Guest Post: Proof Divorce Can Make You Happier

When you’re in the midst of it, divorce and happiness seem mutually exclusive. As though you’re not only divorcing your spouse, but also splitting from your ability to ever smile again.

This post gives hope that happiness can follow on the heels of divorce. That sometimes losing what we thought we wanted can sometimes be exactly what we need.

 

Proof Divorce Can Make You Happier

The decision to end a marriage inevitably comes bundled up with worry and anxiety. It’s only human to find yourself wondering whether you’re making a mistake; whether this decision will continue to have negative repercussions – particularly with regards to your mental health – long after the divorce has been finalised.

As familiar as such concerns will be to anyone that has been through or is considering a divorce, though, a recent study conducted by UK-based Quickie Divorce has revealed that they’re often unfounded.

We polled 100 former customers whose divorces had been finalised more than two years ago. We asked them, simply, how happy they now felt and whether they regretted their divorce. Their responses were, we’re pleased to report, overwhelmingly positive.

Of the 100 people we polled, 83 informed us that they were much happier and that they believed that their decision to end their marriage was the right one. Of the remaining 17 respondents, only two informed us that they regretted their decision to end their marriage with the remaining 15 stating that, whilst they believed that they did not regret their divorces, they had found it difficult to adjust to their new lives. All but four of these respondents also informed us, however, that they still felt optimistic for the future and that they believed that they had found it difficult to adapt because they had not established a solid support network following the end of their marriages.

A large number of respondents – 37 to be precise – also reported that they were now in new long-term relationships. In addition, 22 of these individuals stated that they had learnt lessons from their marriages that had benefited their new relationships. In particular, they felt that they were now better at compromising and were more considerate of their partner’s needs.

One of the most common concerns amongst parents that are considering a divorce is that it will have both a significant and adverse effect on the children of the marriage but, of the 73 respondents who had children, only two informed us that they believed that their children had struggled following their divorce. The remaining 71 reported that they felt that their children had benefited from both their and their spouse’s determination to remain civil and create co-parenting plans that were robust enough to meet the needs of both parties and their children.

Ultimately, the pertinent findings of this study are that the vast majority of respondents felt much happier following their divorce, that divorce does not necessarily harm any children involved and that establishing a strong support network during a divorce – as well as maintaining it following the marriage having legally ended – is vital for the emotional wellbeing of those involved.

More important, though, is the fact that this study shows that the worries that so often accompany the decision to end a marriage are often baseless. Indeed, when we asked respondents what advice they would give to anyone that is considering a divorce, their guidance could, without exception, be summarised with one simple statement: trust your judgement.

 

Jay Williams works for Quickie Divorce, one of the largest providers of uncontested divorce solutions in the United Kingdom.

 

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Podcast: Cool Things to Look Forward to After Your Divorce

I know. “Looking forward” and “divorce” seem to be oxymoronic when considered together.

But I promise, they’re not.

Without a doubt, divorce sucks. It’s traumatic, painful and life-altering.

And it’s also an opportunity.

A crack in the wall that permits the light that allows you to see yourself clearly.

A rip in the fabric that provides the option of creating a new pattern.

A burning down, that leaves a blank slate, ready to be filled.

 

The event may have been unwanted. The process painful. Yet the results?

They can be amazing.

Learn more on Divorce Sux the Podcast.

How to Survive “Transplant Shock” After Divorce

It was a gift, a full and beautiful French hydrangea, with it’s startling blue pom-poms of flowers perched above the simple white wrapping over the pot. I placed it on a counter, where it was out of the reach of the dogs, and for several weeks, I tended to it carefully with the enclosed fertilizer packet and a carefully metered watering schedule. In return, I was awarded with stunning and tenacious blooms for many days.

Then, so slowly that it was hard to notice at first, the plant began to languish. New buds were no longer forming and the ones that held tight were beginning to turn to parchment with age. The leaves, once a deep, leathery green, began to yellow, their pallor hinting at ill health.

At this point, I was a complete neophyte when it came to plant care. So, I turned to the wisdom held on the shelves of my public library combined with the practical advice delivered by a seasoned gardener who was volunteering at the library that day. I learned that the gifted shrub would only survive for a brief period in its small pot but that, luckily, it was suited to the climate found in Atlanta. I was instructed to purchase some planting soil, pick a suitable spot in my yard, and transfer the plant to its new home where, I was assured, it would thrive.

I followed the instructions as I understood them, holding visions of a huge hydrangea soon becoming the stunning focal point of my tired front yard.

Instead, I found myself pulling its skeletal remains from the earth a mere four weeks after planting. In my ignorance and haste, I had failed to adequately protect my charge against transplant shock, and it succumbed to the stress.

