I see it all the time, and you likely do, too. People fall apart when their marriages end. No matter if it is an amicable, Gwyneth Paltrow uncoupling, your decision or his, whether there was plenty of money or everyone is now destitute, divorce is trauma.
Every single vertical of your life unravels: finance, real estate, the kids of course, and how much you will see them and where.
You will likely have to consider selling your home.
Keeping the house after divorce? You may have to refinance your house.
Downsizing your property and possessions can be cathartic.
Money is a giant, scary question mark, and your relationships with friends and extended family likely change and are challenged. If you are like I was, your ideas about your own sexuality, identity and future are questioned, and your health can take its toll.
However, divorce is just one life experience. It is so common, so commonplace, and there are so many success stories about life after divorce, that I need you to know right now:
You will be fine.
There is trauma, yes.
Pain and suffering.
But you will get through it!
Is life better after divorce?
Is life better after divorce? There are four post-divorce experiences:
- Life is so fucking better after that asshole leaves!
- Meh. At first it seemed great but after a while I realized he was not so bad and I was just bored.
- Whew! At first I was devastated that he wanted to leave, but with time I realized what a horrible relationship it was and that he did me the biggest favor!
- It is 27 years later and every day I am angry/bitter/remorseful.
Here’s how to improve your life after divorce and help you move on regardless of your post-divorce experience.
Life after divorce: 6 things you should do to move on
Whether you just got served divorce papers or you’ve been separated for years, happily separated, or still grieving the relationship — it’s time to take steps to cleanse your ex from your life and recover from your divorce!
Self-improvement, getting laid or dating, and taking care of your physical self, and surround yourself with positive people are all critical to moving into this new phase of life in a healthy way.
Think of it: Now you can turn your bedroom into a cozy, overstuffed refuge rather than the minimalist grotto your now-ex insisted on. You can join (or quit!) a book club, cook the foods that you like, binge-watch your favorite Netflix shows —— all in the comforts of home that you now easily afford, and gleefully decorated yourself. #recovery
1. Get therapy — or at least try some self-help books and courses.
Divorce can do a number on your mind, body and soul. Take charge.
If your insurance includes coverage for therapy, get yourself a counselor. It is so freeing to talk with someone with absolutely zero stake in your personal life. Relatives and friends can be judgy about your breakup; a counselor just wants to help you move past it.
(And if your insurance coverage doesn’t include therapy? Look for affordable – and maybe even free – help through online counseling services.)
Therapy has been proven to help people struggling with all kinds of life transitions, and divorce definitely qualifies as a big-ass, major life transition! Therapy can help you understand why your marriage didn’t work out, process any grief, anger and loneliness, and help navigate co-parenting, and caring for your kids during their own difficult time.
Post-divorce counseling of course can help — whether this means working with your regular therapist, joining a post-divorce support group, or seeking out services like online therapy — sometimes just an objective, patient ear to listen can change your life.
Support groups for divorce can be powerful. I had an incredible experience with group therapy around the time of my own divorce, and connecting with other women going through a similar situation, as well as those who are both ahead of you, and following you in their divorce journeys, can be informative, healing and humbling.
Online therapy site BetterHelp takes quality, PhD or Masters degree level therapists, and makes them accessible by video or phone sessions, for fees starting at $60/week.
Here are workbooks you could try to DIY self-care:
Udemy has some free and inexpensive online courses that can help transition to life after divorce:
Life 101 Considering that stress levels and poor lifestyle choices in college students are increasing at an alarmingly fast pace, this course may serve as an effective educational tool to teach healthy lifestyle choices, promote students’ well-being and help them to recognize and manage their stress.
Life 101 is taught through a combination of lectures, multimedia videos, workshops and group discussions that would foster active learning. This course will encourage, challenge, motivate, and inspire students to make positive changes in their lifestyle and the way they interact with others and their environment.
The Science of Well-Being In this course you will engage in a series of challenges designed to increase your own happiness and build more productive habits.
As preparation for these tasks, Professor Laurie Santos reveals misconceptions about happiness, annoying features of the mind that lead us to think the way we do, and the research that can help us change. You will ultimately be prepared to successfully incorporate a specific wellness activity into your life.
