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17 Major Upsides of Divorce No One Ever Expects

Did you know untying the knot could make you a much better parent?

No one walks down the aisle with the intention of splitting up later. But, unfortunately, approximately 50 percent of marriages in the U.S. end in divorce. And if you do find yourself sitting across from your former spouse with lawyers by your sides, it's important to remember it's not the end of the world. After all, while divorce will inevitably shake up your life in many ways, it will also free you from the negativity of an unhealthy marriage. For help shifting your outlook, read on to learn the major upsides of divorce no one expects. And for more on divorce, check out the 25 Secrets Your Divorce Lawyer Won't Tell You.

1. Your mental and physical health improves.

While you've probably heard about the health benefits of happy marriages, divorce can have some, too—especially if your relationship was rocky or unstable. One long-term study conducted by researchers at the University of Nevada and the University of Michigan found that marital conflict leads to damaging responses in the body, such as inflammation, changes in appetite, and increased release of stress hormones, all of which can affect numerous aspects of your health.

"Conflict can be particularly damaging for health if spouses are hostile or defensive during disagreements or if they are arguing about the same topic over and over again without any resolution," says Rosie Shrout, who presented the study's results at the International Association for Relationship Research conference in 2018. Resolving your conflicts with a separation or divorce can lower your stress levels and improve your health.

2. You might develop better financial habits.

Although divorce is often painted as disastrous for financial wellness, it could actually push you toward a paradigm shift in how you think about money. During a divorce, both partners must take a deeper look at their financial realities, which can help you craft a better budget and stick with it. "Divorce forces people to have a budget, and if they stick with that budget they can actually get in a better place financially," says certified divorce financial analyst Nicole N. Middendorf, a wealth advisor and the CEO of Prosperwell.

3. You'll develop increased patience.

Patience might be a virtue, but it's often one in short supply, especially in the throes of a contentious marriage. A painful experience like divorce can present an opportunity to cultivate stronger coping skills as you learn to move passed the grief and other challenges divorce presents.

"Remember that everything you're going through is temporary," urges Jennifer Giamo, founder of Fresh Start Fitness, which helps women heal and thrive after divorce. "What may feel like the end of the world at the moment will change and shift over time and it will get better. Being patient—however difficult—is part of the process that will lead to a more peaceful place."

4. You'll have more adventures.

Instead of miring yourself in the everyday difficulties of marital conflict like you may have been doing, think of the post-divorce world as your oyster.

Divorce and family lawyer Randall Kessler of Kessler & Solomiany, LLC says that after a marital separation, "You can pursue passions your ex didn't have, like travel, sports, art, or hundreds of others." With time, you can think differently not only about your divorce but about your entire future.

A couple signs their divorce agreement

5. You'll be a better parent.

Many married couples with children worry that a separation will negatively affect their kids. But divorce attorney Lisa Marie Bustos, of Bustos Family Law, PLLC in Austin, Texas, explains that it's often the opposite. "One of the more unexpected benefits that I've seen with divorce clients is that the quality of their parenting improves," she explains.

"Often times, parents are splitting time with their children. Dad may have the kids on Monday and Tuesday, and Mom may have the kids on Wednesday and Thursday. Instead of running the daily rat race of being the 'everything to everyone' type of parent, a parent who splits custody can actually focus on their children when they have visitation with them."

6. Your kids will have stronger relationships later in life.

One University of Central Florida study on college students from both divorced and intact families found that those whose parents were divorced often had more successful relationships than those whose parents were together.

And David Mahl, another researcher on children of divorce, concluded that "divorce can strengthen kids' ability to sustain successful relationships, but only if their parents stay supportive throughout the ordeal."

7. You'll get better sleep.

With the stress of a bad marriage off your shoulders and some new space in your bed, you might be able to get a little more shut eye after a divorce. One study published in the journal Psychiatry Research found that among individuals whose divorces had been finalized, the amount of time they spent in delta-wave sleep (which is ideal quality sleep) had improved.

8. You can become a mindfulness whiz.

Being aware in the moment is key to navigating any stressful circumstance, from a tricky situation at the office to a divorce. Giamo says that meditation, yoga, and other mindfulness practices can help you work through your divorce—and might even become a whole new wellness routine.

"I found meditation and yoga to be super helpful when I was going through my divorce," she says. "It really helped to calm me down and stop my mind from racing. The breathing techniques also come in really handy when you feel yourself getting frustrated."

