Divorce can feel like a never-ending nightmare. The sheer amount of logistics and emotions is enough to cause the most rational person to make poor decisions with profound consequences.
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Although feeling overwhelmed during divorce is normal, remember to avoid the common divorce mistakes that may slow down your recovery.
1. Failing To See The Big Picture
Divorce feels awful because as a society, none of us are taught to plan ahead for it. Instead of asking ourselves, “What’s the game plan? Where do I want to be in a year with this divorce and how can I get there?” we stumble through the days and months, panicking as events unfold. It’s no wonder why you feel like we no longer control our own life.
Planning where you want to be with the divorce six months from now and a year from now, and then putting the steps in to get there, has bigger dividends than struggling to make it through the day. This method can also help plan for contingencies and worst-case scenarios so you don’t freak out if things get ugly.
2. Making Decisions Based On Emotion
When you strip away the stress and the drama that comes with splitting from your spouse, divorce is actually a business transaction: dividing assets and debts and then continuing your life as an individual. That’s not said to minimize your marriage, but it’s absolutely critical to keep those emotions at bay when dealing with the business of divorce.
Compartmentalizing the emotions makes sense logically. Your head understands, but the part of you that heart-broken and angry may spend months fighting over things that have nothing to do with business. It’s understandable: we all make decisions based on emotions because we are hurting.
And the only way we know how to deal with those emotions is by projecting that pain onto our business decisions. We fight and emotionally over-react because we think we will “win,” the divorce, and “get back at” our spouse. This tit-for-tat can go on for months and years. You deserve better than that.
Nobody wins in divorce, and you must make your decisions from a clear-headed and rational place. Otherwise, you will find yourself robbed of time, money, and emotional energy.
3. Not Making Your Own Decisions
When you’re going through a messy divorce it can be easy to say, “You know what?!?! I’m just going to let my lawyer figure it out for me.” Or, “Okay, fine. If agreeing to the demands of my spouse will get him off my back and let me move on, whatever.”
There is nothing wrong with educating yourself or asking for advice. But remember that ultimately, this is your life and your future. It is your right and your responsibility to take ownership of your divorce decisions. Sure, you can have people advise you. But remember, at the end of the day it is you who has to live with the divorce decisions that are made—shouldn’t you be the one making them?
4. Not Educating Yourself
Do you remember that old phrase, “Knowledge is Power?” There’s a reason it was so popular—because it’s true.
Divorce can feel overwhelming because you’re scared of the unknown. The only way to ease that fear and uncertainty is to educate yourself about the process. Quality divorce resources online are plentiful, many divorce lawyers and divorce coaches offer free consultations, and there are support groups and community classes that will help you understand your rights, provide you checklists, and offer assistance so you do not get run over in the process.
The more you read, reach out, and take advantage of the resources out there, the less scared and helpless you will feel. That type of knowledge is pretty powerful, indeed.
5. Dating When You’re Not Ready
Once you divorce, you are given this amazing opportunity to heal, rediscover yourself, and reclaim your independence. These are the things that only you can do. So why on earth would you invest yourself emotionally right away with someone new, when you haven’t had any time to learn how to be on your own? And how much worse will you feel when that “new, promising” relationship doesn’t work out?
Sure, we’re human, and we want to be loved. Separation is a lonely place to be, but you know what’s even worse? Dependence—depending on another romantic relationship to make you feel loved and validated and taken care of. Now is the time to break that cycle.
You don’t need anybody to save you or to heal you or take care of you. You have years of life experience that has taught you how to handle all kinds of crises. Lean on your friends, your family, a good therapist, and divorce support groups to listen and encourage when you are lonely.
Find the happiness you’ve been missing by discovering and enjoying your new-found freedoms. You deserve to put yourself first right now.
The divorce journey is a long a tricky one, especially later in life. But awareness of the huge divorce mistakes and not looking at the big picture, making decisions based on emotion, not making your own decisions, not educating yourself, and latching on to someone else too soon, and avoiding these mistakes will make your divorce journey less chaotic.