It’s rarely in the master plans. Like many a little girl my dreams included Prince Charmings and white weddings, rose clad cottages, freshly baked bread and smiling children…and definitely not the emotional hell of a divorce or life as a single parent. Divorce is something we accept rather than aspire to, it’s just not the stuff of fairy tales. And yet – a number of years down the line I personally wouldn’t swap it for the world. Yes there are challenges, but that’s part and parcel of being a parent with two pre-teen girls. Challenges take a new and fascinating shape each day, but would these challenges be any better with a husband around? Not mine. In fact if I’m honest, I’m finding it easier to be able to focus on challenges more without the distraction of an unhappy home.
So anyway.. how do you get to the stage of blissful independence after the remnants of your life together have been boxed and shared? Here are some of the little tips that helped me:
1. New Traditions
Create new traditions for you nd your family – do something different to break the link with the past. Little things like Wednesday cinema & pizza nights, or Sunday afternoon walks. Routines bring comfort and you’ll soon find the new routines punctuate your life and fill the gaps initially left when your ex leaves.
Build in events you and your family can look forward to, so no matter how bad a day you’ve had, there’s always something on the horizon.
2. Look After Yourself
As parents we’re notoriously difficult at putting ourselves first, but think of it like the aircraft safety technique – parents need their mask on first so they can actively help their children. The same applies, a happy mum will be stronger and fitter and more able to support their children. Don’t be afraid to ask for help and do accept it, no one needs a martyr!
3. Take Time.
Your life has changed and you’ll grieve, if not for the partner but for the loss of the shared dreams. Some days you won’t want to get out of your bed. Don’t expect to be over it once the locks have changed, but DO think of each day as being one day closer to the end of the pain. One day you’ll wake up and not even realise that you have actually moved on.
4. Find Yourself.
For many years you’ll have been someone’s partner, someone’s mother – now’s the time to actually focus on you a little.
Remember who you were before you married and had children? Vaguely. Well now’s the time to revisit the hobbies and interests you once had, or discover things you’ve always wanted to do. There’s no one to pour scorn on your ideas or roll their eyes, you can do whatever you want – and that feeling will soon change from daunting to very liberating.
5. Lose the Anger
Anger destroys the person who feels it more than those who it’s directed at. Don’t let any pain and bitterness from your relationship breakdown dominate your life – it stops YOU from moving on. The best revenge, if you seek it, is to get your life back on track and show them what they’re missing. And by that stage, they no longer feature on your list.
6. Build a new friendship circle.
Whilst separating from my ex shook my foundations, losing our friends was an after effect I’d never reckoned with. Feeling awkward standing on the ring of our marriage breakdown, they simply didn’t know whose side to take and so followed none. At the hour of our need we were both left abandoned. Whilst I’ve forgiven friends their lack of support, I’ve also moved on and found new and more long lasting friendships with others in the same boat – single parents who understand the trials, tribulations but who can also share the fun times.
7. Use your free time wisely.
If the children spend time with dad, use this time for you and a recharge. My married friends look on with envy at the girls’ weekends away I enjoy with my friends, or the concerts or simply an evening in with a good book, bubbly bath and no interruptions. They may not get the chores done, but they do lead to a happier, recharged you.
8. Don’t Rebound
DON’T rush straight into a rebound relationship. It’s all too easy to go into panic mode and convince yourself you need a partner. You don’t, you need time to recover, and time to learn to love yourself and be happy in your own skin. Trying to find happiness from someone else doesn’t work – true happiness comes from within. Get to the place where you’re happy (with yourself, your life, your situation) and you’ll be in a much better place to start dating. Quite often you’ll find it’s the last thing you want to do!
9. Plan for Difficult Occasions.
The first birthdays and anniversaries are always emotionally charged and it’s only natural to compare with earlier times, often looking back on these with more nostalgia than reality. Ttry distraction as a cure. Make plans so you’re not left grieving for what was, but too busy enjoying what is. Do something new, make new traditions, do anything – but doing it different often helps. Christmas and New Year can be an emotional time in most calendars, whether with or without family – try spending it with friends, on holiday or simply do something different.
10. Look Forward
You don’t drive a car by simply looking into the mirror, you have to focus forwards. The past chapters of your life are always still there and you can flick back through these whenever you wish, but the future is full of blank pages, just waiting for you to write them. Focus on how you’d like the story – your story – to develop, on your aims for the new chapter. Short, medium or longer term, having aims and intentions helps to stop you dwelling in the past, and regretting changes you can’t make. The past chapters can’t be rewritten, the future are however all yours .
One day you’ll realise that you’ve actually made your way through the trauma and you’re loving your new life and feeling positive about the future.