Moving on after a divorce is a process that is unique for each and every person. However across any situation it is certainly a process that can seem scary and messy. Author and Certified Divorce Specialist, Michelle Dempsey, shares her own experience with divorce and how she went about moving on afterwards, which is why she created the amazing podcast Moms Moving On.
Michelle says her parents’ divorce more or less prepared her for her own divorce.
Her parents’ divorce was incredibly ugly, with a terrible custody battle that was dragged out for years. This childhood experience unfortunately shaped Michelle’s own perception of what a relationship should look like for the worse, and when it came time to get divorced herself, she ultimately knew she had to do it to grow as a human being, and to create a better environment for her daughter.
One of the first important steps that Michelle had to take was working to accept kindness from others.
Divorce can be an incredibly isolating experience, even if you’re surrounded by supporting friends and family. This feeling of isolation can lead one to feel unworthy of the love and support people may be offering to them. Letting your guard down and being vulnerable are great and important ways to grow because they help you see where your limits are, where your buttons might get pressed, and where your triggers are. It’s when you let your guard down, that beautiful things can happen. Michelle says her biggest motivation is her daughter Bella. She felt like she had an obligation to be the best version of herself to set a proper example for her daughter.
Improving one’s self, regardless of your current situation, is always an undertaking. One of the biggest points Michelle stresses is becoming comfortable with yourself, including being alone.
You shouldn’t let your happiness be defined by your relationship status. Michelle feels that one of the single most important ways to do this work on yourself is to find a therapist. Even for those who may feel they’re not in a financial position to get a therapist, it’s worth calling your insurance company to see what the options are for mental health coverage within your plan. Or even reaching out to therapists directly because they may be open to lowering the cost, if possible. And if that doesn’t work, you could even try reaching out to your children’s school counselor, because hey are a great resource and could be a perfect place to start. It is super important to become comfortable with yourself and being single, because unless you are willing to really sit down and work on yourself, you’re likely to end up in another problematic relationship. Michelle sums it up nicely, “…the point is, a magical life after divorce doesn’t just happen because you deserve it. We all deserve it, but you do kind of have to work for it, and the work only needs to be done on yourself.”
Michelle has had a lot of experience talking to people about divorce, in addition to her own personal story. She says there are three main things that seem to be the biggest challenges for people post-divorce.
The first is becoming comfortable with being uncomfortable. Many aspects of life post-divorce are going to become uncomfortable; trying to keep up with the day-to-day routine, making it to all the PTA meetings or even just saying yes to a girls’ night. Getting comfortable with the sort of chaos that comes along with divorce will help save you a lot of trouble down the line. The second challenge is getting used to co-parenting. Sharing a responsibility as large as raising a child with someone you may really not get along with can be quite difficult, but you have to think of the child in these cases. It’s important that they get to spend time with both of their parents, provided the situation is safe for them. You may not love your ex, but your kids should have the right to. And the third thing Michelle says is one of the most challenging things after getting divorced is what she already emphasized…the importance of being comfortable alone. If you can’t get through life as a single individual, a relationship won’t solve your issues.
Michelle also acknowledges the importance of looking for the right things in a partner, especially when you’re a parent. We often go into marriage looking for what is good on paper, not realizing that most of those things really come second. Finding someone who can emotionally fulfill your needs is much more important to the success of a relationship than whether or not he looks like George Clooney when he comes out of the shower. Michelle says that while she finds her husband very attractive, it was really the interactions they shared with each of their children that really made her realize he was the one. She talks about how, early into their relationship, she was terrified of how he would handle her having a young daughter. Like the time they were out to dinner and Bella launched a glass of club soda across the table. However, it was in these stressful moments where she thought he might get up and leave, that Michelle realized he was the caring, supportive partner she needed.
Doing the work on herself and facing those challenges head on are what allowed Michelle to get to the place she is now – in a wonderful marriage with a great guy. She stresses that she would not have been able to make things work with him unless she was comfortable being single and independent, and the moment she knew he was the one was when he invited her and her daughter to stay at his home during a hurricane. While they were trapped inside with no utilities for three days, she was blown away by how patient and kind he was with both her and Bella (even when Bella spilled food all over his bedsheets!).
Ultimately when it comes to moving on after divorce, there’s just no getting around the fact that you have to work on yourself, first and foremost. Ask yourself, am I okay with being alone right now? Do I feel like I just need a partner, or would I like to spend time with a significant other who shares my values and respects me for who I am? Once you are really fine just being yourself, you’ll see that you attract much more positivity in your life, in all the ways you want and deserve.