How Do You Know When You’ve Moved On After Divorce?

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.

Memories Do Not Have to Equal Suffering

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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.

And now?

Yeah, it’s not always easy.

So what?

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.

18 Steps to Financial Independence During and After Divorce

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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.

Finding Happiness After an Unwanted Divorce

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You Take Responsibility For Your Role

I used to get angry – really angry – whenever somebody suggested that perhaps I had some part in my marriage’s demise.

After all,

He was the one who cheated. He was the one who lied. He was the one who stole. He was the one who gaslighted and manipulated and intentionally kept me in the dark.

It wasn’t my fault.

But what I didn’t understand at the time, is that it was my responsibility.

Not to take on the burden of what happened (or to excuse him of his part).

But to do the hard work of self-reflection and taking ownership of my decisions and actions. So that I could learn from what happened and make different choices going forward.

When you no longer see yourself as a helpless victim and you choose to accept responsibility for your own well-being, it is a sign that you have moved on.

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You No Longer Avoid Triggers or Memories

I avoided that road for a long time. I would drive twenty minutes out of my way just so that I didn’t have to go by my old neighborhood, with its sign sporting letters that my husband milled and painted.

In fact, the old house was an epicenter of a circle with a ten-mile radius that, upon entry, would make my skin crawl with its negative energy and promises of unwanted and triggered memories.

And then one day, I drove from my new home on the other end of town to a friend’s house, down the street from the no-go place completely on autopilot. And without realizing it, I drove right past the old neighborhood and felt nothing.

It was the best nothing I’ve ever felt.

And now that neighborhood, that area has no particular vibe at all. It still prompts memories, but they no longer come wrapped in emotion.

When you no longer feel the need to avoid triggers and memories, it is a sign that you have moved on.

Six Reasons You’re Struggling to Move On

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Any Talk About Your Ex Has Purpose

In the beginning, words about my experience poured forth from my mouth like blood from a fresh and gaping wound.

Because that’s what they were – my soul was screaming out in pain.

And then, those words became ones of thinking and organizing, trying to make sense of it all. No less driven, but a little more rational.

Finally, it got to the point where I didn’t need to talk about it at all and now when I mention him or the marriage, it’s only because I’m sharing a story about one of the dogs or a lesson I learned about home-improvement. He’s no longer the focus, just a character that happened to be in the background at the time.

When you only mention your ex as part of a story from your past, it is a sign that you have moved on.

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You Are Grateful For the Experience

When you can honestly say that it was the worst thing that has happened to you.

And also the best.

It is a sign you have moved on.

Moving on is not getting over.

It’s moving through.

Moving on is not forgetting.

It’s learning.

Moving on is not never feeling pain.

It’s letting the pain go.

Moving on is not pretending it never happened.

It’s in closing that chapter.

And using its lessons to write the next one.

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16 thoughts on “How Do You Know When You’ve Moved On After Divorce?

  1. Reading about your thoughts, actions and reactions is like reading the journal I never kept. Today, it has been two years since “that day”, and reading this has given me so much peace. There is no more emotion, not even hatred. It is wonderfully liberating.

  2. Great post Lisa. All things pass in time, and I think you are right – when you are still holding on the memories still hurt you, but when you have truly let go then all they are is memories.

  3. A wise post. It is interesting that I had moved into a very ‘factual’ phase quite some times ago, and have now moved into a more ‘feeling’ phase again … although feelings surrounding the marriage, rather than the divorce itself. I see it that it took me that time to be at a distance (the ‘factual’ phase) before I could look back at the marriage from a different perspective.

  4. This is a grest, informative and meaningful post. I used to wonder if things could have gone differently where would we be now? I also enjoy being friend, Co parents and grandparents of our family members. I have hope someone, one day a last special someone will enter my life. 🙂

  5. Great post!!! I was able to relate to many of you comments. I’m thankful for you sharing your experiences. It has helped as I continue to work through this process of rebuilding and trusting again.

  6. I love reading your articles/blogs, they are always full of good insights and perspectives. Love hearing words of wisdom from someone who has lived through it.
    I, however, still struggle on a daily basis to get a grasp on my emotions and it has been 5 years. I have been in therapy, taken anti-depressants, gone wild, closed in on myself and every other distraction you can think of, and yet I still fight these demons every day.
    I’m at a loss, but I have the smallest spark of hope deep inside that some day I will be happy again

  7. Great post. Thank you for that.I am getting divorce or better saying he divorces me after 20 years…for the sake of his mom and hid dad’s inheritance which his mom taken from him.A man who I took care of him for 20 years after he got cancer …he is cured…left me with depression and weak health…no kids as he never wanted one…and his mother never wanted us to be happy…long story short…this unfairness burns me from head to toe and your posts lightening me up…does it go away? It seems I am trying to find the truth about nothing…seems that I’m looking for a piece of puzzle that never has existed…It was just an illusion of having a friend who won’t take me down when I needed. …anyhow….thank you for all the hope you’re sharing…

    1. Sorry for your situation:( My thoughts- The unfairness will persist in some way, coming and going. But, once you build a new life you love, it won’t matter so much. The trick is to focus forward and on what you do have. Hugs.

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