Divorce is a major life change, but it doesn’t have to leave you feeling lost. The key to a healthy transition from married life to unmarried life is substituting the habits, friends and rituals that you no longer have as a result of your new circumstances with new ones that promote a positive and productive mindset. Things may be different; you might not feel the desire to hang out exclusively with married couples now that you are single, for example, or maybe you want to avoid the favorite restaurant you and the ex-wife went so often that they knew your names and how you liked your steak. Transitioning to being a part-time parent may take a little getting used to at first. But the thing about change is that the journey can bring unexpected excitement and adventure.
You may have seen a friend plummet into depression or spiral out of control in the wake of a divorce, and no doubt it was because they replaced the old hang outs and habits of their married lifestyle with destructive ones like drinking too much or binge eating or living way beyond their means. While change is not always easy, it can be a less stressful process if you focus on instituting beneficial patterns and choices to exchange for the ones you shed when you began this new phase of your life.
With that in mind, here are seven tricks for getting back in the groove after your divorce.
1. Call those single friends you haven’t seen since your bachelor party. You know the ones — thosewild and fun pranksters that always made a night out a crazy story that you would laugh about for months…and who who stopped calling after the third time you couldn’t get permission for that spontaneous weekend car trip. They will no doubt have an epic plan on how to welcome their former partner in mischief back into the game.
2. Pick up a work-out routine. Instead of going home and cracking a beer on the couch every night, which can lead to three or four, find something active and social you can do at least three times a week. You don’t have to join a gym or start training for an Iron Man competition, so don’t psych yourself out before you start by setting a goal you know you won’t stick with. It can be as simple as going for a run a few times a week, meeting up with a friend for tennis or joining that softball league at work.
In a month you’ll have settled into a habit that gets your endorphins flowing and keeps you feeling and looking good and interacting with people, instead of turning into a creepy Howard Hughes-style shut-in.
3. Agree to let your friends set you up. You don’t have to be ready to jump into a long term commitment; hell, you don’t even have to want a relationship yet. You may be taking some time to deal with the major changes and do some soul searching and that’s fine. But that doesn’t mean you can’t go out every once in a while, laugh and talk and have a good time with no expectations. You might even make a new friend.
- Do that thing you always wished you had time for when you were married. Maybe you always wanted to learn to fly fish or play in a metal band, but being a husband meant your after-work time was spoken for. Well, guess what? Yyou’ve got no excuses now, dude. You are now that guy that can make a spur of the moment decision to hang for a while because you don’t have to rush to pick up something from the grocery store on the way home or pick up Sadie from the Student Council meeting or drop off Dylan at his track meet.
5. Learn to cook When your closest friend is the Domino’s delivery dude, it might be time to learn how to make your own damn food. Dinner for one can be uplifting when you are looking forward to the mouth-pleasing deliciousness that are those pork ribs you learned how to make, exactly the way you like them. Cooking your favorite meals can be a tasty way to spoil yourself, while saving you money and avoiding the MSG couch coma you fall into after one too many Thursday night take-out moo shoo pork orgies.
6. Indulge the simple pleasures you gave up long ago. You’ve been taking your spouse and your kids into account before making any and all of your decisions for years. It’s become second nature to think about someone else’s needs and wishes before choosing which movie to go see, what to eat and which activities to enjoy. Susie is gluten intolerant, Eric refuses to sleep in his own bed at night after a horror movie or Candace hated going out in the sun because she turned beet red after 5 minutes… all that dictated what you did and when.
But the bars have been lifted. Instead of going to the mall, you can shoot some hoops at the park. You can binge watch the entire Friday The 13th movie series on Netflix. That French pastry shop you pass every week that taunts you with the scent of fresh baked bread will no longer haunt your dreams. Go ahead, buy three loaves. You deserve it.
7. Stop feeling guilty about taking time for yourself. Guilt and shame are the two biggest roadblocks to getting back on track to a healthy state of mind after being thrown off the rails by divorce, and they’ve led many a man into detours of addiction, depression, or worse. The past may have a few lessons to teach you, so learn them…and then move on. You can’t ride into a new and improved future if you refuse to stop looking back. You made mistakes; she made mistakes; the consequences were felt by all; the kids are upset and relatives may harbor their own issues about the situation, but you know what? What’s done is done. The way to come to a place where you can do better and feel better is to shed the guilt and start prioritizing your health and well-being. When you are taking good care of yourself you will be a better friend, son, dad, employee, boss…because you will just be a better man.