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.
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!
11 tips for moving on and finding yourself after divorce
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.
After divorce, you get to have a fresh new start. Here are some tips to discover the new spouse-free version of yourself:
- Grieve your divorce
- Get therapy or try a self-help course
- Co-parent like Paltrow
- Get a physical, and maybe a makeover
- Declutter your house and your life
- Heal your heart
- Make new friends
- Create a lifestyle you can afford
- Build your career
- Start dating
- Build your own wealth
1. 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. In fact, you can experience a range of emotions, and that is also normal.
Merriam Saunders, a licensed marriage and family therapist (LMFT) and certified divorce mediator, says that the first year after a divorce is often the most difficult — even if you left a bad marriage and even if you’ve started dating someone new.
“The grief may not necessarily be due to missing the former spouse, but rather the life that was built together, the identity forged as a couple, the thought that others might view you as somehow having failed,” Saunders says.
She says if there are children involved, you may also be grieving your ability to raise them in an intact family, as if you’ve somehow failed them, as well.
Saunders says it’s normal to experience grief because it is a loss. However, how you express and deal with that loss is different for every person.
“A newly divorced person can expect that just like with any loss, uncomfortable feelings might come up when you least expect them (a sad song on the radio, someone at a stop light who reminds you of your wedding day), and it’s normal,” Saunders says. “Breathe through the discomfort and know it’s just part of the process of moving through change.”
Give yourself time to navigate life after divorce. If you need help to get through this time, consider seeking help through therapy. Options like BetterHelp and other online therapy sites are legit choices — if you don’t want to go to an in-person therapist.
2. 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.) 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. This can be an alternative to in-person therapy.
How therapy can help
Here are some reasons to try therapy:
- 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.
- It can help you process any grief, anger and loneliness.
- You can learn how to 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.
Try a support group
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.
Take an online course
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.
3. Co-parent like a Paltrow
It can also help to focus on positive co-parenting with your now-ex. Create a plan that works for the new relationship you have with your ex-spouse. Visualize what the future looks like for your whole family.
Custody X Change, a tool for creating parenting plans and schedules, offers the following tips for making a successful plan:
- Make a parenting time schedule that clearly defines when your child spends time with each parent. In addition to a regular weekday schedule, you should note holidays and vacations.
- Define the legal custody for each parent.
- Write down how you will handle child support and issues like claiming your child as a dependent at tax time.
- Include decisions about designated exchange areas including when and how the exchange will take place.
- Write down decisions about medical care, child care, education, extracurricular activities, travel, screen time, and any other topic that relates to the child’s lifestyle and wellbeing.
- Outline all accepted forms of communication.
- Write about how you will handle disagreements.
Read my tips in: Rules for co-parenting with even the most toxic ex.
4. 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 a 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?
5. 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.
How to get rid of junk: 24+ free and cheap junk removal options
- 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.
- 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.
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.
Downsizing after divorce: how to declutter and take charge
6. 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
7. 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 2023.
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.
8. Create a lifestyle you can afford after divorce
After divorce, your income and financial outlook will change. Downsizing after divorce can help you get on track financially and build a successful post-divorce life.
Here are some tips for making and saving money after divorce:
- Sell unwanted items online
- Sell your car and get a less expensive model
- Sell jewelry you no longer want
- Avoid buying more stuff and impulse shopping
Molly Rosenblum, owner and founding attorney of The Rosenblum Allen Law Firm based in Las Vegas says you should also set up a new budget when divorce is imminent — one that will reflect your income and debts after divorce.
“This way, you will know what it will cost to live independently and be self-supporting,” Molly says. “It will also give you a good insight into what you should ask for in terms of alimony and potentially child support.”
Rosenblum also recommends consulting with a financial planner and a tax professional.
The financial planner can give you ideas on how best to handle funds from alimony, your ex’s retirement benefits, or a lump sum payout from the sale of marital property. If you will receive alimony, a tax professional is one of the best people to have in your corner.
“Alimony is taxable to the payor and the person receiving it,” Rosenblum says. “A tax professional can help structure payments and a division of assets to avoid significant tax consequences.”
Should you keep the house in the divorce?
9. Build your career post-divorce
Thanks to technology and a changing work culture that values parents, there are countless quality, legit jobs and careers that pay well and provide the flexibility to spend time with your family, work out, build a side gig, or otherwise enjoy life. These opportunities include remote work and other work-at-home opportunities.
In fact, working from home tops my gratitude list most days, as it has allowed me to devote concentrated sums of time building a business that I love, pays well, and allows me to spend as much (or little! Let's be real here!) time with my kids as I need to.
High-paying WAH jobs includes careers that often pay $100,000 or more:
My favorite job board for moms is FlexJobs — the leading job site specifically for telecommuting, part-time, flexible-time, online, work from home, and other alternative work arrangements that make such a big difference in families’ lives.
