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Life after divorce: 11 tips to move on and start a new life

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The information contained in this article is provided for informational purposes only, and should not be construed as legal advice on any subject matter.

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: 

  1. Grieve your divorce
  2. Get therapy or try a self-help course
  3. Co-parent like Paltrow
  4. Get a physical, and maybe a makeover
  5. Declutter your house and your life
  6. Heal your heart
  7. Make new friends
  8. Create a life you can afford
  9. Build your career
  10. Start dating
  11. 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. If you need help to get through this time, consider seeking help through therapy.

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:

  1. Understand that having a strong purpose in life is an essential element of human well-being.
  2. Know how self-transcending purpose positively affects well-being.
  3. Be able to create a purpose for your life (don't be intimidated, this is different from creating “the purpose” for your life).
  4. 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. This focuses on this new relationship, and visualizes what the future looks like for your whole family. 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 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 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.

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: 

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

Set up a budget, downsize your home to something you can easily afford, and focus on being financially independent in all areas of your life.

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
  • Video dating

Learn more about eharmony in my review.

Or get started for free with eharmony now >>

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.

Keep going.

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: 

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:

  1. Life is so fucking better after that asshole leaves!
  2. Meh. At first it seemed great but after a while I realized he was not so bad and I was just bored.
  3. 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!
  4. It is 27 years later and every day I am angry/bitter/remorseful.

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]
  • Travel
  • Make new friends
  • Get closer to their children
  • Date
  • Have lots of interesting, new sex
  • Find love
  • Remarry
  • Have more babies
  • Relocate
  • Build wealth
  • Remodel their home
  • Downsize
  • 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
  • Relax
  • 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? 

Watch:

How to recover from divorce in the first year

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.

How hard is life after divorce?

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.

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, travel, make new friends, get closer to their children, date, and more.

Wealthysinglemommy.com founder Emma Johnson is an award-winning business journalist, activist, author and expert. A former Associated Press reporter and MSN Money columnist, Emma has appeared on CNBC, New York Times, Wall Street Journal, NPR, TIME, The Doctors, Elle, O, The Oprah Magazine. Winner of Parents magazine’s “Best of the Web” and a New York Observer “Most Eligible New Yorker," her #1 bestseller, The Kickass Single Mom (Penguin), was a New York Post Must Read. As an expert on divorce and gender, Emma presented at the United Nations Summit for Gender Equality and multiple state legislature hearings. More about Emma's credentials.

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