Finding Purpose and Meaning: Living for What Matters Most! Learn how science, philosophy and practice all play a role in both finding your purpose and living a purposeful life. You will hear from historical figures and individuals about their journeys to finding and living a purposeful life, and will walk through different exercises to help you find out what matters most to you so you can live a purposeful life.
By the end of this course, you will:
- Understand that having a strong purpose in life is an essential element of human well-being.
- Know how self-transcending purpose positively affects well-being.
- Be able to create a purpose for your life (don't be intimidated, this is different from creating “the purpose” for your life).
- Apply personal approaches and skills to self-change and become and stay connected to your purpose every day.
2. Get a physical, and maybe a makeover.
Next, talk to your primary care physician. Explain what’s been going on in your life and get a full physical. It could turn out that your exhaustion is due to an underactive thyroid rather than breakup-related stress. Talk with the doc about any issues that concern you – weight, cholesterol, disease risk – and ask for help mapping out a healthy lifestyle.
Weight loss after breakup isn’t always an issue, of course. Some people are just naturally slim. Others have already lost weight due to the “relationship breakup diet” of stress and worry. But if you do decide to drop those extra pounds, the divorce weight loss transformation could do wonders for your self-confidence – and for your overall health, since you’ll be doing it through better eating and regular exercise.
Bonus: When you’re ready to date again, you’ll feel totally up to the challenge. The comedian Elayne Boosler once referred to post-breakup food and exercise as the “new people are going to see me naked diet.” She’s not wrong.
Nothing wrong with cultivating a “revenge body.” Let’s be honest: Doesn’t part of you really want your ex to hear about (or see) how great you’re doing – and how great you look?
3. Co-parent like a Paltrow
It can also help to focus on positive co-parenting with your now-ex. This focuses on this new relationship, and visualize what the future looks like for your whole family. Read my tips in: Rules for co-parenting with even the most toxic ex.
4. Date, when you’re ready.
Over the summer I visited a longtime friend. As we sat at the beach, our kids playing nearby, I noticed her hair was uncharacteristically oily and snarly. Her unkempt bush was bursting out the crotch of her green tank suit, and her toddler son sat nearby, eating sand and crying. She didn’t notice.
“I’m in a good place,” she said, looking away from me. “I’m thinking of dating.”
“Hm,” I said.
She was in a good place: That post-divorce, hot, steaming, crying, screaming, angry, elated, miserable, hopeless, desperate, stinky, hairy, eating-sand place: The first year after divorce.
My friend’s husband, you see, had moved out — after she discovered he’d secretly gambled away all their savings. She was exactly where she was supposed to be: deep in the denial phase of grief.
Go ahead and get ugly. You’re entitled for one year.
Then, it’s time to move on.
Post-divorce dating can be exhilarating — when you’re ready. The joys of connecting as a mature adult with other evolved people, dating and sex without the pressures of marriage or commitment, are some of the great surprises at this time of your life.
Eventually, if you want and when you are ready, you will join the countless other formerly heartbroken women and find love after divorce.
Word of warning: The pain that comes with the first breakup after divorce is a phenomenon that few talk about. Wealthysinglemommy founder Emma Johnson wrote about her first post-divorce breakup — and how she got over it.
Here are positive reasons single moms should date:
Good times. Laughs with a fun, smart guy – why not? I mean, you spend a couple hours at a rom-com and aren’t disappointed that it fails to text the next morning.
Company. Life is lonely. Sometimes I hang out with friends who are annoying because I don’t have anything better to do. Sometimes I go out on dates with men who are annoying because I don’t have anything better to do.
Business. Once on OKCupid I was contacted by a gorgeous British plumber who lived in New Jersey at the exact same time I was trying to find a plumber to unclog my toilet. He thought I was joking when I shared the coincidence. The situation resolved itself before he could come to my rescue (but not without producing plenty of porn-quality fantasies between my ears), but had that worked out it would not have been the first or last professional contact I made through dating.
Friendship. You know Marc I mentioned above? We went on an OKCupid date when we decided to be friends.
In other words, I can find compatibility of all sorts with many different kinds of men. So when something really special comes along, it is easier to discern him from a guy who was valuable for a fun evening or replacing a flush valve. Which brings me to another reason I date.
