Unfortunately, divorce is an issue we deal with somewhat regularly at Highland. While every divorce is different, one factor is consistent: All financial decisions have to be made in the context of one of the most emotionally unsettling periods of your life.
We’ve recently written a set of articles on the many issues related to divorce. You’ll find these in our Learning Center. But I thought I’d write some blog entries on the topic too. Today I want to write about one of the important personal issues–adjusting to the “new normal” that follows divorce for everyone.
During the divorce proceedings, legal, financial and family events and crises tend to define your days. After divorce, you must get adjusted to your new world. The adjustment back to normal is different for everyone – and highly dependent on the changes that occurred.
Clearly there will be a change in your lifestyle, as there are now two separate households. Hopefully, your divorce settlement has left you in solid financial condition. Chances of this will be better if you work with experienced lawyers and financial advisors who can help you make rational decisions in the midst of such an emotional situation.
The challenges you face will depend to some extent on your personal situation: Do you have minor children still living at home? Are there adult children living on their own? Were you happy to obtain the divorce or were you brought through it kicking and screaming, still hoping for reconciliation?
The answers to these questions will affect how quickly and easily you come through this adjustment period. But realize that no matter how troubled you feel right now, things will get better over time–as long as you allow them to and have proper supports. A new “normal” will come.
Dating and New Relationships
Although friends may encourage you to jump right into dating again, do not rush this. Rebound relationships usually bring more heartbreak than not. Right now you need to concentrate on your own needs and find out who you really are and what you really want. You need to determine this before you get too involved in a relationship with someone else. The old flight attendant warning to “put your own oxygen mask on first” applies now more than ever.
Friends and Other Family
Your divorce may cost you some relationships. Keep busy (but not obsessively so) with activities where you can meet new friends. Your self-esteem has been damaged so you need to concentrate on recovering it.
Make sure to eat properly, get exercise, learn to relax and enjoy yourself again. It’s important to maintain important friendships from before your divorce – and it’s equally important that you develop some new friendships. This balance of familiar and new friends will help provide a perspective and provide a support system as you delve into your new life.
If there are children involved, make sure you do not use them as messengers or spies. Do not allow your ex-spouse to do this either. If you have a question of your ex, call or e-mail to get the answer. Don’t send the message with your children.
Do not force your children to choose between you. Your ex is still your child’s parent and your child should continue to love both parents. In any contest between the parents, the children lose.
Make sure that neither you nor your relatives or friends make negative comments about your ex in the presence of the children. In fact, when others try to speak negatively about your ex, let them know that this is a chapter of your life that is closed and do not wish to reopen. Then change the subject.
If your relationship is so bad with your ex that you cannot even e-mail, then use a non-family adult mediator. Fortunately, even in many of the most contentious divorces, over time both spouses can become removed enough from the extreme emotions of the divorce and at least be civil with each other, especially with regards to the children. This is best for all concerned.
If you are having difficulty facing each day now, there is no shame in seeking professional help. Find a support group of others dealing with divorce and/or find a therapist with experience in helping people after divorce.
Professional Life and Advice
It is important to maintain a support net of professionals even beyond the day the divorce becomes final. Although you have done careful planning for the future, changes continue to occur in the wake of divorce. Some changes are predictable, some are not, but their impact on your financial picture can be lasting.
There may be new jobs, new opportunities, changes in the marital status of either individual, or countless other unforeseen events. Don’t allow your hard work and planning to go to waste without consulting a professional to help you adjust wisely to your changing “new normal” of your life.
Most importantly, once your divorce is final, it is time to let go of the “old normal” get on with your new one. A door behind you has closed, but several doors lay ahead of you. It’s time to find out what is behind those doors for your new life.