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Dating After Divorce

Divorce: Learning To Accept What Is

There is something wonderfully bold and liberating about saying yes to our entire imperfect and messy life.

Tara Brach

Merely experiencing the rollercoaster ride that is divorce is a difficult experience, let alone accepting that this is now your reality. It is easy to hold on to the idea that things will turn out fine, but letting yourself get stuck in the past will keep you from moving forward in your life. Acceptance is realizing that there is now a distance that exists between you and your ex; it is accepting that they no longer belong to you. Your marriage is not yours anymore. Acceptance is forgiving them and yourself for the mistakes that happened. Ultimately, acceptance means allowing yourself to move forward and finding things to be grateful for in your new reality. You may or may not have wanted the divorce, but that doesn’t change what is happening or has already happened. You don’t have to like it, but it’s healthy to learn to accept the new reality.

Jenn’s Story

“I have a quote pinned to the corkboard in my office by Cheryl Strayed, and it says ‘Acceptance is a small quiet room’. For me, this has never been more true than during my divorce. I wanted my divorce to be different. I wanted us to transition easily from marriage to being friends. But for my ex, whom I was leaving, he needed boundaries. He needed space and time away from me. So I had to accept that we were not going to be exceptional; we were not going to just shift into the friendship that I desperately wanted with him. Acceptance was humbling; I made mistakes when learning to accept his boundaries. I tried to make him be my friend. Without meaning to, I tried to make him be my friend before he was ready – texting him funny things, oversharing with him about my dating life, telling him things about our kids just to initiate contact. I realized that this was actually manipulative, and I stopped. I had to accept his hurt and his boundaries. I realized, ultimately, that acceptance was the only way that I might possibly have a real and true friendship with him some day, even though it would not be in the way or on the timeline that I wanted. Acceptance was a small, quiet, room.”

Jenn

Getting Practical

To help yourself move forward and reach acceptance, ask yourself the following self-evaluation questions:

Am I Living In The Past? It’s normal to have memories and thoughts about the life you once lived. But that’s not your life anymore. For a time, it can be healthy to stay away from places or things that remind you of your past—don’t play that song you shared with your ex, don’t go to the restaurant where you always went together, don’t look at old photos. Instead, purposely create new memories with your friends and families, and use mementos from those experiences to focus on your new life.

Am I Still Playing the Blame Game? Are you still dwelling on things your ex did? Are you still focusing on who was right and who was wrong? Are you planning revenge? At this point, what does it matter? These negative thoughts only suck the energy you need to build your new life. Instead of looking to blame someone, think about your own mistakes and how you can handle things differently in the future. Make a list of all your hurts, mistakes, and injustices, and then destroy it as a symbol that you will no longer dwell on them. They serve no purpose; they cannot fix your brokenness. Choose to focus on making positive changes instead of harboring bitterness.

Am I Self-Medicating? Are you attempting to fill the void in your life with temporary, unhealthy “fixes”? The road forward is not the road of destructive behaviors. If you find yourself distracting yourself with food, alcohol, sex, or other addictions, you have not yet faced and accepted your situation. You may even be tempted to fill the void with a rebound relationship and start dating too early. Seek out some alternative activities, hobbies, sports, church ministries, or volunteer opportunities to fill the void instead.

Am I Relating To My Ex In A Healthy Way? It’s natural to be curious about what your ex is doing, who they’re seeing, and how they are moving on. Curb your curiosity to keep it from turning into an obsession, preventing you from moving forward. The change in relationship status with your ex is an adjustment. Have the boundaries in your relationship adjusted too? Even though you are divorced, do you or your ex still expect the privileges of a close relationship? After being intimate, you must step back and set some new boundaries.

Be Aware

Most of the time, when we talk about acceptance, we think that it is about being ‘okay’ or ‘fine’ with a situation. But healing doesn’t mean that the hurt didn’t happen. Acceptance doesn’t mean you need to forget everything that occurred in the past. It means that you are now at a place where you have acknowledged what happened, processed how you felt, and accepted your new reality. Acceptance gives you power over your life again.


Remember

Acceptance is a process in and of itself; it doesn’t happen overnight. Before you get to this point, you need to make sure you have given yourself ample time to grieve, to let yourself feel sad, to cry when you want to, to be angry, or even to isolate yourself from everybody for a time. You cannot reach acceptance without going through the challenging emotions of the other stages of grief. 


Take Action

After asking yourself the questions above, identify one step you need to take to move forward toward acceptance.

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