Life after a divorce: 12 steps to happiness
Divorce is always accompanied by stress. It is not easy to turn over everything and start from scratch. The situation is especially complicated if the news of the breakup came as a complete surprise to the person. Psychologist Sofia Enikeeva tells how to survive this period and return to a happy life.
Observations of psychologists suggest that a painful divorce can cause psychological trauma. If it is not noticed in time and do not begin to take measures, then after some time it may grow into post-traumatic stress disorder. The person can have intrusive thoughts about the traumatic event, nightmares, anxiety and a violent display of emotions in response to the trigger, reminding about the breakup.
To avoid being in this state, it is important to assess the risks of its occurrence in a timely manner.
Risks and consequences of divorce
- The decision to break up was made by your partner, although you would like to continue the relationship. Moreover, the news about this decision was a surprise for you. Such a situation is a big blow to self-esteem.
- All of your life has been built around a relationship. You have no friends of your own, no apartment, no job, no interests. In this case, you have no one to lean on.
- It is not the first time a relationship ends with the departure of the partner. You begin to feel that there is something wrong with you, you are cursed, not made for family.
- You married very early, and the baton to make decisions and take care of you husband took almost from the hands of your mother. In this situation, you may begin to feel like a helpless child.
- You are separated, but have to spend a lot of time together (shared apartment, work, business). In this situation, you may not be able to separate from your partner and begin to heal from your grief first and then build a separate life.
In all of the above cases, you need to understand that you are at risk for psychological trauma and need support.
What is going on in your brain at this time?
The Chemistry of Emotion.
Our thoughts do not determine, but only explain the emotions caused by the hormonal cocktail.
Moods are shaped mainly by dopamine and serotonin. Moreover, we can say that every trait of our character is related to the hormones testosterone, dopamine/noradrenaline, estrogen and serotonin.
Serotonin is the joy hormone. If your serotonin levels are consistently high, you can be described as a calm, patient person with a long-established circle of friends. Strong and stable relationships and traditions are very important to you, you are a supporter of social norms. This means that your good mood system, built into the brain, is actively working in a stable and reliable family system with a single man for life. Accordingly, any loss of stability, destruction of relationships, breaking traditions hit first of all on the leading system of getting joy from life.
When there is nowhere to draw joy from, it becomes difficult to live. Heartache turns the world into a solid Malevich’s “Black Square”. Successes at work, achievements in fitness, an evening with friends, and even more so the beautiful weather outside ceases to be joyful.
Dopamine is the pleasure hormone. If you like novelty, you easily change hobbies, places of work, social circle, then you are rather “dopamine-intensive. It would seem that in this case, divorce should not affect you negatively. Indeed, you are easier to adapt to change. Unless you do not consider the separation a personal failure, which can not be explained and changed. If the situation turned out to be out of control, the dopamine goes down, and with it the desire to do something.
How to help yourself?
12 steps to a happy life
1. Accept the fact of the breakup
If you are told a firm “no”, and the more so that the former partner is another, you need to accept the fact that in this story you have reached the epilogue. This important step will help you reach the very bottom, from which you can push back. If you maintain the hope of continuation, you can not help yourself, because why do something if everything will soon be back on track, you just have to wait a little bit. Remember, this waiting can drag on for years.
2. Ground yourself
If you feel that the pain is unbearable and black thoughts are running in circles in your head, this exercise will help you shift your focus from your head to your body. Place both feet on the floor, feet pressed to the floor. Feel your feet, close your eyes, and imagine that you are a tree with its powerful root system growing into the ground. Stay in this state until you feel a sense of calm. Perhaps you will be able to concentrate on contemplating clouds, or a river will begin to gleam before your inner vision. Consider the details of this picture and learn to supplement it with some new details. Over time you will easily learn to calm yourself in any stressful situations by retreating to this safe place.
3. Reduce the pain.
Remember, the cardinal rule for dealing with mental pain is the same as it is for physical injuries. Diagnose the cause (in your case, we’re talking divorce), take a painkiller, and begin treatment. So, diagnosis. Go through the list of risks at the beginning. What is it that has traumatized you the most? That’s what we’re going to deal with.
