Most people think about getting married and building a family from the time they are children. Not many consider what their lives will look like if divorce breaks up that ideal picture in their minds. Divorce is a reality of contemporary life though. It happens—and at a high rate. If it has happened to you, or you are in the process of divorce right now, know these things:
You aren’t alone. You have probably heard the stat that half of all marriages end in divorce. Those numbers actually go up when it comes to subsequent marriages. The divorce rate for second marriages is closer to 65 percent, and is over 70 percent for third marriages. In an age where “til death do us part” can mean six or seven years, divorce is becoming more accepted and understood as a normal part of living a long life. Despite these numbers, there is still a feeling of shame that accompanies the process of divorce and it can bring feelings of failure. It is okay to grieve for your marriage, particularly if you did not want it to end. But never feel guilty or like you are the only person who has ever been divorced. If you lack friends or family members who understand, then seek out a local support group to connect with others who are in your shoes, or have been in the past.
You can still be a great dad. So maybe you weren’t a great husband, or even a good one. Just because your adult relationship did not work out does not mean that you cannot be the father that your kids need in their lives. According to Development and Psychopathology, children with involved fathers are 70 percent less likely to drop out of school. The publication also found that 90 percent of kids who come from high-crime areas but have an involved father avoid becoming delinquents. Just because you are not physically near your kids every day does not mean you cannot have a large impact on their futures and decision-making skills. Use technology to communicate with them daily—if it is within the scope of your divorce agreement—and create a relationship that shows your kids they can come to you anytime.
Adversity builds character. In the days immediately following your divorce, you may feel like nothing in your life could be worse. Maybe you no longer live in your family home, and perhaps you do not see your children every day. Remember that when you are comfortable with life, you are often not growing. It is not the easy, happy moments in life that truly build character, but it is the difficult moments that bring mental fortitude and strengthen our individual nature. In the midst of your pain, decide to use it for your benefit. Face each day following your divorce with a renewed sense of purpose and positivity. If you are a father, this example will show your children how to handle their own struggles in life with determination to overcome them and move on to better days.
Marriage and divorce do not define you. It may feel like everything around you is in upheaval when you go through divorce or are recovering from one. While a lot may have changed or be changing, some things are still the same. When you start to feel overwhelmed at the state of your life, take a few minutes to revisit the parts of it that are still the same as always. Call your parents or siblings and seek emotional support from those who love you unconditionally. Focus on your job or career and consider all of your professional strengths. If you are a singer, or an artist, or a fitness buff in your spare time, recommit to those activities and remind yourself of your natural talents. You are still you. It helps to consider that fact and find the stable, inherent parts of your life that your relationship status will never change.
You are a catch. Divorce can take its toll on self-esteem and it also reopens the door to the dating scene, with different rules from when you were last there. It may take you a while to “get back out there” and that is understandable. Remember though that relationships are a vital part of life. Do not try to find your next spouse when you go on a blind date or connect with others through online dating sites. Just try to find someone that you will enjoy spending time with and take it from there. Maybe one person has decided you are not the right partner for her life but there are millions more who may feel differently.
The best is yet to come. No matter how long you were married, you still have a lot of life in front of you. Think about the parts of your individuality that took a backseat while you were married and then revisit them. How have you been holding back? Maybe a long-awaited trip is in the works. Or a job promotion you have avoided applying to because of your marriage responsibilities. With no one telling you what you can and cannot do, you have a new freedom that was missing in the marriage. Take advantage of that opportunity. Instead of looking back, focus your thoughts on the horizon and take a step in a new direction.
Divorce is devastating but not a death-sentence. When you are in the middle of its throes, you may not be able to see the positives. Make the decision to face it with a positive attitude and renewed sense of purpose in life though. When you look back on your life in one, five, or twenty years you will be able to see the purpose your divorce served. In the meantime, have confidence that things are going to get better. You hold the key to your own happiness and there is a lot in your life for which to be thankful.