Taking Care of Yourself When Your Spouse Asks for Divorce
If you're married, there are few things scarier than hearing the words, “I want a divorce.”
Especially if they come out of the blue or if divorce isn’t what you want. It can feel like your whole world has turned upside down. You may feel out of control. Confused, angry, heartbroken. What went wrong? What will you do?
During this turmoil, it’s easy to lose sight of your basic needs and well-being. But it’s exactly during times like this that taking care of yourself is essential. How do you care for yourself with tenderness when life as you know it has ended?
Allow yourself to feel whatever emotions come up
When confronted with divorce, conflicting emotions will come at you fast and furious. You may oscillate between anger, shock, fear, and despair. If your marriage has been a rocky one, you might even sense a glimmer of relief.
Emotions are the body's ways of telling you that something requires change, and they’re a vital part of your healing process. Instead of judging these feelings, let them surface as they need to. This is natural and even necessary. Acknowledge them and honor them as the wise, healing messengers they are.
The very nature of divorce grief is that you will have good days and bad days. Some days, you will have a difficult time even getting out of bed. Other days, you’ll feel strong and motivated.
Healing from divorce isn’t linear; it takes the amount of time it takes. Everyone moves through divorce in their own way and at their own pace. Remind yourself that it’s okay to take as long as you need to adjust and heal.
Your body needs rest to help you go through divorce proceedings, heal, and move on. But when your mind is in an emotional whirlwind, it can be difficult to turn your thoughts off and get the adequate restful sleep you need.
Try to keep a consistent bedtime schedule. Engage in activities that calm your mind before bedtime, like reading or listening to calming music. Turn off the TV or other screen chatter. It will take time, but learning to calm and self-soothe during these stressful times can be essential to your healing.
Avoid sources of stress whenever possible
Life is stressful enough, and it’s impossible to avoid that. But during a divorce, the overwhelming stress you’re under will take its toll unless you can protect yourself from other outside stressors.
This may mean not doing things like watching the news or scrolling through social media. You may have to ask to eliminate some responsibilities at work or decline invitations from friends or family members for a while. Even decluttering the space around you can remove some of your subconscious stressors.
When you’re trying to heal from a divorce, it’s okay – even crucial – to cut out as much outside stress as possible to protect and prioritize your well-being.
Try not to act out of fear or anger
You know it’s never good to react out of anger. And yet, that’s easier said than done during a stressful time like divorce. It may seem to you that your intense feelings need action or words to help them dissipate.
It may be impossible to always react from a place of calm and thoughtfulness, but before you act or make critical decisions out of anger or fear, promise yourself to take a pause. Try to take 24 hours, or even a few days, to let a situation simmer before making decisions in the heat of emotional turmoil.
Talk or write about your feelings
Putting your feelings into words helps create physical distance between yourself and your emotions. That little bit of space can give you a different perspective on things.
Whether you’re writing in a journal or sharing with a trusted friend or family member, the expression of overwhelming feelings can be therapeutic. It’s a way of lightening your emotional burden.
Try mindfulness practices
Meditation, yoga, deep-breathing practices – these can help you let go of stress, promote a sense of calm, and anchor your mind and body in the present. A short daily meditation practice can help reduce some of your anxiety and create a refreshing pause from the turmoil and chaos of your divorce.
Physical activity is not only good for your body, it’s also good for your mind.
Divorce can take a huge toll on your emotional and mental well-being. Exercise releases endorphins – or “feel-good” hormones – that can lift your mood and act as a reset button.
Find something that you enjoy, whether it’s a brisk walk in nature or cycling your heart out at the gym. Make it part of your routine so it becomes a daily habit. Any physical activity you enjoy and are likely to do consistently can be a powerful stress reliever.
Spend time with friends and family
Isolating yourself during your divorce will amplify your feelings of loss and loneliness.
Spending time with friends and loved ones can provide you with a well-deserved sense of comfort and normalcy. Seek out people who understand, provide a non-judgmental sounding board, and help you feel better about your life. Go out for a quiet meal, go to a movie, or simply chat over a cup of coffee. Friends and family who let you be you in whatever place you’re in are priceless.
Eat to nurture your body
Divorce stress can impact how and what you eat … or even if you eat. And while eating during your divorce may be the last thing on your mind, it is an important part of your self-care.
Try to keep nutritionally balanced foods within convenient reach so you won’t feel overwhelmed by the responsibility of cooking. Set an alarm to remind yourself to eat a healthy snack. While eating during this time may not seem important, staying healthy and keeping your energy up are essential to your healing.
Keep your kids (mostly) out of it
Kids get hurt by their parents' conflicts.
If you have kids, try to protect them from any of your divorce-related conflicts as much as possible. Assure them that they are loved and secure. Encourage open communication so they feel safe to express their fears and insecurities without worrying they will hurt you further.
Try therapy or join a support group
Getting professional help and advice can be invaluable when you’re dealing with the emotional burdens of divorce. It can help you transition to your new life with positive feelings about what your next chapter holds in store.
A professional therapist can help you understand the dynamics of what happened. They can provide coping strategies to help you move forward. The right support group can offer a much-needed support system and healthy healing platform for you to express your feelings and share with others in similar situations.
Going through a divorce is one of life’s most stressful transitions. Self-care is essential during this time. The hurt of your divorce will eventually fade, and you’ll be able to appreciate this new chance at life. But for now, it’s all about being kind to yourself, rediscovering your strength, and moving forward, one tiny step at a time.