Those family decal stickers for your rear car window were all the rage when I went through my divorce. I remember proudly displaying one that matched my family’s status – a barbequing dad, a mom with shopping bags, two happy children, and two adorable dogs. Having that identity for myself and my kids brought a certain feeling of stability and pride. One day shortly after we split I spotted another car with a similar family decal. My heart dropped. I felt like an imposter. The next day I hid in the garage and scraped the window until the decal was finally off. Well, mostly off. A faint outline of the BBQ man remained. I didn’t know it then but that was the beginning of a long journey of acceptance to shift in identity after divorce.
The beginning of the journey
How easily we accept the shift in identity after divorce is determined by two factors: how much we accept/resist and how much support we get from the people around us.
My wish for every divorcing person is that their friends and family members will treat them with the same compassion and empathy they would someone who lost a spouse through death. What people fail to recognize is that divorce is filled with a myriad of loses and most divorcing people go through a grieving process. Many divorcing people feel alone and alienated instead of cherished and supported. One day you are part of the married circle and the next you are not. Feeling different from those around you can be challenging.
Our own attitude
One of the most predictive ways to determine how much you will struggle during this transition is your own mindset. Take some time to journal or talk to a friend or coach about what you believe about being divorced.
Here are some other common beliefs that can lead to more suffering:
- Religious beliefs about marriage and divorce
- Feeling that a two parent home is better than a single parent home
- That the end of your marriage is a sign you’re a failure
- Other people are judging you
- You won’t be happy until you find another partner
- That you can’t learn the things your spouse did for your family
- That being single is worse than having a relationship (even a difficult one)
Do you identify with any of those statements? What might be possible if you chose to believe the opposite?
The upside of being single
Many people fight being single because they view it so negatively. After my divorce I enjoyed reading stories about happy single people and authors who touted the benefits of being single. It took quite a while to change my mindset about being single but once I did, I found that I suffered a lot less. Here are some surprising and fun things I’ve learned or have heard from clients about being single:
1. Parenting can actually be easier – you can rely solely on your decision making for in-the-moment parenting choices
2. Being single means setting up your house in a way that makes you feel good without having to consider someone else’s desires or wants
3. You feel less judged about how you spend your time, who you spend it with, what you eat, what time you go to bed and get up
4. If you have a split parenting schedule you have more time for personal pursuits and richer friendships
5. You no longer care as much about what your in-laws think or have to put up with your spouses friends that you never cared for
6. You can spend your money on things you care about
7. You can focus on self-care with less guilt
8. You will learn new skills and have a sense of accomplishment
9. You can choose to attend religious, sporting or other events of your liking
10. You can deepen relationships with your kids that focuses on you as an individual parent instead of a parenting pair.
Knowing who you are now
Approaching your new identity with curiosity is something I encourage. Who do you want to be now? How do you want to show up in your relationships differently with yourself, your friends, family and children? When you are single you have the ability to do the work to figure this out. Take the time to get to know yourself again.
Having a divorce coach can help you normalize your experience and help you with your identity shift. Contact me to feel less alone and let’s get started.