The pain reliever at the beginning is the people who love you. Call friends and family, but only those who are willing to listen and support you. The key word is supportive. Do not talk to people who will aggravate your emotional state with phrases such as: “And I told you, it’s your fault.
Remember, alcohol is not a resource. Moreover, temporary relief will lead you to a worsening of your condition the next day. The pain, anxiety, depression, and self-injury that you feel will intensify many times over in your hangover state.
4. Cry and grieve as much as you need to
Unwept and unexperienced grief turns us into knights in iron armor, effectively blocking all emotion. In this case, not only sadness, heartache, despair, but also joy, happiness, inspiration and the possibility of falling in love again in the future will be blocked.
5. Deal with your hormones.
Find a source to maintain serotonin and dopamine levels. The best helpers are sports, sunshine, and proper nutrition.
Antidepressants are the most effective way to boost serotonin, but only if you are already depressed and a doctor has prescribed them. If, like me, you’re a supporter of natural methods, then consult a nutritionist. He will recommend an appropriate diet that helps in the delivery of the amino acid tryptophan, which is responsible for the synthesis of serotonin.
As for the benefits of the sun, enough sun reduces the production of melatonin, the serotonin antagonist. Lower melatonin means higher serotonin.
Dopamine rises when you set goals and achieve them, so don’t give up on your creative, work, or athletic ambitions. On the contrary, set yourself small goals each day, then increasingly difficult but achievable ones. In a situation of struggle for joy, you don’t need to wait for motivation – you won’t wait for it. The dopamine reward system works in such a way that joy will catch up with you after you’ve accomplished your goals, and with it comes the motivation to accomplish the new plan. The main thing is to keep moving.
6. Limit any contact with your ex.
Get an apartment, share the business, go away more often to friends, if right now you still have a common job or apartment.
Do not monitor the social networks (better to unsubscribe from your ex-spouse), do not ask his friends about him, do not look for reasons to meet. Do not give him no secret (as you think) signals about yourself. Do not post photos, statuses, quotes like “I’m hard to find and easy to lose. Understand, the more time and energy you spend on an ended relationship, the longer you get stuck in it. There is a beautiful parable on this subject.
“An old man revealed a life truth to his grandson:
– There is a struggle in man that is like the struggle of two wolves, a black wolf and a white wolf. The black wolf represents evil: envy, jealousy, regret, selfishness, ambition, lying. The white wolf represents good: peace, love, hope, truth, kindness, and faithfulness.
The grandson wondered and asked:
– Which wolf wins at the end?
– The wolf that you feed always wins.”
7. the energy of people
Get yourself out to trade shows, fitness, the pool, walks. The very fact that you got out of bed without an emergency is already a small victory. Forced yourself to get dressed and put on makeup – another victory. Now for the big secret. When you are among people (even strangers and silently), the feeling of loneliness goes away. Moreover, thanks to mirror neurons, you absorb the state of others. In the gym, theater and exhibitions are usually a lot of people with an active attitude, who work on their body and spirit. Let yourself be infected by their attitude.
8. Stop beating yourself up.
Searching for causes and errors in the initial stage is unconstructive, and more often than not, it turns into self-defeating. Keep track of the moments when you begin to mentally torment yourself. How do you distinguish constructive analysis from unfair criticism? If you’ve been asking the same question for days on end, “How could I be so wrong, so stupid,” and come to a state of pain and despair, that’s it – auto-aggression and gridlock. Once you realize that you are engaging in self-injury, go back to the first steps on our list.
9. Give up plans for revenge
Sometimes the only source of joy is dreams of getting your revenge. The fantasies may be different or the same, but in different decorations. The problem is that at some point these illusions become a source of getting dopamine and, consequently, joy. Dopamine receptors make no distinction between actually achieving an outcome and achieving it in vivid fantasies, and the difference is very simple. Instead of doing little things in real life (sports, walks, creativity) you start living in fantasies. What’s more, as a result, your ex-partner and thoughts of him become a source of reward. While he is living a real life with another woman, you lose the chance to meet a new real man.
