What stories do you tell yourself about your life? Are they good stories? Do they cause you pain? Are the stories you are telling yourself actually true – or do they frame you as the victim? Who’s really in control?
The story I held about myself before my relationship ended was the same as many others. I was a wife, a mother, and my family was my life. Everything I did was for my family and anytime I wasn’t working I was with them. So when my relationship broke down, I didn’t know who I was anymore. I was scared and anxious about the future; I was lonely and confused. For years I believed in a story about myself and my life– and when that story took a turn I wasn’t ready for, I didn’t recognize who I was. I was wrapped up in the story of myself as a wife and mother of a whole and happy family. It was the definition I held and without that – who was I?
I had achieved success in my career, and in sports, but my identity wasn’t tied to those things.
My divorce hit me like a crashing wave, leaving me dazed and disoriented. I didn’t want this new identity– I didn’t want to change. I refused to accept my story was now different.
“To love oneself is the beginning of a lifelong romance”
Divorce is a life transition that can cause an identity crisis. I recall not knowing how to introduce myself to the new prep mothers– I didn’t know how to articulate who I was. It was embarrassing and meeting new people made me anxious. This change is drastic and makes you question everything you think you know about yourself. Ignoring these identity changes can cause you unnecessary suffering. When your identity is not aligned with your new reality, you can feel like an imposter and end up unhappy and unfulfilled. Your confidence and mental well-being are at risk through this time. Taking the time to reflect on who you are now that you’re single will help your self-assurance and self-esteem.
It’s important to focus on yourself and what you need during this time to rebuild your life. But how do you do that? How do you know who you are when you’ve defined yourself as someone else’s better half? Who are you if you’re not a mother and wife? Your happiness depends on you finding out.
Find a long lost loved one– yourself
In many relationships, we let go of our personal identity. We sacrifice ourselves and forget the things we love to become part of a group– our family identity. We lose who we are as we give ourselves away to the others in our life. During the marriage, you dedicated time and energy to someone else. Once the separation happens, it’s easy to continue this habit. You worry about what your ex-partner is doing, what they’re thinking, who they’re spending time with. Your healing depends on you breaking this habit and focusing this energy on yourself. This is the time to take care of yourself and fulfil your needs. It’s time to look within.
What makes you smile? What gets you excited? What fills you with joy? Research has shown that many people in relationships give up a part of themselves to be with their partner. If you’ve always loved to dance, but gave it up because your partner was a home-body, then rediscover your passion for it! Take a class, or find a friend to go out clubbing with – find a way to get more of what makes you feel alive into your life.
At the end of my relationship, I remember not knowing who I was. It took time and self-reflection to find my love for reading again. Books make me feel happy inside. It was something I had loved from the time I was a little girl. However, in the busy nature of daily life, I let reading fall to the wayside.
Focusing on yourself is crucial to your healing process and an important step to move forward. Take time to reconnect with yourself and rediscover who you are. If you have no idea what makes your heart sing, then try a bunch of different things and experiment. Try Thai kickboxing, painting, gardening, improv classes, programming, creative writing, or volunteer at a soup kitchen or animal shelter– anything that sounds interesting to you. You’ll feel renewed and learn more about yourself along the way. These new experiences will give you confidence and help you move on from the pain.
When you mourn your relationship, part of that pain is the loss of who you thought you were. The story you believed about yourself. You’re grieving for a part of your lost identity.
As you let go of that story, you create room to build a new identity that’s aligned with your truth.
While you are finding your new self, remember to keep the communication channels open with your children. You may carry guilt for not giving them the family life you always pictured. This is part of the old family identity that is falling away. As your new identity forms, this guilt will heal and dissolve. Be open and honest with your kids. Take the time to explain what’s happening in simple terms. Your children will be going through their own identity crisis, and need support too. This is a deep and painful experience for them as well. Be aware of how you’re talking about your ex-partner with your children– your relationship with him has changed your identity, but not theirs as his children. If they’re really struggling, support them with counseling. Offer them lots of love and patience.