Woman being mindful and taking a deep breath at her desk

9. You could find your new favorite hobby.

Remember all those things your ex didn't want to try with you? The RV you wanted to buy for a cross-country road trip? The salsa dancing classes you never had time to take? Well, in the wake of a divorce, try to think of life as a smorgasbord of opportunities, ready for you to try one by one.

"Focus on building your life," says Tina B. Tessina, Ph.D., psychotherapist and author of Dr. Romance's Guide to Finding Love Today. According to Tessina, the aftermath of divorce is "a great time to try something other than a relationship: take a class, start a new business or career, get a puppy." Just go for it!

10. You'll finally get in shape.

An unhappy marriage is a major stressor that often stops people from getting fit, especially if they've adopted unhealthy eating and exercise habits with their spouse.

Whether you think of your path to fitness as a "revenge body" or just a positive transformation, a divorce can serve as a great motivation to get moving and get fit. "The most important thing to remember when going through a divorce is to maintain your health and wellbeing," Giamo says. "It can be the most stressful time in your life, and if you don't manage it properly with good nutrition and exercise (which is sometimes the last thing you feel like doing), it can feel even more overwhelming."

11. You'll have more satisfying sex.

While there hasn't been much formal research on the subject of sexual satisfaction after divorce, researchers do know that sex in general peaks around the age most people experience a split. According to one study published by Women in the World, women don't hit their sexual stride until after their 36th birthday. And most people who get divorced are in their mid-to-late 40s, according to Jonathan Fields, a divorce litigator. See how that works out?

Divorce can also be a chance to reassess what you really like and dislike intimately and what you want to look for in a new relationship. "Divorced people find it much easier to get back in the saddle so to speak," Dr. Andy Trees, author of A Scientific Guide to Successful Dating, told CNN. "Sex with someone new is always exciting in a way that sex with a familiar partner isn't (which isn't to say that long-term sexual intimacy doesn't have pluses as well)."

12. You can get some extra cash flow.

If you need a little extra cash flow, a divorce can sometimes give you an unexpected boost. With a qualified domestic relations order in place as part of your divorce agreement, you can withdraw money from your retirement account—without having to pay that nasty IRA early withdrawal penalty. And while it's definitely not the best idea to dip into that retirement account, it's nice to know the option is available if you truly fall on hard times after a split.

13. You'll find out who your real friends are.

Many of the benefits of divorce have to do with starting fresh—and that includes learning who your real friends are, who you can trust, and who really has your back through thick and thin.

"You don't need to talk anyone into staying friends with you," explains Babble's Katie Bingham-Smith. "Instead, your life shifts in order to bring the right people around you—and before you know it, you will find the support you need."

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14. You'll find yourself.

When you go through something as difficult as a divorce, it can be a chance to take a long, hard look at yourself, and come to know yourself (the good, the bad, and everything in between) in a whole new way.

"I discovered who I really was after my divorce," says licensed clinical social worker Beatty Cohan. "It may never have happened had I stayed married."

15. You can break your old patterns.

Toxic or difficult relationships often push us to develop bad habits, like unhealthy eating, excessive drinking or spending, or sedentary lifestyles. In addition to taking on new adventures or hobbies, try a little habit-pruning after your divorce. Use journaling techniques or head to therapy to try to root out some of the negative patterns in your life.

16. You might even find peace…even with your ex.

"Peaceful" might not be the word that comes to mind when you think of divorce. But finding closure after a divorce can actually help you gain a sense of peace and perhaps a friendship with your ex, even if that seems impossible at first, says licensed social worker Daniel S. Sokal. "Divorce can lead a couple that was locked into long-term repetitive relational conflict loops to a more civil and peaceful coexistence," he explains.

17. Your next relationship is likely to be much better.

Even a bad marriage can prepare you for a better one. Without all the baggage of your old relationship weighing you down, you can take on a whole new approach to dating and prepare for a healthier love in the future. In fact, "second marriages are often happier," says Tessina.

And one study published in the Journal of Happiness Studies confirmed that. "Previously married individuals experience a stronger increase in both happiness and satisfaction when entering a new partnership than never-married individuals," wrote Morten Blekesaune of Agder University in Norway, who led the study. "One possible explanation is that previously married individuals have … different expectations than never-married individuals." And for more helpful divorce advice, check out the 23 Ways Divorce Impacts Your Life That No One Tells You.

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Laura Dorwart
Laura Dorwart, MFA, PhD, is a health and lifestyle writer. Read more
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