Create well-being during and after divorce

When people decide to marry, it’s arguably with the intention of sharing a lifetime. And the ideal of lifelong partnership has historically been a social expectation. Although in recent years the upward trend of “grey divorce” (over age 50) has slowed, the highest percentage of marital splits in Canada and the US still happens at midlife. What’s happening?

Changing perspectives

Only in the last century has our lifespan increased by about 20 years and given us “middle years” between youth and old age. For many, these years are a time of reflection. We start to consider our mortality and realize we have less time ahead of us than behind. Not only have we learned a lot, but we still have the time, energy, health—and often freedom—to make changes.

Updating your status

Although the stigma of divorce has lost its sting, it can be a difficult conversation in some religious groups, or with parents and children. Experts agree that any children—no matter their ages—should hear the news before you make it public. Be honest with your offspring, but also have boundaries firmly in place about what they need to know.

And while you think that your adult children will accept the news easily, be prepared to parent them through it, especially if they aren’t expecting it. Adult children may have a difficult time with the news and question the reality of their entire childhood. Be available to have some difficult conversations.

Get support

Consider working with a counselor, minister, therapist, or relationship life coach who can help you understand your role in the demise of your marriage. You are intimately aware of your previous partner’s role, and unless you acknowledge your own contributions, you will likely make the same mistakes in future relationships.

Take time for yourself

Particularly if the divorce was a long time coming, you might be tempted to rush into the dating pool, but experts suggest taking a pause before testing the waters. Whether you wanted the divorce or not, it’s a troubling experience. Give yourself time to heal. Get to know yourself as an individual after long-term coupledom.

Healthy dating

It can be tempting to let loneliness drive your desire to date. Instead, find ways to fill your social calendar through friendships, volunteering, hobbies, and support groups. Who knows? You might meet your next partner while you’re out doing something you enjoy!

If you still have children living in your home, dating can be a tricky thing. Research on divorced mothers has shown that younger children become stressed when mom’s dating relationships end, so consider minimizing their exposure to a love interest until you are confident that the relationship has legs.

Have fun

Dating isn’t supposed to be a chore. It’s really about learning whether new people complement your life. Best of all? That decision is all yours.

By Lisa Petty, PhD