Some milestones in divorce are clear – the day the decree is final, the day you establish your own home and the day you go on your first date.
But the most important milestone? The one that anyone who has ever been through divorce eagerly awaits?
That one is more subtle.
So how do you know when you have moved on after your divorce?
The Memories Lack Emotional Punch
When I first used to share with others that I had been left by my partner of sixteen years, I felt as though I had come down with some super-bug. My limbs would shake, my temperature would rise and I felt as though my stomach was trying to run away (perhaps to catch my runaway husband).
Over time, these physical symptoms dissipated – the stomach would twinge rather than threaten to expel its contents, the shaking was reduced to a slight tremble in the hands and the internal thermostat was regulated.
And then one day, when I had to tell my story, I realized I had no physical – and no emotional – reaction. It just was. The events had become fact. Not feeling.
When you can remember bits of your past and share your story without feeling like you’ve been punched in the gut, it’s a sign you’ve moved on.
The Divorce Is Not Used As An Excuse
“I can’t afford that.” “I’m not ready for a relationship.” “I’m afraid to open up and be hurt again.”
I said it all.
And as long as I said it (and acted upon it), I was allowing the divorce to hold me back. Decide what I could and couldn’t do.
And that was a clear sign that I hadn’t moved on.
Yeah, it’s not always easy.
I’ll be damned if I let it hold me back.
When you can accept that the divorce may have set your floor but that it doesn’t dictate your ceiling, it’s a sign that you’ve moved on.
You Can Appreciate the Good In the Marriage
In the beginning, I could not accept any good in my former marriage or my former husband. I had to make it all-bad so that I could make it all-okay. Because when an unwanted divorce arrives on your doorstep, the best way to accept it is to pretend that you wanted it.
In time, good memories starting sneaking in through the cracks in my hastily-built wall. I remembered the goofy, gangly kid that I fell in love with, the unsure but determined young man that accepted a move across the country and a chance at a real career and the confident (seeming, at least) guy that accepted accolades in his work. The moments we shared started to bubble up to the surface and with them, smiles.
The beginning and the middle became separate from the end. And I grew to appreciate what was good without either overanalyzing it looking for cracks or following the tracks to its demise.
When you can treasure what was good in your marriage without dwelling on why it is gone, it is a sign that you have moved on.