Ideally, in any relationship, you would have two healthy independent people who could function and thrive perfectly on their own. And if they are put in a marriage, the idea is that these two independent individuals would work in a thriving unit and partnership, but still keep that type of independence.
Unfortunately, that doesn’t happen all the time. We make sacrifices in a marriage. We swallow our pride and give up on our own dreams, telling ourselves that our individual identities no longer matter, and that the marriage and the family unit is above all.
While the spirit of that idea is admirable, it certainly isn’t healthy.
So, when that marriage ends, many of us are left feeling like a shell of ourselves—the figment of an imagination of someone we thought we knew—like a ghost of a life past that we don’t know how to summon from the dead.
But if you want to move on, you need to find that person again. You need to establish your own identity again and find out what you love and what makes you tick and what makes you happy. In the past, that may have been your marriage, or it may have been a slew of other hopes and dreams that you put on the shelf because it didn’t align with your ex-spouse’s vision.
I’m here to show you how to take it back. Because you answer to no one but yourself and it is you who is responsible for making yourself happy again.
Finding yourself is not something that can be done overnight. In fact, losing who you thought you were and reeling from the trauma of splitting up didn’t happen overnight, either. But here are some of the following strategies you can start using to get there.
Finding your own voice again
There’s an Amy Tan quote that I remember hitting painfully close to home as I was trying to figure out how to get my confidence back during and after my divorce.
I did not lose myself all at once. I rubbed out my face over the years washing away my pain, the same way carvings on stone are worn down by water.
During marriage and divorce and recovery, we have a tendency to forget who we are and what we want. Remember, you have something to say! You have your own thoughts and feelings and you are the one who determines the outcome of your life. Many sources may tell you what you “should” do during and after your divorce, you must remember that at the end of the day, you have the power to determine the direction of your healing and recovery.
While that may seem overwhelming when you’re in the middle of arguing with lawyers, stressing about money, or wondering why you’re still heart-broken even if you’ve been divorced for years, remember to do the following:
Write down and answer the following
“What is it that I dream about?”
“What do I want for myself in the future?”
“What power do I have to make those things happen?”
Taking control of your own happiness and deciding what you want sets the foundation for understanding that you have our own voice and that you should use it.
Establishing your own independence
Depending on where you are in your life, becoming independent can feel like an unsurmountable task, but I promise, it’s not. Establishing your independence can mean many things—the key here is to map out what it means for you. I remember being absolutely petrified when my husband left—he made quite a bit more than me and I was scared to death that I would never make it on my own. The only way I could start feeling in control was to do the following:
1) Creating a budget where I could live within my means
2) If money was tight, cutting back on extra expenses for a while
3) Ensuring ways to bring in extra income since money would be tight (free-lancing, finding a room-mate, etc)
4) Taking care of logistical things (establishing accounts in my own name, finding a mechanic/plumber/technical person who could help me with things I was not comfortable doing myself)
These tasks won’t happen overnight, but that’s okay. The key is to hold yourself accountable and plan when you will take these steps. But since these small steps are so important in helping you become confident and able to take care of yourself, the sooner you can establish them, the better off you will be.
Finding what you love to do
Many times during our marriages, we have a tendency to put our own wants and passions on the back burner. But in order to move on with your life, you owe it to yourself to discover what it is that makes you smile, what gives you a reason to wake up in the morning, and what will motivate you during the time you feel lonely.
Everybody’s wants and drives are different, but you owe it to yourself to find what gives you joy. If you are stuck, ask yourself the following questions below in italics:
What is something you’ve been interested in that you have not had the opportunity to do?
For me, my divorce was the perfect opportunity to take a look at the following:
1) Studying a new foreign language
2) Signing up for French cooking classes
What is something you always felt guilty about doing during your marriage, but you think you could do now?
I have some examples below:
- Attending a woman’s only weapons class
- Going to a book-club meet up on Wednesday evenings, something I felt like I couldn’t do when I was marriage because I always felt like I needed to be home with my spouse
- What are some of the things that you’d like to do?
How will you hold yourself accountable to pursue what you love? Take a look at the plans I used.
- By the end of the day I am going to look at some meetup.com groups that I think look interesting
- By the end of the week I am going to complete this personal passion list, and list at least three different things that I am interested in and want to pursue
That’s a lot to take in, I know. But the important thing to remember is that in order to move on with your life and get back to being happy, you will need to learn how to take care of yourself and be responsible for your own happiness. This charge is not a luxury, something that you think only people—people who are younger or wealthier are allowed to do. Taking care of yourself and remembering that you deserve a happy life, even when you don’t think you are capable of having on after divorce, is critical to moving on. But as with most things that are worth it in life, working for it is up to you.