Preparing for Divorce Part 7: Make a Plan for the Rest of Your Life
In our series on preparing for divorce, we have talked a lot about finances and dedicated several posts to this subject. This is because your financial life is extremely important, especially when you are going through a divorce. With two households to support on the same overall income, most people see a significant drop in their net income once the process is finalized, and you will need to form some new habits to adjust successfully to your new financial circumstances.
All that said, life is about much more than the amount of money you make. Yes, money is important, but there are several other areas that are equally important. In the final installment of our series on preparing for divorce, we are going to talk about making a plan for the rest of your life and being successful in areas that go beyond just economics.
Keep in mind that one day, the differences and disputes (between you and your spouse) that led to your divorce will be just memories from the past. The heated and emotionally charged conflicts of the moment will die down, and this chapter in your life will be in the rearview mirror. But you can get to this point much sooner if you take care of yourself physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually after the divorce is finalized.
Stay Healthy and Fit
It is hard to overstate the importance of good physical health and fitness. When you are physically healthy, you develop more mental stamina and more strength for every other area of your life. During the divorce process itself, no one would blame you for developing some poor habits. After all, in stressful situations, that box of chocolates or bowl of ice cream looks extra tasty. Once the process is over, however (and even before that, if possible), one of the best things you can do to lift your spirits and reduce your stress is to establish a healthy routine.
Being single again creates a lot of uncertainty about future, but one of the advantages of this situation is the opportunity to “start over”. So, even if you did not have a particularly healthy lifestyle before the divorce, this does not mean you still have to be “married” to this lifestyle. Take steps right away, even while you are in your period of separation and before the divorce is finalized, to live a healthier lifestyle. Find an exercise you enjoy, such as walking, running, swimming, or something else, and establish a weekly exercise routine you know you will stick to. You will also want to take steps to clean up your diet. This, again, will look differently for each individual, and you may want to consult with a nutritionist for further guidance in this area.
Set New Career Goals
One of the best ways to address the tighter finances we have talked about repeatedly is to look at ways you can enhance your career and earn more income. We understand that this may not be possible for all divorcees as you may have children to take care of and other family obligations (such as caring for an aging parent) that prevent you from working. But if you are currently working or planning to re-enter the workforce, make your career plans a high priority. This may involve career counseling, retraining, or even going back to school. You should act on this as soon as possible, even before you begin the divorce process. This way, your lawyer can help ensure there are financial provisions made during the settlement for you to pursue your career goals.
Lean on Your Support System
Divorce can be a lonely time, and it is easy to start thinking that no one else understands what you are going through. But you are not the first one to go through a divorce and deal with the uncertainty of what comes next, and you do not have to face it alone. Look into joining a divorce and separation support group, like DivorceCare, or consider forming your own. Even after the divorce is over, continue to lean on close friends and family when you need to talk about something, or you just need a shoulder to cry on. During difficult times like these, it doesn’t take long to find out who your real friends are and who you can truly count on. Make sure to go to those who truly care about your situation and respect your confidence, rather than those who are always eager to spread the latest gossip.
Stay Strong for Your Children
If you have kids, then you have no doubt already heard that divorce can have a traumatic effect on children. For them, their entire world has been shattered, and they may not understand why. Oftentimes, they will even blame themselves for what happened. While divorce can have a negative impact on children, they can still get through this time and emerge from it even stronger than before, if they see that strength modeled in those who are raising them. Do everything you can to protect and reassure your children during this period of volatility. Let them know repeatedly that they are loved and that this is not their fault. Also avoid blaming the other parent and speaking badly about them in front of your kids. The last thing children of divorced parents want to do is take sides when their parents are fighting.
Make Peace with Your New Life
Finally, let go of regrets, bitterness, and other negative feelings from the past, and accept your new life. It’s true that divorce was never part of your life plan; it may go against everything you believe in. You may even feel like a failure for dissolving your marriage. This might take a little time for some, but you need to come to the realization that getting a divorce does not reflect who you are as a person and it doesn’t have to be a negative defining event of your life. All it means is that your marriage didn’t work out. Learn from it, and use those lessons to enhance this next chapter of your life.
Divorce happens. It has happened for thousands of years, and it will continue to happen until the end of time. Make peace with the fact that you got divorced, put this chapter of your life behind you, and focus on using tools that enable you to be the best “you” moving forward.