As part of our series about the “5 Things You Need To Know To Survive And Thrive After A Divorce” I had the pleasure of interviewingToni Coleman, LCSW, CMC. Toni is an internationally recognized psychotherapist, relationship coach, nonverbal communications expert, and divorce mediator with many years of experience working with individuals and couples.
Let’s dive into the conversation:
Ross Garcia: If you had a close friend come to you for advice after a divorce, what are 5 things you would advise in order to survive and thrive after the divorce? Can you please give a story or example for each?
Toni Coleman: I have actually had this happen on several occasions, and the feedback I got later was that my advice was helpful.
Avoid thinking about or checking on your ex and their new life
This is something that has made the grieving and moving on process following a divorce hard for many of my friends. Social media has made it too easy to check someone’s page and/or the pages of mutual friends for photos or posts that share what an ex is up to, who they are spending time with, and if they are currently dating or in a new relationship. It can become an obsession for an ex to check up on someone this way—and it keeps them stuck and unable to move on and create a happy and thriving post-divorce life. I advise them to unfriend the person and any mutual friends who may be posting a lot of information about their ex, at least temporarily.
Make your physical and mental health a priority
Divorce is a kind of death, the death of a relationship. The recovery centers on moving through the grief process. Since grief brings anger, sadness, and depression, it can be too easy to fall into dysfunctional coping mechanisms. Some examples include utilizing alcohol or other substances to dull the pain, binging on junk food, TV and movies, withdrawing from friends and activities and interests you once enjoyed, and letting other important things go in the process.
What I recommend instead is to schedule time with good friends and family, plan healthy meals, avoid any use of substances to get through the day or night, exercise regularly (with a friend is better), and try to maintain a structured schedule with regular sleep and awake time hours.
Don’t rebound into a new relationship quickly
If you are not over someone, jumping into a new relationship is unfair to the new person as you will likely bring unresolved feelings and old, unhealthy dynamics along with you. It is hard to start anything new when you haven’t closed out the old. This does not mean that you have to wait years, or that you should avoid dating until you feel completely over your ex. What it means is that you should wait until you have enough closure, distance, and perspective to be truly open to a new person, what they offer, and how you two are together—without any lingering feelings from your past relationship casting a cloud over you.
Learn the practice of living in the moment
When you have mastered the art of living in the moment, you have found an important key to happiness. Because when you are truly present in the moment, you gain great clarity regarding your thoughts and feelings, and those insights provide you with clear sight to help you set goals and understand what it is you want and need from your life and any future relationship. It is when we are fully present that we can find out true North, which will guide us on the right path for us.
Set new goals for your future
When a marriage ends, all the shared hopes, dreams, and plans for the future you envisioned together end as well. Once you have grieved for these goals that will never be, it is important to find new goals that will help steer you to a fulfilling single life. If you try to hold on to the old hopes and dreams you will stay stuck in a reality that is no longer yours, and that will keep you from moving forward to something better.
Garcia: What are the most common mistakes people make after they go through a divorce? What can be done to avoid that?
Jumping back into dating or a relationship too quickly
Make a commitment to not jump back into dating until you have reached a certain milestone in your post-divorce life. Instead, fill your time with meaningful pursuits and passions, time with good friends, and quality, along time with yourself.
Cutting ties with friends you and your spouse had in common
While it might not be possible to remain friends with some old mutual ones; there may be many people who want to remain friends with both of you, and who will not take sides and/or make the recovery process more difficult for you. In fact, good friends are what you need as you move through the divorce recovery process. So, go slowly and weigh your decisions around this carefully.
Avoiding social gatherings and spending too much time alone
Grief can bring the desire to hide out from the world, nursing your wounds in private. Though the feelings are understandable, you should be careful not to indulge them frequently. Some along time is both healthy and therapeutic, but too much is not. Weigh your options, choose gatherings and time with friends carefully, and make sure you are getting out socially at least a couple of times a week to start. Over time and recovery, you can increase this.
Garcia: Do you have any favorite books, podcasts, or resources related to this topic that you would recommend to our readers?
Coleman: I think books are so useful, and they can be read and reread and referred to as needed. There are many out there that deal with different stages of the divorce and recovery process. Here are some of my top recommendations to my clients, though there are certainly others that are excellent as well.
Too Good to Leave, Too Bad to Stay (Mira Kirschbaum)
This is Me Letting You Go (Heidi Priebe)
.How to Sleep Alone in a King-Size Bed: A Memoir of Starting Over (Theo Pauline)
NestorResilience: Hard-Won Wisdom for Living a Better Life (Eric Greitens Navy Seal)
Rising Strong: How the Ability to Reset Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent and Lead (Brene Brown)
Ross Garcia is the founder of Divorce Mortgage Advisors, managing partner at PREI Capital Group, and co-founder of Survive Divorce. Ross is the definitive resource for all things mortgage related. You can email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.