal with a kid missing practice because they forgot to bring along their hockey stick or soccer cleats from the other house.
8. Your Relationship with Your Ex Can Become Better
Especially if the split was particularly bitter, you may find it impossible to foresee being friends with your ex down the line. However, many people do find their relationship with their former spouse being better after the divorce than while they were married.
Perhaps for some ex couples, friendship works better than a romantic relationship.
However, do not expect this to happen immediately. Expecting to be friends with your ex soon after a divorce may mean more heartbreak. It is good to let go of the rancor. But it’s important to give yourself time to come to terms with why the relationship ended.
When feelings of rejection and hurt are no longer there, it may be possible to work towards having a civil, or even warm relationship with your ex spouse.
9. You May Find Yourself Compromising Less
During marriage, you may have had to compromise to maintain harmony, and during the divorce process, you may have had to agree to certain compromises to enjoy certain freedoms or benefits.
After divorce, it’s all you and your choices. You have no one to debate or negotiate with, except yourself. Although it may be a bit scary, you will also find yourself in an exciting situation as you make major decisions about your finances, whether it’s for purchases or investments.
10. Your Physical and Mental Health May Be Affected
Middle aged men and women are at high risk of developing cardiovascular disease after going through divorce with women more likely to develop health problems than men. This is according to a 2010 study published in the Journal of Marriage and Family.
Therefore, it becomes more crucial to practice self-care so you can stay healthy for yourself and your children.
Not only can your physical well being be affected, your mental health can be affected as well. While it may be initially due to grief over a failed marriage, your anxiety levels may increase because suddenly you are alone and the future you’re facing is not what you had planned before.
Facing something unknown can be stressful and you may find yourself suddenly having to move, start a new job or survive on less money than you were used to.
11. You May Never Meet Your Ex During Divorce Proceedings
It’s not like in the movies. There’s actually very little chance of dramatic courtroom encounters as decisions are made without ever seeing your ex.
You may not even physically be meeting with your attorney even as you discuss the terms of settlement. These days, ZOOM meetings or FaceTime calls are the way things are accomplished. Or if you have opted for a mediation, the mediator will be the only one both you and your spouse will meet as negotiations proceed to a settlement.
12. A Financial Advisor is Just As Important As An Attorney
Divorce is an emotional journey, it is true. But it is a business transaction, above all. It involves a lot of paperwork and finances in the process.
Because divorce is a business transaction, hiring a divorce financial planner who will work with your divorce attorney is crucial in securing your financial future. Without the guidance of a divorce financial planner, divorce can leave you financially devastated. Let’s face it, divorce proceedings are all about money.
A financial planner can help you make informed decisions during divorce that will impact your family’s long-term financial future.
Another impact of divorce no one tells you? There is no such thing as a clean break. Untangling yourself from your spouse is a long and involved process.
A divorce financial planner can guide you through documents to help you make that break to put everything you have into your name including tax documents, car registrations, credit cards and bank accounts.
Take Control of Your Future
When you consider divorce, or if you know someone who is contemplating divorce, one of the biggest realities for those in the divorce process is the financial settlement and financial analysis post-divorce. Get the assistance of Kimberly Surber, a Certified Divorce Financial Analyst®.
Kimberly provides step-by-step guidance on matters related to divorce. With a wide range of experience and expertise related to divorce issues, Kimberly will simplify the process and provide much-needed clarity in areas such as long-term tax consequences, asset, and debt analysis, dividing pension plans, continued health care coverage, stock option elections, protecting support with life insurance, and much more.