“We must let go of the life we have planned, so as to accept the one that is waiting for us.”
Get clear on who you want to be now
When you are thinking about what your new identity will be, you have an opportunity to reflect and refine who you want to be. While part of your identity changing is terrifying, there is an equally exciting part where we get to choose who we are now on our own, and how we want to show up in the world. Restructuring life after divorce is difficult, and having a long-term goal of who you want to be will help you heal. It will ground you and help you remember who you are. Who do you want to be in the future? How will you feel?
What do you want for yourself in the long-term future? What does that life look like? You get to choose what’s important to you and who you want to be. You have that power within. Visualize who you want to be in detail. For me, I wanted two things– for me and my children to be happy, and for me to live without bitterness. I didn’t want to live carrying resentment about what happened for the rest of my life. I knew early on that these two goals were important, and I kept them in my mind throughout the entire divorce process. For my own identity, I was clear that I did not want divorce to define my life in a negative way. My identity was more aligned to overcoming the struggle, learning more about myself, accepting myself and making the most of any opportunities in front of me. My identity was survive and thrive rather than mad and sad.
This was important as I used this as a guiding post for going through the process of divorce. While sorting the separation of assets, child care arrangements, or legal and financial obligations, it helped to keep this long-term goal at the forefront of my mind. It helps to clearly define what you’re fighting for and why. Don’t get side-tracked when debating with your ex, where you can avoid being dragged into power plays, draw your boundaries and don’t get personal (even if your ex does).
It’s not just your wishes for the separation agreement that matters, it’s how you approach the situation that can compromise your future. How you go through this process impacts two important factors: 1) the amount you spend on lawyers, and 2) the co-parenting relationship you have with your ex-partner going forward. Be mindful about what’s most important. Where you focus your mental energy and finances can have lasting results. Is a $50 coffee table really worth the $400 it will cost to raise the issue with your ex? Is it worth the strain and stress? Being mindful about what you’re doing and the reasons you’re doing it will save you in the long run. It will also stabilize your new identity as an empowered and independent person.
Divorce is tough. Throughout this journey, you’ll question yourself and feel vulnerable. If you take the time to rediscover yourself you’ll find new confidence in your decisions. You’ll feel more in control.
You need supporters around you at this time. Family and friends are great options, but if they don’t understand what you’re going through, find like-minded people. Join a local divorce support group, or find one online.
The life of a single parent is hard– it’s important to have someone with you through this process who has been where you are. Someone who has navigated through the complicated and confusing process of divorce. As a Divorce Coach, I specialize in helping divorce survivors rebuild their identity. We reframe your perspective and rewire your mindset so you’re empowered and strong. When you work with me, we find out who you are and what you want from life. Then we work together to make your bright future happen. Divorce Coaching isn’t about wallowing in the past, it’s about building confidence and hope for your future. You’ll heal by rewriting a new story– a new identity that sparks passion and peace of mind.
As your old identity fades, you have a choice. You can live with resentment and bitterness, worrying about your ex and his life. Or, you can #ownyourYOU. You can decide, right now to take back your control and live the life you want. The first step is accepting your new identity as a single person, and then looking within to reconnect with yourself. Give yourself permission to go on this journey to find yourself. Be kind and have compassion for yourself, and if you need a little extra help along the way, schedule a session with me. We’ll get you back on track and on your way to an empowered and confident new life.
If you’re ready to rewrite your story and take back control of your life, schedule a free 20 minute chat. Rebuild an independent, empowered life full of passion and confidence today.
The Global Survey
Part of my goal is to create greater understanding of the challenges of divorce and separation through research.
My aim is to help women the world over feel supported when there seems that no-one understands. If you have experienced divorce, I invite you to give the gift of your perspective to those now and in the future experiencing this life transition.
If you can spare just 10 minutes, I would be very grateful to you for filling in the survey --->>