Is it Possible to Ever be Happy After?
In one simple word, in shouty caps, YES. It is indeed possible to be happy after divorce, but it takes time and focus to create a new and healthy chapter for yourself. When I work with a client that is either going through divorce or has just become divorced, I find that there is typically an extended period of time that the individual questions his or her own judgement. That experience often begins when they recall that niggly voice inside themselves that informed them long ago that they were making the wrong choice in marrying their ex. They may remember hearing that same doubting voice over the years, when disagreements were frequent, and their core values felt threatened. It’s during this time of self-reflection that people wonder about themselves and their ability to find another person that will be a better fit for them. And this is when I encourage them to go easy on the self-doubt, and to first spend a little time getting to know themselvesbetter. We cannot undo the past, but we can learn from it, and we can choose to do things differently in the future – things that will set us on a path headed toward happiness.
How do I come to know myself better?
You become curious. You create time and space to be truly interested in what makes you who you are, and what informs you of who you want to be. Those are sometimes two different things, and it’s very important to have clarity around this, as the statistics for marriage after divorce are sobering. According to Psychology Today, 50% of first marriages fail, 67% of second marriages, and 73% of third marriages fail as well. There is nothing about divorce that would make someone want to have that experience – especially more than once! When I work with a client that is post-divorce, I recommend that we spend some time exploring their core values, and their specific expectations and hopes for their future. We do a deep dive on personal interests, resources, and their existential concerns. We talk about the differences and similarities between being alone and being lonely. We look at habits and hobbies, personality traits and tendencies, as well as desires and dreams. Before seeking another partner, it’s helpful to spend some time being your own best friend and enjoying your own company. Doing so will help you to become a whole-hearted and healthy individual that’s ready for a new relationship.
How long does it take before being ready to love again?
Just like some other experiences in life – like when you’re grieving, there is no set timetable to relationship readiness. It’s a very individual process, but it’s imperative to allow time for healing from the loss of your previous marriage and for preparing how to be emotionally healthy in your next relationship. This is the time to invest in learning about how to navigate differences, and how to communicate effectively to reduce conflict quickly. This is also a great time to consider healthy boundaries that may have been missing in your former relationships. Setting realistic expectations is important. Hearing about the challenges that my post-divorce clients have experienced leads me to believe that it’s typically at least six months to a year or more before they feel ready to begin a new relationship that might become a partnership in the future.
There is nothing easy about divorce and its aftermath, nor is there anything easy about the process of finding a new relationship that’s perfectly suited to you and your needs. It’s hard,
but once you’ve done it, you’ll likely feel that it was indeed worth the effort, and therapy can help. Call or email me for a free consultation.
Katey Villalon, LMFT