“The world breaks everyone, and afterward, many are strong at the broken places,” Ernest Hemingway once wrote. I don’t think he was talking about divorce, but it’s a good quote for anyone going through a divorce right now.
You, too, will be strong at the broken places. You just don’t know it yet.
Look at Elizabeth Gilbert, perhaps the poster child for “life gets better after divorce” thinking. The author who catapulted to fame and fortune after writing Eat, Pray, Love, her memoir of her first divorce, found love and married again—and then surprised most of her fans when she announced in 2016 that she was divorcing once more to be with her dearest friend, a woman.
If you are hoping to one day have a romantic partner again, take heart. Many people find someone and go on to have happy unions.
“After a divorce, you're more confident about the type of partner you want and don't want,” relationship expert Lori Bizzoco tells Woman’s Day.
But not everyone wants that romantic script: date, fall in love, live together, marry—again. And even if you do, that may seem like the least of what you need in order to heal right now.
Still, life can—and often does—get better after divorce.
According to research, women are often a lot happier after divorce than men are. Some find a new passion, or reconnect with an old one. In The Optimist’s Guide to Divorce, authors Suzanne Riss and Jill Sockwell talk about what happened to the members of the Maplewood Divorce Club, which they founded. Some expanded a business or created a new one, launched a podcast; one even renovated a home she bought on her own.
As Riss writes, “When your divorce is behind you, your life will get easier in many ways. One of the major stresses—the divorce itself—will be over. Soon, there will be benchmarks where you catch yourself thinking, ‘This must mean I am really moving on,’ whether it’s the first kiss with a new man, buying a home on your own, or even something mundane like putting up a shelf on your own in your office. With each victory, big or small, you believe in yourself that much more.”
Riss is right. Going through the emotional, physical, and financial issues brought on by the end of a marriage is incredibly hard. If you have children, learning to co-parent in separate homes is challenging. Plus, you need to provide them with the love, attention, and understanding they need to deal with their own grief while you yourself are grieving. When you’re in the throes of it, it can feel scary, overwhelming, and never-ending.
Then, one day, you realize there’s been a shift.
Something that once felt impossible is actually doable. Then another thing... and your mood lifts. Life feels normal—a new normal. While there may still be some lingering issues post-divorce, you begin to feel excited. This is the beginning of the “it gets better” part.
“The idea that you're unhappier after divorce is outdated, old-paradigm thinking. In my experience, staying in a marriage that my ex and I both agreed had all its best moments behind it was epically depressing,” writes Candace Walsh, editor of the anthology Ask Me About My Divorce: Women Open Up About Moving On. “I and many of the women in my book talk about this immense sense of lightness and liberation which came with ending their marriages and starting fresh.”
Chicago Tribune columnist Heidi Stevens was somewhat surprised when a loan specialist congratulated her on her divorce and told her that it usually means a better life ahead. “She was right, of course,” Stevens writes. “But you rarely hear that. Or read that. Or find an expert who will tell you that. Divorce is messy and painful and expensive and not to be glorified nor entered into lightly. But it can also be the beginning of a more tranquil, authentic, happier—indeed, better—life. And that's worth telling people.”
But it won’t just happen to you without some effort on your part, divorce coach Karen Finn advises. “You’ve got to help it along by changing your mindset from one that expects more hurt and misery to one that begins to expect that you will have a happier life after divorce than the one you’re living right now.”
Written by Vicki Larson
Vicki Larson is a divorced mom of two young men. She is a longtime journalist, author, writer, editor, and freelancer, whose work can be found in numerous places—websites, magazines, books, and newspapers. Vicki is the co-author of "The New I Do: Reshaping Marriage for Skeptics, Realists, and Rebels." Learn more about Vicki at OMGChronicles.VickiLarson.com.