Years later, I again thought of that little plant. I, too, had gone from being in full-flower, content in my small world, to suddenly being ripped out and forced into a new – and harsher – environment. In the interim, I had become a competent gardener, successfully transplanting many plants. Now, it was necessary for me to apply that knowledge to myself so that I could survive the transplant shock after divorce.

 

Timing Matters

With plants, it’s best to move them during their more dormant season and when they will not face the additional stress of extreme weather conditions. When it comes to divorce, we may not have the option to make the move at a time when the rest of life is relatively inert, so we have to be mindful of the additional pressures the timing may entail. As much as possible, try to push the pause button on the non-essential demands for the short term, so that you can direct your energies to getting settled in your new space.

 

Be Mindful About Placement

One of the many mistakes I made with my first hydrangea was siting it where it received afternoon sun, a death sentence for this shrub in the south. I almost made a similar mistake with myself, placing myself in an environment – alone in a rental – where I would receive too little social connection. Instead, I resided with a dear friend, where I had the connection and sanctuary I needed. Don’t worry about what others say you’re “supposed” to do or the mental image you’ve held for this life stage, place yourself where you will thrive.

 

Add a Little Bit of the Old

When I moved my little shrub that day, I carefully brushed away as much of the old soil as I could, thinking that it was stale and barren and needed to be replaced with completely new earth. Except that new soil was a huge blow to the struggling roots, with nothing familiar to comfort them, they simply froze from the shock. We’re not that different. When everything is new, we have nothing to rely on as we begin our exploration. Keep some things constant as you move from your old life to the new.

 

Provide Plenty of Water

It turns out that stressed plants need more water. They’ve not yet acclimated to their site, so they’re not yet completely efficient and the growth of new roots requires plenty of moisture. We also have a tendency to need more of the things that sustain us during a period of translate shock. We require more attention, more sleep and more support.

 

Don’t Try to Grow Too Fast

I fell for the advertising. While purchasing the planting soil for my little shrub, I picked up a gardening magazine from the checkout line. A two-page advertisement showed a glorious hedge of hydrangeas with the tagline, “Brought to you by Miracle Grow.” So, of course, I added the fertilizer to my cart and liberally applied to over the next two weeks. It was a huge mistake. I was forcing the plant to put out new stems and leaves while the rootball beneath the soil was still too small to support the new growth. We can easily fall into the same trap after divorce. The deep work, the root work, that we need to do to thrive isn’t fun. It isn’t sexy or beautiful. It’s easy to try to spread out too far, too fast and ignore what anchors us. And, just like the plant, it cannot be supported long term.

 

Loosen the Barriers

I probably killed that plant in fifteen different ways. When I finally removed its remains, I saw evidence of some root growth. To a point. I had made the planting hole too small and the roots had stopped growing once they reached the barrier of the rock-hard Georgia red clay. Sometimes, after divorce, we can find ourselves in a pocket of compassion and intervention and then once the empathy and concern of others begins to fade, we feel as though we’re up against a rock wall of indifference. Strive to integrate those barriers so that support is slowly decreased as you gain your strength.

 

Patience

So many of my mistakes with my little shrub were made out of impatience. I wanted it to be fully grown. Like yesterday. But, as with anything, there are no shortcuts. Instead, it’s a process of trial and error, adaptation and setbacks, and learning from each mistake. Only then, and with time, will the blooms return in full.

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Slowly Turning Up the Heat: The Dark Side of the “New Normal”

A “new normal” can simply be a period of adjustment, of accepting what has changed and adapting to a new environment. This type of acclimatization may be uncomfortable, but it is ultimately relatively harmless and potentially even provides opportunity for growth.

Learn more about the “new normal” after divorce.

But that’s not always the case.

Like many people, I used to question the decision-making abilities of those who chose to stay in toxic or abusive environments. Don’t they see how poorly they’re being treated? Don’t they expect better for themselves? I just couldn’t understand.

Until I was in a toxic environment myself.

My first known experience with a poisonous atmosphere was when a new administration took over my school. The changes started almost immediately. The email newsletter, where exemplary teachers were highlighted on a weekly basis, was suspended. Meetings began to take on an accusatory tone and trust levels began to decline. By winter break, we all began to feel as though we were walking on eggshells and trying not to wake the sleeping dragon. The image that always comes to mind when I reflect upon that era is a meeting my team had with the principal. A meeting where he sat high behind his desk, yelling at us while we were seated on the floor.

We adapted. We learned when to keep our mouths shut (which was always, as long as we were within the bounds of the school). We learned not to question, because the answers were always in the form of punishment, meted out with what seemed to be a vicious delight. We even joked about the circumstances, trauma funneled into hilarity in an attempt to survive.

And the scary part? It began to feel acceptable. After all, we were ensconced in that environment for 10+ hours a day.

The toxic and abusive environment had become our new normal.

And it was only once we were out that we could see it for what it was. Once we were all back in functional work environments, we could see how crazy of a world we had occupied.

