The Biggest Secret About Divorce No One Tells You
"This makes divorce even more traumatic than it already is," says one dating coach.
Wouldn't it be nice if life's most delicate topics were discussed out in the open so that no one ever had to feel alone? Alas, that's simply just not how it goes, especially when it comes to highly sensitive issues like divorce. And that's why people going through the process may find themselves feeling particularly isolated. So, in the spirit of bringing difficult topics to light, we asked relationship experts about what someone going through a divorce is likely to be most surprised by with their split. Coming in at the top of the list? No one seems to talk about the pain and logistical challenges that come from separating not just from your spouse, but from your shared community as well.
"The unhappy couple isn't the only one divorcing," says Connell Barrett, a dating coach and the founder of Dating Transformation. "Their friends and family members are divorcing too, in a way. Divorce divides people who are close to the couple."
And that can lead to major feelings of abandonment when people feel compelled to pick a lane in the divorce. "Friends and family members choose sides, which can leave the divorced person feeling blindsided and betrayed," Barrett says. "As the cliché goes, they're about to find out who their friends are. This makes divorce even more traumatic than it already is."
While the domino effect of divorcing is one factor that people going through a legal separation should be prepared for, there are many more aspects of divorce people never talk about. Read on for some more divorce realities you need to know. And for more on the truth about splitting from your spouse, here are the Signs of Divorce Most People Don't See Coming.
Isolation is the enemy.
In the movies, heartbreak can be solved by a few weeks at home eating ice cream by the pint in bed with the shades drawn, letting all calls go unanswered. And while there's plenty of comfort to be found in resting and regrouping at home, too much alone time can lead to mental health challenges that could be mitigated by positive personal interactions.
"It's important for the newly divorced person to stay connected to the friends and family who take their side," Barrett says. "In time, they'll want to seek out new friendships and experiences. Take up a new hobby. Go to parties. Buy a dog. Start dating. Why? When you divorce, you must guard against social isolation." And for more reasons to fight your instincts to stay home alone, here are the Signs Your Loneliness Is Hurting Your Health .
The regret is real.
In an ideal scenario, no one would ever have to experience the painful and unproductive feeling of regret. But that's just not realistic when it comes to many divorces, and the pain of going through that tough emotion is not widely discussed. "There is a lot of regret people feel on what they wish they could have done differently," explains dating and relationships coach Carla Romo. "It's OK to feel those feelings and not push them away. This will help you move through the thoughts and feelings." And for more common shoulda, coulda, wouldas, here's The Single Biggest Regret People Have in Their 40s, Study Says.
It could take years to rebuild.
While "divorce" might sound like a definitive decision followed by a bunch of signatures on some documents, it's far from a simple or quick undertaking. In fact, it can be an extremely long and drawn-out process—legally, logistically, and certainly emotionally, too.
"Give yourself time," Romo says. "We are so quick to move on to the next thing. Sometimes you might need a year or two devoted to rebuilding your new life and it's OK to take your time." And if you're thinking about getting back in the game, here are the Signs You're Not Ready to Date Again.
It just hurts so bad.
Maybe this divorce was a long time coming, and maybe there's a lot of good to look forward to in your new life. But that doesn't mean the experience of divorcing a spouse doesn't hurt—really, really bad. So if you're in the trenches experiencing that deep grief, know that you're far from alone.
"People talk about moving on but they don't talk about processing the pain," Romo explains. Indeed, the more people are willing to speak openly about their vulnerabilities and real-life experiences—vis a vis dating or any other sensitive topic—the more resources people have when they're suffering, and the less they have to feel alone. And for more tips on navigating these kinds of challenges and more, sign up for our daily newsletter.