Taking Care of YOU in a Divorce


Many people do not focus on the reality that a divorce is what I would call a layered continuum. It involves three essential layers – legal, financial, and emotional. The legal layer is the shortest in the continuum. Before meeting with a divorce attorney, you may encounter financial complications resulting from what one of you considers bad behavior during the marriage. And most certainly, you will experience emotional struggles before that first divorce consultation. Long after the judge has signed your divorce decree and the lawyers are gone, the emotional layer tends to stick around the longest on that continuum, with some days being better than others. So it’s important for you to make sure you have the support you need to manage that aspect of the divorce process. Here are some tips to help take care of you:

  1. Don’t be afraid of counseling. Good therapy can go a long way. For some, there is a stigma associated with counseling, as if something were wrong with you. The reality is that a good counselor is trained and experienced to help you get through your divorce struggle. It does not mean that something is wrong with you. It’s just sometimes hard to see the forest for the trees.
  2. Plan regular outings with your friends. Sometimes it’s hard to make yourself get up and go, but regularly scheduled events with your friends can be the accountability partner you need. Find a small group and set a regular meeting night once a month. Make it movie night, dinner club, book club, happy hour – the options are endless.
  3. Stay busy with a hobby. If you already have something you love to do on your own, great. If you don’t, figure out what you love and do it. Local recreation centers, community colleges, and even neighborhood stores offer classes on virtually anything that could interest anyone – photography, cooking, pottery, gardening. And these hobbies and classes are a great way to connect with other people.
  4. Exercise. It’s easy to avoid exercise with the old “I don’t have enough time” fallback. Make it happen. You can find something to do on your own or you can find an accountability partner. And as with hobbies or options for friend outings, you have so many activities to choose from. Exercise will of course provide physical health benefits, but it will improve your attitude and lift your spirits.
  5. Be kind to yourself. Divorce is hard. Whether you are the spouse who made the decision to file for divorce or the one shocked by the news, divorce is hard. It is stressful, it is exhausting, and it is sad. So cut yourself some slack – forgive yourself when you have a bad moment. Unfortunately, I promise you that bad moments are going to happen. Just be kind to yourself when they do.

No one ever goes into a marriage thinking that they will divorce, but sadly, it happens. Eventually, you will get through it. But if you spend some time taking care of YOU, putting YOU first, then you will emerge from the emotional heartache of divorce faster and better for it.

Rhonda Cleaves

Rhonda began practicing law in 1995. She left a successful civil trial practice in 2005 to concentrate on family law — specifically, helping families transition to postdivorce life. She now practices exclusively in this area.

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