Divorce is generally a terrible experience on all fronts, but when the trauma is over there can be positive aspects for both parties. In addition, such a major negative impact on your emotional well-being, your family’s cohesiveness, even your financial comfort can be an unavoidable signal to slow down and take stock of your life.

There is life after divorce for you, for your ex-partner, for your family. But it will take some time to process the change in direction, and it should. The most important thing you can do post-divorce is to take time to get a full understanding of yourself, your goals, your hopes and dreams for the future, and yes, to analyze what went wrong.

Chances are, you’ll want another romantic relationship in the future, and even if you don’t, it’s worthwhile unpacking how you contributed to the divorce. Understanding what areas of your life and personality you could stand to work on, and how they impact those around you is essential for the sake of all future relationships. Your communication style, your attitudes around responsibility, your emotional presence or distance, all of those things have a bearing on the success of relationships in the workplace and the community, as well as in intimate relationships. While you may not have been the one most at fault in the divorce, in any relationship, both partners bring issues to the table, and the closeness of a romantic relationship is the place most likely to hold the mirror up for you to get a close, honest look at yourself.

Aside from personal development, it’s important to take a step back and look at your hopes and dreams, desires and goals in light of the recent change in direction. Do you still want the things you wanted before and during your marriage? What’s important to you? Sometimes a disconnect between what you want and what your partner wanted for the future comes out clearly in the divorce. In that case, knowing what you want can help you choose to surround yourself with people who are happily headed in the same direction. Sometimes this is more about giving yourself space to be honest with yourself and giving up some dreams while pivoting to work hard toward others. Admitting you don’t care about previous goals, or do care about goals you’ve kept hidden can be liberating and strategically successful.

Once you’ve taken the time and space to focus on your personal development, health and goals, there are a number of things you can do to move toward building a new life for yourself:

  • Engage in active mourning. You’ve heard of the five stages of grief? You need to work through them, and there’s not really any way to rush it. Give yourself permission to grieve, to be angry, and work your way toward acceptance.
  • Make new friends or rekindle past connections. Couples often move away from single friends, and it may be time to reopen some of those doors, or to become engaged in a new social hobby, activity or interest that exposes you to new relationships. That can also be helpful in moving toward new goals.
  • Consider a temporary or permanent relocation. Changing your surroundings can help you start the next chapter of your life. An extended break, work trip or move can give be a great option if you’re not committed to other relationships in your existing area. Even a change of accommodation, if that hasn’t happened already, can help you start afresh.
  • Find an online communityto help you work through the practical and emotional aftermath of divorce. Networks, apps and tools are available to help you connect with others at the same stage and those further along the path who can offer advice and tips, give you access to useful functions and data to help through the transition, and generally better equip you to deal with your situation.
  • Cautiously consider a new romance. A break of at least a few years is wise to give yourself time and space for growth and independence. Knowing yourself as an individual, apart from a romantic relationship, is key to building successful future intimate relationships. But once you’ve done that work, it’s time to get back in there and invest in someone else. Caring for others is a healthy part of life, and now that you’ve done the work of personal development, you’re better prepared for a great relationship.

Divorce is painful, damaging and overwhelming. Don’t rush toward the future as a way to avoid the pain of a broken past, but do know that you can work your way toward a better future. There is life after divorce, and you can make it a happy and productive one.

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