10 ways to rebuild your life after separation or divorce

February 23, 2024
10 ways to rebuild your life after separation or divorce

10 ways to rebuild your life after separation or divorce

Your marriage is over and you don’t know how to begin processing your emotions or rebuilding yourself. A relationship psychologist helps you forge a path to a fulfilling new life.

By Sabrina Rogers-Anderson

After making it through the challenging years of raising young children and trying to establish financial security, most of us don’t expect our marriages to fail.

But according to the Australian Institute of Family Studies, 27 percent of couples who divorce were married for 20 years or more.

Whether the end of your marriage has come as a shock or it was entirely your decision, you’re likely to experience a period of grief that could last longer than you expect.

And once the fog finally lifts, you may not know what to do next.

“Often, a big part of your identity is tied into the person you were when you were married,”  explains relationship psychologist and CEO of Marriage Works Philipa Thornton.

“Maybe you've raised children and lost yourself along the way. As difficult as the end of a marriage can be, it’s also an opportunity to reinvent yourself.”

But where do you begin? Here are Philipa’s top 10 tips for building the life you truly want after divorce.

1. Get to know yourself again

Did you hide away or forget parts of yourself while you were married?

Perhaps you used to love hiking, but you stopped hitting the trails because your partner wasn’t the outdoorsy type.

Or maybe you were passionate about painting before you had kids, but your easel has been collecting dust in the garage.

“You're now free to explore yourself,” says Philipa. “That includes both your likes and dislikes because it’s good to know what you don't want to do as well.

“Bring back that curiosity you felt when you first started dating, but be curious about yourself this time.”

2. Make a wish list

“Now that you’ve figured out your likes and dislikes, make a list of the things you’d like to try or do,” advises Philipa.

“Enjoy the unfettered freedom to put down whatever you wish for. One year, I wrote down ‘trip to Paris’ on my wish list in January and I was there by June. 

“Don’t be afraid to stretch yourself. The power of writing something down is that it turns it into a possibility.”

3. Take yourself on a date

An unhappy marriage can chip away at your self-esteem and erode your sense of joy, so take the time to fall in love with yourself again.

“In the book The Artist’s Way, Julia Cameron suggests that you take yourself on an ‘artist date’ once a week to spark your creativity,” says Philipa.

“I think that can apply to anyone who wants to reconnect with themselves. Go to the art gallery, down to the beach or anywhere else - just you and no one else.”

4. Get social

Whether you lost friends in your break-up or you want to meet new people who get what you’re going through, joining a community of like-minded women can make you feel connected and supported. 

With in-person events around the country and an online community of 25,000 and growing, Connected Women helps women in midlife create meaningful connections that last a lifetime.

And did we mention that we have ridiculous amounts of fun along the way? We’d love for you to join us!

5. Take stock

It’s easy to blame your ex-partner for everything, but reflecting on the role you played in the marriage breakdown can help you grow and avoid making the same mistakes.

“What were the complaints your partner made?” Philipa asks. “Is there any credence to them? Sometimes people can see what we don't see.

“Journaling can help you make sense of it all and process any trauma. It’s been so helpful for several of my clients and I've seen their personal growth.”

6. Set high standards

If and when you feel ready to date again, be clear on what you’re looking for in a partner. 

“Set yourself a high standard because the other ‘I’ is integrity,” Philipa says. “You've identified who you are, what you want and what you need, so act within that.

“I encourage all my clients to write down their ideal person’s characteristics. Maybe they're generous of spirit, able to reflect and kind. Or maybe they love animals and are financially independent. 

“Then, if you meet someone who’s 45 and still living at home, ask yourself why. People get caught up on potential, but potential is nothing if it's never realised. That's where a lot of amazing women end up channelling their energy away from themselves.”

7. Get out there

“Dating is a numbers game and you have to do your research!” Philipa laughs. “That generally means you should date more than one person to get a good sample.”

8. Pay attention to red flags

Trusting your instincts is crucial when you’re dating, but many women fall into the trap of ignoring them.

“They’ll minimise their own response and reaction by saying, ‘Oh, he’s having a bad day,’” says Philipa. “But if he’s speaking rudely to the waiter, that’s probably how he will talk to you behind closed doors.”

9. Respect yourself

“As little girls, we were taught to silence our needs and dull our shine,” Philipa explains. “We need to respect ourselves and cultivate a lot more self-compassion.

“We need to ask ourselves, ‘Do I want to do that? Maybe it's okay to say no.’ It's about really listening to yourself, that wise part, rather than doing what you think you should do.”

10. Seek security

Feeling secure - whether you’re on your own or in a relationship - is a basic need and right.

“Ask yourself, ‘What am I going to do to make myself feel safe and secure emotionally, physically, spiritually and psychologically?” advises Philipa.

“That isn't an outside job, it’s an inside job. If you can channel the loving part of yourself and start nurturing yourself and being kind, you can be your own sense of security.”