So, it’s official – you are getting divorced.
You might be experiencing a range of emotions and asking yourself, other than not being married to your ex, is there an upside to this? Lots of literature and online resources focus on the impact that divorce has on children – and that’s not a bad thing. Kids are often the people who don’t have any say in how their lives are unfolding during a divorce. However, whether or not a couple has children, their individual health and happiness is key to their overall well-being.
So, how can divorce be a good thing? Well, there are a some benefits you might not have thought of and hopefully, you’re already experiencing one or two of these without even knowing it.
Whatever the dynamic of a marriage, it’s a busy relationship. Entertaining as a couple, obligatory events, managing a household where two very different people have to comfortably co-exist and caring for pets, aging in-laws and/or children – all of these leave very little time for relaxation and self-care. Now that you’re getting divorced, even if these responsibilities haven’t gone away, they are either being shared or the decision-making about them has shifted. You are now in control of how you schedule time for yourself. Now, time you might have spent preparing a meal for your spouse, managing their calendar or doing their laundry is time you can reclaim and spend as you see fit. Sure, the dog still needs walking, but now, it’s up to you when you take that stroll. Relax, you’re in the driver’s seat again and there’s no co-pilot.
Becoming More Self-Aware
If you’re interested in learning more about yourself, a divorce is going to accomplish that goal – maybe at somewhat lightning speed. You now have the opportunity to explore what you need to be happy without having to consider the other person’s need and desires. This is your chance to pick up that neglected hobby, research topics you’ve been curious about, pursue a new volunteering opportunity or even adjust your work schedule (more or less, that’s up to you). You will also be developing coping skills as you experience the highs and lows of divorce. You’ll learn what works best for you when managing stress, what obstacles you can face and overcome, and what you don’t want in future relationships. Overall, you’re going to benefit from knowing yourself better and becoming more comfortable and confident in your own skin.
Improved Physical Health
No matter who you are or how great your stress-management skills are, unhealthy relationships negatively impact your mental health which takes a toll on your physical well-being. Being in a bad marriage – whether it’s bad because of abusive behaviour or whether it’s just bad because it’s been over for some time – drains your energy and leaves very little “gas in the tank” to enjoy life. Research shows that chronic stress increases your risk of terminal illnesses and premature aging. When you make the difficult decision to end a bad marriage, you are empowering yourself to live a healthier life. The reduction of the stress from the broken relationship will actually re-energize you to go through the process and live a better quality of life. Maintaining your mental health directly impacts your physical health and it is imperative that you are healthy throughout your divorce.
Becoming a Better You
Even if it doesn’t feel like it right now, you are becoming a better version of yourself. If you have children, you’re becoming a better parent because you chose to offer them parents who happily live apart instead of parents who stay together unhappily. If you care for aging family members, you’re becoming a better caregiver because you’ve made a difficult decision in your best interest and can devote even more time to caring for them. If you have a pet, you’ve decided to take good care of their owner and reduce the stress that they could feel in the home during the relationship breakdown. Being at the beginning of this chapter in your life often leads to pleasant surprises that you didn’t expect such as reconnecting with friends and family or even developing a better relationship with your ex out of a new found mutual respect for one another. You now have the freedom to realize your dreams, big or small. This is the best time to become your best self.
Divorce is difficult, but in many cases necessary. The end of your marriage is not the end of your existence. With some perspective, it might not be the worst thing that’s happened to you; and, with the right supports, and a little bit of luck, it can be the beginning of you curating your happiest and healthiest life.