Life After The End Of A Marriage: Creating A New Vision
You thought you had taken your wedding vows for life. You thought that “for better or for worse” you and your spouse had made a life-long commitment to each other. Yet now, for whatever reason, you find yourself holding onto a lot of broken promises and in the unfamiliar position of being single. Had you known you would become a single person at this stage in your life you might have made different choices. Yet, you had no way of knowing. In a flash, your life, as you had imagined it, unexpectedly changed. To help you say goodbye to your marriage and create a new vision of what life after marriage might be, we have created a self-help exercise that will take approximately ½ hour to complete.
Saying Goodbye to Your Marriage
To help you adjust to your unanticipated change in lifestyle, take a moment and say goodbye to your imagined future married self. What dreams, promises and hopes do you need to say goodbye to? What are you letting go of? What pieces of your life will be gone? What are the fights with your X- spouse are you are leaving in the rear-view mirror? What habits of your X- spouse will you no longer be dealing with? Which friends have picked your X-spouse over you? What are all the good and bad routines that you will be saying goodbye to? With this marriage ending, what piece(s) of you are you saying goodbye to? What hurts the most?
Saying goodbye to your hopes and dreams is hard work. Expect that your grief will come in waves. You will have good moments and bad ones. The loss is real and the recovery takes time. How well and fully your wounds will heal has yet to be determined.
Assessing What Is
You might have asked for the divorce, or you might still be reeling from this unwanted, unexpected, unanticipated premature ending. Either way, the marriage is over, and you do need to carry on. Before making any decisions take some time and write down all of your current responsibilities & commitments. This will help you assess the reality of your current situation.
Write down all of your current responsibilities / commitments:
- I have sole custody
- I have joint custody and need to take my X-Spouse’s needs into consideration
- I need to stay in my current home and have my children continue attending their same school so that the divorce is as seamless as possible
- I want to be home every day after school to help my children with their homework
- I need to work so that I will have enough money to retire
- I need to work so that I can have money to raise my children
- My child /children have special needs and require X
- I talk with my parents on a regular basis
- My parents are elderly and I need to be close to them so that I can take care of them in their old age
- I made a promise that I would help financially support my parents
- I am dependent upon my parents for child-care
- I am dependent upon my parents for financial support
- I want my children to be close to my parents
- I speak with my sibling(s) on a regular basis
- I want to live near my sibling(s) so that I can see them on a regular basis
- If I ever got into trouble, I could rely on a sibling for emotional or financial support
- My siblings love my kids and regularly visit with them
- I frequently spend time with my nieces and nephews
- I need to earn X dollars a year to support my current lifestyle
- I could live on Y dollars a year so that I could do Z
- I need X to pay for health insurance
- I owe X dollars to my X-spouse
- I owe X dollars for child support
- I want to set my children up with a trust fund of X dollars
- I need health insurance because I had been covered under my now X-spouses insurance
- I have health insurance through my job
- I have a chronic condition that needs on-going management such as diabetes, cancer, herpes
- I am overweight / out of shape
- I live in chronic pain from a back injury, leg injury, migraines etc.
Work / Professional Development
- I need to go back to school and choose a profession
- I am ready for a work change
- I am in a satisfying job and the divorce has no impact on my work
- My work causes me to travel a lot (weekly, monthly, overseas etc)
- I work non-traditional hours
- I have a solid network of single and married friends
- I have one close friend whom I can count on
- My friends chose my X-spouse and I am friendless
- My friends, while close, don’t understand because none of them are divorced
Imagining Your Future Selves
(yes, I am asking you to imagine all the different ways that your choices could influence your future development)
Visualize the meaning of the saying, “with every door that closes a new window opens”.
After letting go of what was supposed to be (which for most people is a long and hard process) give yourself permission to imagine what your new life could look, this can be a most helpful exercise. Regardless of how or why you got here, this is your present circumstance. This is your life. The only question is, what do you want to do with your life? And who do you want to be?
To help yourself imagine what could be, you will need to stay grounded in the reality of what is.
Your job is to create 5 different directions that your life could go, while honoring the obligations, commitments and financial realities of your situation, based on changing ONE DETAIL.
- Imagine moving. Where might you move to? Into a smaller home? To the other side of town? Down the street from your X-spouse? To a new state? Overseas? How do you expect these different locations to influence your daily routines, patterns and even types of people that you might encounter on a daily basis?
- Imagine changing jobs/careers? What if you picked a lower stress job so that you could have more time at home with the children? What if you took the next step up in a job so that you could better place yourself in a financially stable position? What if you took that over-seas job that you have always been dreaming of? What if you gave yourself permission to have a complete career change for a year just to spice up your life and re-evaluate who you are, and where you want to go?
- Your life could dramatically change based on who you date. Each life partner will force you to make different “choices” as you build a joint life together. Assuming that you are single and haven’t been ready to date check out an online dating site and select several profiles of eligible cute dates and give yourself permission to imagine what your life could look like if you were to be married to this person. Let’s say that this person has 3 children and he is the primary care-giver. What might this mean for you? What if the other person you selected was a surgeon and he frequently worked the overnight shift, what would this mean for you and your life? What if the person was a teacher? What if this person had a lot of debt? Lived in a small home? Cared for his elderly parents? How might his or her life situation shape your future?
- If you opted to go back to school, what might you study? What do you imagine the pros and cons of all the educational programs out there to be? What kind of work excites you?
- Think of several different hobbies / activities / classes that you have always wanted to do, but for whatever reason, never had enough time. What would it mean if you were to suddenly take up one of these activities. How might your world change if you began salsa lessons, improve comedy, karate lessons, pottery lessons, cooking classes, carpentry lessons, or joined a book club. If you stuck with this class for the next five years, how might this change you as a person?
Going through a divorce successfully often means spending time understanding what happened and why. What did you do, and what did your X-spouse do to contribute to the marriage failing? What mistakes did you make? What did you do well? What gifts did your X-Spouse give you throughout the course of your marriage? Did your spouse help you professionally believe in yourself? Did your spouse give you the gift of parenthood? Did your spouse encourage you to separate emotionally from your parents? As a result of this marriage were you able to travel and see the world? Are you in a more financially stable place? How did your spouse make you become the person that you are today? What tools did your spouse give you over the course of your relationship that has left you wiser, stronger and smarter place? This self-help exercise can help you continue on your journey by learning from your past so that you will be better able to make good choices for your future self. Taking the time to imagine what options you do have can help you get excited about the future. The world is yours. Your only job is to learn from the past, apply it to the present and be kind to your future self.