10. Separate the boundaries.
Start little by little to form your own, separate world from your partner. One in which you have your own meanings, interests, friends and plans. You will find it easier to accept your partner’s separateness and to get over a grudge against him or her. Of course, work with boundaries – it is a long psychotherapeutic process. Reciting a Gestalt prayer will help you to tune into it:
“I’m doing my thing and you’re doing your thing.
I don’t live in this world to meet your expectations, and you don’t live in this world to meet mine.
If we happen to meet each other, that’s fine.
And if we don’t, so be it.”
11 Open your heart even though it hurts
Take advantage of the handicap principle. Amoz Zahavi, the author of the principle, believed that information about the quality of the genome is carried by traits that make life difficult. For example, large tail size, too bright plumage, loud cries, excessively large horns, are all measures of genome quality. With them it is harder to hide and flee from predators, only a highly adapted individual with such excessive adornments will be able to survive to the point of breeding.
Let your experience of living a divorce be a handicap principle. After all, opening your heart and continuing to believe in love after experiencing the pain of betrayal, the collapse of illusions and plans, the fall of self-esteem, depression, and fear is pure insanity.
As absurdly bold as an overly large and bright peacock’s tail. But after all, only such insane daredevils win truly worthwhile prizes! Any man understands that if you are so fearless and strong, then you will not fall into hysterics from every trouble, but on the contrary – can be a reliable support if necessary.
12. search for meaning
Now, having passed all the previous steps, you are ready to have a constructive dialogue with yourself. Remember I wrote that in the initial stages it is not necessary to endlessly remember the past and look for mistakes in it? When you’ve come to your senses, shared boundaries, found hobbies, learned to ground yourself, then you can begin to analyze past experiences without self-blame.
Psychologist Viktor Frankl wrote about the need for an existential turn: you need to stop asking yourself “why am I doing this?” and start asking “what can I get out of it?” If you do this, you may find that you have become closer to your family and friends, found new interests, acquired a dream figure, and become a completely different person in general because of what happened. You may already know at least one answer to the question, “Why did this happen to me?”
Onward to a new life
I believe, and the experience of my clients confirms my belief, that divorce is exactly the crisis that turns us on our heads. Many people’s lives before divorce were determined by their partner’s needs. There was somehow no time for themselves. When life confronted divorce, a huge hole was formed in my heart. At first I just wanted to lie down and die. Then I had to push myself forward through the despair and pain, further and further toward new meanings. When your legs failed, friends came to the rescue, and you learned to lean on them first, and then slowly on yourself.
A woman who has learned to rely on herself is no longer afraid to turn to the mirror, look yourself in the eye, wink and go out. She is ready to make plans, dreams, flirt with attractive men, get married and just enjoy life.
Breakup and divorce – how to learn to live again
“I recently split up with my husband. And it seems there were no special reasons, we almost did not fight, but he found a new woman. It is insulting and terribly painful. Everything just fell apart in an instant. I don’t know how I’m going to survive an affair and a divorce. I don’t want to drink and then get treatment for it. Are there any legal ways to reduce the pain?
– Elena, 25 years old
Feelings and pain – the natural reaction of a person to the separation, even if it was expected, rather than sudden, as in the case of our heroine. Avoiding feelings is unlikely to work at all, but it is possible to reduce them and reduce the time of “recovery”, to make the period of separation less painful. Let’s talk today about how to learn to live life to the fullest after a divorce or breakup, and let’s look at the main questions that arise during this period.
“Why am I in so much pain because of the breakup? I guess it shouldn’t be like this?””Why am I in so much pain because of the breakup? I guess it shouldn’t be like this?”
A lot of people have a hard time with breakups. Why? Let’s identify 3 main reasons.
1st reason. We are social animals and we need other people, a social group where we will be recognized, loved, cared for. Our partner or spouse is the very social group where we feel needed. And suddenly that group, the most beloved and desirable one, falls apart. The loss of an important social contact can cause not only mental pain, but also real physical pain.  We have lost an important person, and for now there is an emptiness in its place.