 

It may have become our normal.

But it was far from okay.

It is rare for abuse to go from “off” to “high heat” within the first meeting (because then nobody would ever stay, would they?). Rather, the heat is slowly increased so that the intensification hardly registers and the very-much-not-okay no longer seems unusual or to be of any consequence. That’s definitely how the covert abuse developed in my marriage.

 

There are a few strategies to identify this dark side of the “new normal” and to recognize abuse as it begins to escalate:

  • Be careful if you’re in a fragile state. You may find that you’re attracting people that see you as easy to manipulate or dominate.
  • Listen to your gut. You may not “know” what is wrong, but you’ll have a sense that something is off.
  • Be aware of if you’re creating justifications for situations or behavior. If you’re always making excuses, it’s a sign that something isn’t quite right.
  • Be cognizant of “boundary sliding.” If you always said, “I never put up with…” and now you are, that’s telling you something.
  • Ask for feedback. Describe the situation to a trusted friend or volunteer on a helpline and get their feedback. It’s easier to see clearly when you’re not on the inside.
  • If you have suspicions, begin to document the behaviors. Once you have it in writing, it’s easier to see any patterns and it’s harder to make excuses.

 

Abusive relationships rarely improve. Promises of “This will be the last time” and “I’m going to be better” seldom come to fruition. And while you’re waiting for it to get better, the heat may just reach the boiling point.

Jump out while you can.

 

After Divorce: Is This Your New Normal?

In response to my video, The Three Things I Hated to Hear During Divorce, one reader shared her pet-peeve phrase about adjusting to life after a break up – “It’s your new normal.”

And even though that phrase didn’t make my hair stand on end, I could understand her ire. After all, nothing about life after the apocalypse of an unwanted divorce feels normal. And the last thing you want to do is to accept it as such.

 

New: not existing before; unfamiliar

Normal: typical, expected

 

Which makes a “new normal” a bit of an oxymoron.

 

Because of the particularly large blast radius of divorce, there is little left untouched. Not only are you dealing with the end of a relationship with your spouse, you are also navigating major changes with your children, your family, your friends and even the dry cleaner. Your living arrangements have been altered and you may even find yourself without a home to call your own. Items which once were sentimental or at least innocuous have become landmines of emotion, ready to detonate at a moment’s notice. Your emotions feel more out of control than they did during your teenage years; you never know when you’re going to be struck down by tears or irradiated with red-hot rage. This, alongside the sleep difficulties, means that tasks that once seemed simple now feel overwhelming and impossible.

On the surface, things may look normal. You manage to maintain your appearance, only the changes in your weight and the dark circles residing under your eyes belying the hidden pain. You go through the motions of life, taking the kids to school, clocking in at the office, even managing to fill your grocery cart with appropriate food items. Yet even though much of it is the same, it feels as though it has been rotated 90° from normal, like some dystopian world that only bears passing resemblance to our own. It’s an alien world and one which you received no training in how to navigate.

As you stumble through, your brain releases a steady drumbeat of protest –

“This isn’t fair.”

“This shouldn’t be happening.”

“This isn’t what I planned.”

“How could they do this to me/us?”

“Will I ever be okay again?”

And perhaps the scariest one of all…

“Is this it? Is THIS my new normal?”

 

Well, yes.

And no.

Some of the post-divorce changes may indeed be permanent. Your relationship with your ex-spouse will never return to the way it was. Likewise with your in-laws and with certain friends or friend groups. Your parenting role will be different and you will have to help your children negotiate life with divorced parents. Your financial well-being may be diminished for a time or even forever. And no matter what the future holds, this experience will always be a major chapter in your life story.

Yet these changes, even the difficult ones, will no longer be so foreign, so unfamiliar. Much like how you learn to navigate a darkened space once you’ve spent time in a home, you will no longer see this life as strange and foreboding. It just is.

The new has become the normal.

 

But that’s not the whole story.

You’ve adapted, become accustomed. You’ve accepted those things you cannot alter.

Now it’s time to modify what you can in order to create what you want.

Consider that darkened room. At first, it was a new space and all you could do was stumble through until you finally became adept at navigating through the furniture. There are some things about that room that are fixed, unchangeable. But within those walls, you have endless freedom to shape a space you love.

And at first, that will feel strange. You will stumble. Maybe even trip and fall. And then, over time, that will become your new normal. And a better one that you found yourself before.

 

New normal doesn’t mean that change cannot occur. It is not a place of settling or giving up. And it’s now a place you have to stay forever. New normal is a baseline, a platform where you can acclimate and adjust.

So, yes. Maybe this is your new normal. And maybe that’s okay.

Take some time and get used to the space.

And then think about how you can make it better.

 

The concept of a “new normal” can have a dark side. Learn more about that here.