10. Start dating after divorce
I was terrified to date after divorce, and only went on a date after a full year because my friend forced me onto a blind date. I had never dated as a single mom, my body had changed, and the world had changed (hello, smart phones, online dating, and sexting!).
Today, I can attest that dating as a single mom is truly wonderful, as many women can attest. I write all about the reasons in this post on why dating after divorce is so thrilling (including the sex).
Online dating can seem intimidating or desperate if you've never done it, but surveys find that is the No. 1 most common way for marrying couples to meet. I have gone on hundreds of dates that originated online, including my three-year relationship with my current boyfriend.
Learn about all the popular online dating sites and apps for single parents in my rundown.
For finding a serious relationship, a boyfriend or a husband, eharmony is the leader:
- Free 150-point personality report
- Apps for iOS and Android
- 100% of members are proven to be real (no catfishing or married people!)
- Free version
- For paid memberships, eharmony has one of the lowest prices.
- 3-month free guarantee
- A+ Better Business Bureau rating
Get 25% off your membership with promo code WSM25 >>
Learn more about eharmony in my review.
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.
11. Build your own wealth after divorce
You likely left your marriage poorer than when you were married, even if you did get the house and a share of investments.
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:
- 14 jobs that pay well without a degree
- 28 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
If you don't already feel confident about investing, learn. Here is my guide to build wealth. In addition, 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:
FAQs about moving on after divorce
Is life over after divorce?
Oh god, no.
Is life better after divorce?
Is life better after divorce? That may entirely depend on the person. Typically, 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.
Are people happier after divorce?
Women and men can 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 is life after divorce really like? Thoughts from our readers
Here’s what some of our readers had to say:
Single motherhood can be amazing if you allow it to be. You get to be a mess for a year. yes- that article was a game changer for me because it put a deadline on the self-pity that I see so many other single moms trapped in. After that find the joy. I remember once sneering at the thought of “the Disney dad”. The parent that focuses on fun. And one day when I was being the obnoxious, scattered, can’t get my shit together single mom and looked at my 3 year old looking back at me not sure why I was so miserable it hit me. I had to be more like that disney dad. So when I needed to rush into before care I would race the kids to the door rather than drag them. When my tough nut little one resisted getting ready in the morning I made up the game “Soldier! Report for duty!” She loved me calling out steps to her, “soldier! Arms up for t shirt!” It changed our relationships and now with happy, healthy 10 and 12 year olds fun is the foundation of our threesome. Letting go in that way has allowed me to make serious leaps I wouldn’t have otherwise. I handle stress so much better. So do my kids. I love my life now in a way I never even imagined before.– Kiki
After I took the time to really heal both from my marriage and other traumas it's been great. I have more confidence, a better job, a fantastic friend circle. I'm dating someone wonderful (and it's amazing not to have to pressure to escalate the relationship beyond our comfort), I love my freedom, and I feel so much less stress. I'm a few years out and it took awhile to get here, some of which was difficult and painful, but I'm literally the happiest I've ever been in my life.– Janelle
Someone said that marriage is like the womb. And divorce is the birth.
I love my post-divorce life. And a wonderful thing to have happened to me as it made me spread my wings. I met me.
I felt traumatized by the separation. The bouncing back was hard and painful. The healing journey helped me re-discover myself. I grew exponentially as a person. My ex-husband and I are friendly with each other. He is married now. And we have a good rapport. We are very different people with some very different values and it makes sense now to not be married to each other.
Someone who is considering divorce or going through it right now… While most of us don't enter a marriage thinking of divorcing… the end of a marriage is inevitable… either by death or by divorce. The timeline varies. The contrasts co-exist. Yes, it is painful. It is a loss at a very deep level.
My advice: grieve it. Feel it fully. Grieving is beautiful. Get support. Take your time. Consciously heal. There is always, always light at the end of the tunnel. One can make it a journey of metamorphosis or staying broken. That is in our hands.
Don't make the children a part of the mess. Divorce is between husband and wife. Not between the father and mother. Father and mother… they always remain.– Shruti
There are so many days that I feel like I'm doing it all wrong and I'm a hot mess. But then I look at my kids, how great they're doing, and how great my relationship with them is and I realize that I'm definitely doing something right. I get down and battle depression periodically and wish I was in a good relationship but then I look at how much I've grown as a person on my own and I wouldn't trade that for the world.– Christine
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 [27 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: There is life 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. Sell that engagement ring, anniversary ring, diamond necklace, or push-present earrings and use the proceeds to get your nose pierced!
Another self-care option: going for a dramatic new look after divorce. Dye your hair!
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 want your life to look like after divorce. Give yourself the time and permission to discover — and to meet — your own needs and desires, now.
What to do now?
How to recover from divorce in the first year
Is life better after divorce? That may entirely depend on the person.
Women and men can 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.