2nd reason. Very often when we break up, not only the person is gone, but also some part of our normal life. Joint trips to the stores and movies, cuddles before going to bed, dreams and hopes, shared friends. Not only our status is changing, but our whole routine is changing. Naturally, we get lost and feel bad. For example, we used to take walks together before going to bed, and now there is no such opportunity. This feeling can be compared with withdrawal syndrome – we do not get what we were used to, and suffer from it.
The 3rd reason. Sometimes the experience can turn into a habit. A person keeps coming back to them – and the brain gets used to suffering.  Despite the fact that after the breakup mostly good things are remembered, such fixation on the past interferes with moving on with life. As a result, the post-breakup period becomes very painful and can drag on for a long time.
“It’s been three years since we broke up, but I can’t forget him, I constantly remember, I go to the places we’ve been, I review the movies we watched together, I follow him on social networks, I see who he likes, I can’t sleep if I see that he’s not online in the evening. And how do I get over breaking up with the man I love if literally everything reminds me of him? He seems to be getting married soon, I do not know what will happen to me after that.
– Marina, 34 years old
“And I wasn’t really sad about the breakup. Am I okay?”
Of course, a breakup isn’t always painful. The breakup of a relationship can even cause a sense of relief and joy: “Well, it’s finally over! I can finally move on with my life in peace.” This can happen if the relationship was traumatic, or derailed gradually, by itself. And if that’s what happened to you, then there’s nothing wrong with you either. People are different, and can react differently to breakups.
“In general, I consider myself very lucky. We lived together for two years, but for the last year it was like no relationship at all – different friends, different hobbies. As neighbors, hello-bye, we both cooled off. And then she was offered a job in another city and I, of course, did not go with her. Now we are friends, no hard feelings or claims, we parted peacefully and mutually”.
– Ivan, 29 years old
“What if I have an unhealthy addiction?”
Very often people call any desire to be together with another person an addiction. Are you sad? An addiction. Bored? Same. But drawing a conclusion about the “unhealthiness” of a relationship is better based on considerations of harm and well-being for each individual.  Bored and sad after a breakup is normal. Addiction begins when one’s entire life is built around one person and one’s own needs and desires are forgotten.
– I can’t eat or drink until I see someone.
– I don’t want to go anywhere or do anything without him.
– She has no right to socialize with others and has to devote all her time to me alone.
– Without him my life is ruined and I am not capable of anything now.
– I am willing to do anything to be together, even a crime.
Such painful cravings are infrequent, but they significantly impair the quality of life, so it is worth directing efforts to get out of this state as soon as possible.
“I get a lot of anxiety. Should I do something about it? Will it go away on its own?”
Sometimes it really can “go away on its own” – time heals. But often this “will pass itself” drags on for a long time, a year or two or even more, and causes a lot of pain. The period of separation can turn from a normal stage of life into a habitual long-term condition. That’s why it’s better not to let the experience go to waste, but to learn to manage your condition and your life, for example, to find new friends, to replace lost habits with new ones with the help of behavior change technology 7Spsy, to learn a new hobby, etc. This is especially important if you already realize that you cannot cope on your own, that your worries are dragging you down like a swamp, and you do not have the strength to get out.
“I don’t have many friends, so when she paid attention to me, I was in seventh heaven. But now something terrible is happening. She keeps pushing me away, and I’m running around like a dog, begging for attention like a handout. I would like another day with her, another cuddle. It’s like she’s playing around on purpose. She must be pleased that I, a grown man, but in love like a boy. I’m tired of this game! I’m a human being, not a yo-yo that can be spun back and forth! How do I get over the attraction to her? How to get over the parting with a loved one, with the girl I love, to forget and not come back to her anymore?
– Anton, 33 years old.
“Are there any stages of breaking up? When will I already feel better?”
Stages of separation in some ways similar to the stages of any other grief, but there are some features. Knowing these stages will help both men and women get through a divorce.
Stage 1. Despair, longing, denial. The person has not yet come to terms with the fact that he has parted with his partner. He can refuse to believe in what is happening, to consider everything a bad dream or an evil joke. The emotional state is unstable – from running up and down the walls and destroying the apartment to staring at one point exhausted.
