Updated 06 March 2014

Stay sane after divorce

Working through a divorce or breakup can wreak havoc on your mental well-being. But this too shall pass.

A divorce or breakup has the ability to catapult us into unexplored, and frightening, physical and mental territory. The process can also turn once solid daily responsibilities and schedules, relationships with friends and family, and even identities into a mish-mash of blurred images.

There is great uncertainty about the future, and you ask yourself questions such as: Was it my fault? How will my life be without him or her? Am I able to find someone else? Does this mean I am destined to be alone forever?

These questions also run a racket with your mental state and leave you trapped in a listless slump.

As you wallow in self-pity, you may even be asking yourself how long it takes to get over a breakup or divorce.

It takes time, but not that long

We have it on good authority that it actually takes about a year and a half (17 months and 26 days) to move on.

According to a survey of 4 000 divorcees, by a British dating website, that is the time it takes to put to be touchy topics such as property, child and pet custody and money worries.

But this was just the tip of the proverbial iceberg for most of the respondents.

At least six out of every 10 said a severe sense of failure was one of the major issues that weighed them down. So sever, in fact, that an estimated 5% still couldn’t move on after a number of years, let alone the suggested 17 months and 26 days.

Read: Are you a relationship junkie?

The survey reports that a fifth of the subjects admitted they will never really get over their divorce, while 55% confided how it was the worst thing they’d ever experienced.

We understand how difficult it is to recover from a breakup or divorce - but we also know the importance of reminding yourself that you must move on.

And come on now! The dust has settled and you and your ex are on a reasonably civil footing, and at least you’ve given priority to the kids’ physical, financial and mental wellbeing.

Now isn’t it time to give attention to your own mental and physical wellbeing?

Getting back to you

At some point, those closest to you, who are worried about what a dark place you’ve allowed your divorce to take you to, will try to intervene. And they usually think that dating will help.

But while there is some truth to this – you are human after all – there is some healing you need to do before putting yourself out there.

Read: Divorce is complicated

The following tips are essential for your post-divorce grieving process:

•  Don’t fight your feelings – feelings of resentment, anger, and fear are normal.

•  Talk about feelings – make others aware of how you are feeling so you don’t feel alone.

•  Never forget that you have to move on – to not to dwell too long on your negative emotions.

•  Don’t lose sight of your individual dreams – get back to planning for your future again.

•  Look out for depression – if you’re not moving forward of a year, you may be depressed. Seek help.

The survey says that while it takes just over 17 months for divorcees to a start moving on, it wasn’t uncommon for the majority to already start getting the ball rolling after 16 months or so. Most of the time is was a result of them getting back into the dating scene.

Read: Divorce support group FAQs

And now that you’re done grieving and are ready to throw yourself back into the meet market, you may want to consider the following pointers by William Smook in his article ‘Dating after divorce need not be hell' :

•  Start gently - start with somewhere you’re comfortable.

•  Don’t look desperate - if you’re feeling confident, it’ll probably show.

•  Keep dates short – after 40 minutes you’ll know if you’d like to see them again.

•  Know your turf - join a social club to meet someone who has similar interests to yours.

•  Don’t rebound - avoid looking for a relationship to mimic the best aspects of your old one.

•  Don’t talk about your ex - just don’t do it! Learn to listen to your date instead.

See, reclaiming your sanity was not as difficult as you thought it would be. But never forget how the choices you made affected your previous relationship. After all, learning from your mistakes is vital to not repeating them.

Read more:
Divorce takes toll on kids

Research shows that married people have better mental health than their unmarried peers

Handling divorce easier later in life

Hayden Horner for Health24


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