The Two Post-Divorce Milestones You MUST Pass Before You’ve Moved On

milestones divorce

The journey from “in it” to “past it’ can be a long one. There are the practical matters to deal with, the disassembling of the lives and the parsing out of assets and custodial arrangements. Then come the emotional matters, the endless tears of grief for marriage past and future, the choke of loneliness and the strangle of rejection. And finally comes the hope, the excitement of possibility and the ever-growing strength and wisdom from the struggle.

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

Everyone’s path after divorce is a little different. Some curve this way, others that. Some follow a gentle slope and a clear trail while others seem to climb endless mountains that require scrabbling over rocky and dangerous terrain. Yet even with their differences, there are two milestones that we must pass before we have truly moved on.

These milestones may come early in the process or they may not happen for years. They are not sequential, either one may present first or they may appear around the same time. Some people adjust to them readily while other may pause at the landmark for quite some time.

Milestone 1 – Establishing Intimacy With Someone New

I almost wrote, “Entering fully into a new relationship,” but I didn’t want people who are choosing to remain single to skip over this section, because it applies to them too. Establishing intimacy does not have to occur on a romantic level, it simply means that you have been able to let down your guard and let someone – anyone – in.

But the truth is, most people eventually find themselves in a new relationship. Once once you do – whether it be 6 months later or 6 years later – you are going to find little nuggets of unresolved issues from your divorce.

Because the truth is that there is only so much healing that you can do on your own. Some of it can only occur within the context of a relationship (again, not necessarily a romantic one).

Therapy can help with this – as you begin to trust your therapist, you learn how to have faith in others, as you practice revealing your vulnerabilities, you become more comfortable showing your weaknesses. But this type of intimacy is somewhat artificial, more playing house than building house. It’s meant to be your training wheels, not your entire ride.

Divorce does a number on your ability to trust and your willingness to be open. And the only way to fully rebuild those areas is with another person.

How to Love and Be Loved After Divorce

Milestone 2 – Accepting That Your Ex Has Someone New

In the beginning, most people seem to be on some sort of seesaw when it comes to their exes – with their happiness on one side and their perception of their ex’s happiness on the other. So when the ex is up, you inevitably plummet down.

And it’s a hard landing.

There are so many emotions that can come from seeing the ex with someone new. Everything from, “It should be me” to “Why do they get to be happy after what they did?” The emotions have a tendency to turn ugly, bitter words spewed in an attempt to avoid the tears beneath.

Seeing your ex move on can prompt an acute sense of rejection, of being discarded and left behind like a broken piece of furniture waiting on the curb. This is particularly intense when the someone new came into the picture before your picture was removed from the frame. There’s a natural blame and anger directed at the “other,” the interloper who came in and took what you saw as yours.

And that’s the hard part.

Your spouse was never yours to own, to possess, to control. They made their choices. And you make yours.

You can certainly choose to hold onto the justified anger and the feelings of rejection.

Or, you can choose to step off the seesaw and let your ex do their thing as you take that next step forward.

Thank you for sharing!

7 thoughts on “The Two Post-Divorce Milestones You MUST Pass Before You’ve Moved On

  1. Dear Lisa,

    Thanks for this article. I received it via email just as my alarm was going off. It is perfectly timed. You see, I got married on a Superbowl Sunday in 2002. For the past three Superbowl/anniversary weekends, I have felt the double whammy of the two days…albeit in different degrees of pain. This year, ie. number 4 solo, they were more just events with hardly any emotion. I would be lying if I said there wasn’t any at all. What progress! And then this article came in. I cannot express what difference your blog had made in my journey. It helps me mesure my milestones.

    Funny enough, your pic of a hot air balloon and butterfly have meaning for me too. The butterfly as a metamorphysis of my life since separation and the hot air balloon as a side trip I am doing while in Egypt over March break with gadventures on my second solo vacation since Christmas. A kind of sabbatical from my life as an elementary school principal, if you will.

    Don’t ever wonder if your blog is still pertinent after all these years. I am confirming it is.

    Happy Monday!


    Le lun. 6 févr. 2017 à 05:00, Lessons From the End of a Marriage a écrit :

    > stilllearning2b posted: “The journey from “in it” to “past it’ can be a > long one. There are the practical matters to deal with, the disassembling > of the lives and the parsing out of assets and custodial arrangements. Then > come the emotional matters, the endless tears of grief for” >

  2. Hey Lisa,

    You are absolutely correct!

    My ex moved someone into the house a few weeks after I left but to be honest, the love was long gone and it meant his focus was elsewhere, so on that I was delighted. He was still pretty awful but at least he was distracted.

    We have been separated for 6 years, and I have been in a relationship for 4 and a half and I still have the odd nugget remaining – I’m not sure if they will ever go to go honest but my (now) husband is amazing and has been very patient as I have slowly recovered from the damage from the previous marriage. It takes time patience and love.


  3. emje – driftless wisconsin – my shadows are part of who i am. without those dark spots you wouldn’t be able to see my bright colors & beautiful light…. without my dark bits i think life would be much more dull.... i am sad & silly. i am fierce & fantastic. i am passionate & magical. i am a fucking unicorn.
    em4mighty says:

    recently i accidentally drunk texted my first ex-husband whom i haven’t seen in 15 years because i just wanted to feel close to someone. when he arrived, i realized it was not him i wanted to be close to. so i took that as a good sign. not only do i feel ready to be intimate with someone other than my 2nd ex-husband, but also i wasn’t willing to sell myself short & just hook-up with someone i really did not want to be with (again.)
    i think i might be good on the second one as well. i visualize him with someone else and generally feel relieved that it isn’t me.
    it took me…six or seven years to get to this point–during which time i kept getting back involved with my 2nd ex-husband because i wasn’t ready for these two things.
    so i am pretty happy to be here!
    thanks for the post!

  4. Good read!
    The one year anniversary is next week on Valentine’s Day that I found out about my husband was having an affair with a friend of mine…they are still together. I was unsure about how to proceed, or if i was ready to start new relationships (both male and female) and I am now convinced it’s time. It is totally true that only a certain amount of healing can be accomplished alone. Time to stop isolating myself and allow myself to trust someone again.

    Thank you!

  5. divorcehealingblog – The meaning of the “second chance” I seek has been changed a lot. I started writing this in the hope of saving my marriage. But as time showed me , that was futile and misguided. Now I seek a second chance to be father to my six year old boy. He will no longer live with me starting aug2018. I hope to use this blog to allow him an insight into his father. I would want him to read this when he is older. My original synopsis A man in crisis. I am a 30 -something man. My 10 year marriage shattering in front of my eyes. I have decided that writing helps. I am hoping to heal from whats coming, but before that I have to deal with it. Experience the pain, I know I will feel, when my wife walks out the door. I have a little boy who I don't want to lose. And I am scared. Of restarting my life from scratch. I am hoping to find kindred spirits on the blog, who are going through or have gone through what I am experiencing. But I have hope, and I have faith. To some degree, I hope to reconcile my marriage.
    divorcehealingblog says:

    wow! I can see that even though everyone’s journey through divorce is different. There are some strong, strong similarities. When I was reading this article, it almost felt like I was saying the words . 🙂

    For me the journey is just starting to begin. Technically I am separated living in the same house. But the thought of her being with someone else has occurred to me more than once.

    I can’t even begin to fathom how I would deal with it.

    So far, my whole attitude has been that of forgiveness and maturity. But I know there is a flood I am holding back somewhere.

    I look forward to reading more from you.

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