Stage 2. Emotional disengagement. The separation is already realized and accepted, but the person still clings to the relationship, trying to maintain emotional contact with the former partner. The emotional connection is strong in the beginning of this stage, but decreases towards the end. For example, at first, the person spent the whole day and night on his social networking page, and now he visits only a couple of times a day.
Stage 3. A return to a normal life. The emotional connection is practically destroyed, the person begins to return to his or her usual behavior. He or she hardly ever follows the lost soul mate, stops watching sad films, communicates with the friends, plans the future.
Teaching a harmonious relationship
The duration of the stages and the intensity of emotions is individual and depends on many factors: personal characteristics, the duration of the relationship, the quality of their sudden breakup, etc. But the most important thing about these stages is that the pain goes away.
So how do you not get stuck in the first two stages and move quickly to the third?
How to survive a breakup or divorce? 12 tips from a psychologist
There are a few simple ways to help you get through the breakup stage safely.
1. Do not blame yourself
Sometimes a breakup is perceived as a signal “something is wrong with me, I am bad. If they left me, it means that I am some kind of defective or wrong. But people can break up for different reasons, and even good people can break up. So first of all, stock up on empathy and compassion for yourself, love yourself, support yourself, and take care of yourself first. 
2. Reconsider the value of relationships to you
Yes, we need other people, but relationships are not the only way to realize yourself and enjoy life. And that goes for women, too. Our greatest value is in ourselves, not in relationships with other people.
3. Give yourself time.
Don’t keep everything inside yourself. It’s useless to force thoughts and emotions away from yourself. They are there, and sooner or later they will break through. So it’s better to allow yourself to be sad from time to time, but don’t make sadness the sole purpose of your life.
4. Don’t see parting as the end of everything.
Look at what is happening soberly. Yes, an unpleasant thing happened, it’s not happy or fun, but it’s not the end of your whole life, even if it seems that way now. A breakup is more like a temporary bad weather — sad and unpleasant, but it passes. You can still manage your life, you are able to survive this situation and come out of it without serious loss – it is within your power. Even though you cannot fix anything with this person, you can build a new relationship with another person who will also become dear and close to you.
5. Don’t be alone with your pain.
You shouldn’t sit alone in front of the TV and eat ice cream. Go to other people, ask them to help you and be with you. It is possible and necessary to cry and worry, but not all the time. Leave time for other conversations. The more people you have around you, the better. This way you will be able to distract yourself and satisfy your need for communication.
6. Give up revenge.
Sometimes you want to hurt the person who left you back, and you may want that pain to be greater than yours. But this tactic is not the most helpful. First, you are not spending your resources on yourself, but again on the other person. Second, revenge is unlikely to satisfy you; it is more likely to produce a desire for further revenge. And thirdly, revenge fixes us on the breakup, preventing us from moving on. If the desire for revenge is very strong, burden yourself physically: jog, walk briskly, etc.
7. Find something to do.
A hike, a trip, or a new hobby is an effective way to ease the pain and take your mind off the breakup. Another effective way is to volunteer and help other people. It is also helpful to find your own personal ways to help reduce the heartache. Some people are relieved by listening to music, others are helped by smells such as citrus and pine, and others are saved by reading light, entertaining books.
8. Let yourself go.
You don’t need to prove to this man that you are worthy of him. You don’t need to correct any mistakes and try to be better for him. This relationship is over, and you don’t have to gnaw yourself up and suffer to prove the power of your love. You can just move on, into your new life, which you will create on your own.
“I broke up with my man not too long ago, but I’m already starting to live again. I love myself, praise myself, and take care of myself. I try to go out, enjoy life and myself. Not out of spite, but because I feel so good. I ate a lot of oranges and tangerines, apparently, my brain is asking for it. And I bought mousse with that scent and shampoo. It really helps reduce the pain. Yes, I can feel it, but that pain is on its own. I let that person go, I don’t cling to them. And my pain is more like a sadness because of the lost illusions that the man was not what I thought.
– Olga, 25 years old
9. Separate reality and illusion
An exercise about lost illusions can be helpful. The main task is to look at the relationship with a sober eye, to see the reality without fantasies and second-guessing. So, divide the sheet into two parts, in one part write the real facts and events from your life, and in the other – your fantasies, hopes and dreams. For example:
In this case, facts and fantasies do not have to be opposed, they can be completely different things, as in the case of children and birthdays.