Looking for love. Duh.
Looking for a husband. Absolutely.
In essence: Dating is life. Parenting is life. Stop making such a big deal out of the former, and the latter becomes far less complicated.
5. Get your finances together, and make sure your kids are protected.
Whether he was the breadwinner and you had your head in the sand, or you are very financially astute, chances are, divorce did a number on your income, debt, credit and savings. Our 52-Week Money Challenge will help you earn more, save more, spend less and feel joyful about your funds. Sign up for the weekly FREE emails:
Divorce, breakup, job change or a new baby are all times to revisit your life insurance policy. Learn more about the specific reasons single moms need life insurance — and the best policies that don't cost a lot.
6. What if you don’t have any money now? How to start over after divorce with no money
There is broke, and then there is poverty. Many female residents of homeless shelters and transitional housing are recently divorced or left a relationship.
If you are facing severe finances as a single mom:
Find housing resources at the National Coalition for Homelessness
Learn how to qualify for HUD housing, and search for a HUD apartment on the program’s website.
Lifeline Assistance is a government program partners with mobile phone companies to provide qualifying families with free phones and cell service.
Find a food pantry near you using Food Finder, which will connect you with free food given away through churches, community programs and charities in your area.
The Women Infants and Children program, or WIC, is for families with children aged 5 and younger, and provides coupons you can use at grocery stores, markets and bodegas, for qualifying food. Learn whether you are eligible for WIC, and how to apply.
TANF, or Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, is the new name for cash assistance once called ‘welfare.’ Learn more about TANF.
The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, loads financial credit to low-income people on a debit card, to use at your local grocery store and market. Learn how to qualify, and apply online for SNAP. Free Charity Cars gives away free cars to those in need throughout the United States. Find more single mom resources here >>
Life after divorce: 6 things you should NOT do if you want to move on
- Encourage your kids to take sides
- Go on a spending spree
- Wallow too long in sadness
- Share too much about your divorce on social media
- Try to turn your friends and family against your ex
- Avoid social gatherings because your ex might be there
Starting over after divorce: 5 tips for a new you
After divorce, you get to have a fresh new start. Here are some tips to discover the new spouse-free version of yourself:
1. When you’re starting over after divorce, accept where you are in your family — even if you don't have kids.
There is no one-size-fits-all path you’re supposed to take in life. The post-divorce period is all about discovering what you want. Practice some self-care, pick up a new hobby, or even learn how to meditate.
2. After divorce you will likely be poorer in the short-term. That is OK.
Especially if you were a stay-at-home mom before divorce, you might be struggling with money right now. But there are a lot of great jobs out there, even ones that don’t require a degree. Here are some posts to help you make more money:
- 13 jobs that pay well without a degree
- 30 jobs for single moms
- How to get out of debt on a low income
- How to ask for a pay raise as a woman successfully in this economy
3. Grieve your divorce
Even if you are relieved to be out of your marriage, there will be an adjustment period. It’s OK and 100% normal to feel lonely after divorce. If you need help to get through this time, consider seeking help through therapy.
4. Declutter your house and get rid of stuff with negative energy
While Marie Kondo is great at helping you get stuff out of your house, she doesn’t help you figure out what to do with it! Consider selling some of your unused items and make some cash.
- Donate household goods, furniture, blankets, bedding, and clothes: You can donate your stuff to Goodwill, Salvation Army, churches, shelters, outreach centers, and thrift stores. Remember to collect a receipt for any donations, as a tax write-off can make more sense then trying to sell your items individually.
- Sell clothing: If you have high-quality, name-brand clothing that is only gently worn, you can likely make some cash by selling on consignment sites like Mercari, Tradsey, Swap and Poshmark.
- Sell jewelry: Many relationships involve precious jewelry. When the relationship ends, those antique, estate, or just used rings, watches, necklaces, earrings, pearls and bracelets can linger in velvet-lined jewelry boxes for years — or even the remainder of the new owner’s life! If you don’t use it, it becomes clutter. Sell it.
- Sell electronics, old books, video games, DVDs, CDs, iPhones, and Xbox: You can sell your stuff to Decluttr.com to make some cash. Whatever doesn’t sell, donate.