The point of this exercise is to see what we are really worried about, a real loss or our hopes for the future and lost illusions.
10. Allow yourself to be shortsighted and inconsiderate
“Dated a man for almost a year and he turned out to be married. He chose his wife. I am hurt and very ashamed right now. How could I have been so blind and naive? I can’t tell anyone, I’ve always condemned mistresses, and then I found myself like that. How in this case, survive the parting with the guy I love?
– Inna, 34 years old
“How could I not realize that he was such a man! I should have seen and understood everything at once. Then he would not have betrayed me, and I would not have suffered. We don’t have the ability to read minds and see the future, so it’s only natural that we might not have seen some signs and not realized in time where our relationship would lead. If you don’t have a chance to share with someone, try writing about your feelings, preferably by hand and on paper, like a diary.
Don’t believe everything your ex-partner tells you.
Very often when breaking up, resentment speaks instead of the person, even if the person himself initiates the breakup. That is why you can hear words like “I never loved you, I was bad with you, you are my mistake”. Another reason for the hurtful words – the desire to shift the responsibility for the breakup on you. It is difficult for a person to admit to himself that he also participated in the destruction of the relationship, so he tries to “whitewash” himself. How to survive a divorce from a once beloved husband or wife, if it is accompanied by such attacks from the exes? Accept the fact that the speaker is trying to get rid of his pain in this crooked way, alas, at your expense.
Get professional help
Support from loved ones is an important and useful thing, but sometimes the help of a psychologist is necessary. For example, if you yourself cannot cope with building a new life, are very sad, stressed out, and stuck on your loneliness, a psychologist can help you see that a happy future is possible, and help you develop new habits to cope with sadness and worries, anger and resentment against yourself and your ex-partner. You can get the same help and results with 7Spsy behavior modification technology. This is a patented science-based method of behavioral psychology, which is based on the theories of Ivan Pavlov, B. F. Skinner, AA Ukhtomsky and others. Classes are confidential and held remotely, that is, you do not have to go somewhere – you study at home at any convenient time. A psychologist will be in touch and be able to support you when necessary. You also choose the method of communication – phone, online chats or e-mail.
As a result of the sessions, you will be able to look at your situation in a new way, see the prospects, and learn a new model of behavior that will help you through the breakup and get on with your life. The pain, bitterness of loss, and disappointment will all be far behind you.
What not to do after a breakup
In addition to helpful actions that help us move on, there are actions that slow us down and prevent us from getting over the breakup:
- Living for an ex-partner, trying to prove something to him, like taking and posting pictures on social media so “he can see how good I’m doing.” This uses up a lot of resources and is exhausting. Especially since the ex-partner rarely understands the error of his choices, which only adds to the pain.
- Maintain contact, try to be friends in the hope that someday he will notice who he has lost and come back. Eventually the hope will crumble, and the person will be disappointed and worry even more.
- Starting a new relationship. If you have not closed the story with your previous partner, it is unlikely that a new relationship will bring you happiness. Often people in this situation begin to compare their partners, complain or talk about how good it was. This will hurt both you and your new life partner.
“What if we have children? How do I go on after a divorce with my husband or wife in that case?”
Unfortunately, divorce is rarely calm and peaceful. Although, of course, it is possible and depends on the efforts of both partners. But usually the ex-husband and wife figure things out, and the children are the first to suffer. There is no universal advice, because all situations are very different, but it would be good if adults do not forget about the children in their showdown.
We are adults, we can do a lot, we are responsible for ourselves. Children depend on us, and our job is to take care of them. Blackmail, threats, pressure, and manipulation with the help of children are highly undesirable. In cases where the divorce is very painful, we recommend seeking help. This will help to change the pattern of behavior, learn to negotiate and be guided not by emotions, but by common sense. Behavior change technology 7Spsy can also be useful in this situation.
Teaching a harmonious relationship
Alas, any breakup brings discomfort, but you can make it minimal. The main thing – take care of yourself in time and find qualified help. Help to take and survive the divorce and separation is designed to change behavior 7Spsy.