After a divorce, your house and your stuff can give off negative energy. As part of your decluttering process, look to feng shui your house and remove that negative energy. Watch this video to learn how:
p.s. After I worked with a feng shui consultant and decluttered, I felt a sense of lightness and control as I looked at my kitchen cupboards and knew just what selection of grains and spices were at my disposal for dinner. When I needed a certain drill bit the other day, I knew exactly where to find it. In the past, I would have clenched up at the thought of slogging through a giant drawer of hardware and left the window blinds uninstalled. There is a serenity that comes with knowing that I have more than enough, and yet am closer to the leaner, more purposeful life that I crave.
5. After divorce, heal your heart and be open to love
You might be ready to date weeks, months, or even years after divorce. But once you heal the wounds of your past relationship, it is possible to find love again. We’ve written lots of articles about post-divorce relationships:
- 5 tips for dating after divorce
- 20 single parent dating apps
- 9 reasons dating as a single mom is better
- Rebound relationships: How to recognize signs and stages
- Remarriage after divorce
6. Make new friends
Having a tribe after divorce is so important. Good friends can comfort you at your worst, make you get out of the house, and just make you laugh your ass off. Learn how to make friends after divorce and check out our list of apps to make friends and meet new people in 2022.
I run a 100% Millionaire Single Moms support group for women on Facebook, where women share about all the joys, traumas and realities of parenting solo.
FAQs: How to start a new life after divorce
Is life over after divorce?
Oh god, no.
Are people happier after divorce?
Women and men thrive after their marriages end — build communities, careers and find love, and raise great kids. For more, check out my bestselling book The Kickass Single Mom (Penguin), which the New York Post called a “Smart, must-read.”
How hard is life after divorce? How bad is it?
The answer to this question is entirely personal, and can be measured by many factors, including emotional pain, financial stress, romantic loneliness and of course the stress and pain of your kids. A few factors that help women thrive after divorce:
- Aim for a low-conflict, uncontested divorce. This will set you up for a healthy co-parenting arrangement and create fewer things for you to be pissed about long-term.
- Aim to be financially independent of him. Say no to alimony and child support and find a fair way to split out-of-pocket expenses for the kids (insurance, child care, sports, school supplies). Instead, build your career, start a business or find ways to work at home.
- Insist on 50/50 time-sharing. Moms who don’t end up resentful, and poorer, according to my survey of 2,279 moms.
What should I do with my life after divorce?
Here are just some of the million things that women do with their happy post-divorce lives:
- Start a new career
- Open a business
- Go to grad school [20 scholarships for single moms]
- Make new friends
- Get closer to their children
- Have lots of interesting, new sex
- Find love
- Have more babies
- Build wealth
- Remodel their home
- Get closer to God
- Find a new church/temple/mosque
- Revisit an old hobby/passion
- Find a new passion/project
- Volunteer/give back
- Get in shape
- Explore new sports and fitness routines
- Develop intellectual pursuits old and new
- Binge on TV shows and movies that make you feel good
- Do nothing
The bottom line: Life isn’t over after divorce.
The best way to move on after a breakup?
Time. Patience with yourself. Self-reflection. Focus on thriving as a single woman while also being open to fun, dating, partnership, and being a good co-parent.
But to get there, you have to get rid of stuff: furniture, dishes, old photos, and sell that engagement ring already.
Another self-care option: going for a dramatic new look after divorce. Dye your hair! Sell that engagement ring, anniversary ring, diamond necklace, or push-present earrings and use the proceeds to get your nose pierced! Purge the super-basic wardrobe you somehow accumulated in the past decade! (Hint: Moms don’t have to wear mom jeans.)
A divorce makeover won’t happen overnight, unless you’re financially secure enough just to dump everything and start over. Take your time, make thoughtful decisions about what you will get rid of as you can afford them. Give yourself the time and permission to discover – and to meet – your own needs and desires, now.
Oh god, no.
Women and men thrive after their marriages end — build communities, careers and find love, and raise great kids.
The answer to this question is entirely personal, and can be measured by many factors, including emotional pain, financial stress, romantic loneliness and of course the stress and pain of your kids.
Here are just some of the million things that women do with their happy post-divorce lives: start a new career, open a business, go to grad school, travel, make new friends, get closer to their children, date, and more.