Moving on isn't so easy, even after you've "moved on."
Since I separated from my ex-husband fifteen months ago, I've begun the somewhat complicated process of moving on with my life. In so many ways, it's obvious that I've moved forward.
Yet, within this time frame there were also many little and not-so-little things that prevented me from truly moving forward to become "Laura" again, after the heartache and divorce that came from the dissolution of my marriage.
1. Finalizing the divorce took way longer than it should have.
Not because we were fighting, but due to a variety of circumstances like me finding a job, picking a new mediator after it not working out with another, and delaying the divorce paperwork over holidays. Leaving that "separated" status in the air has been a burden to me emotionally.
To be honest, making the divorce legal won't change my daily life from what it is now as a single separated mom, nor do I have some man waiting to marry me off again (hell-to-the no!). But it does put off completing the grieving process.
For some people, waiting to make the divorce official makes complete sense, like if you're both living together (which does happen) for financial reasons or perhaps looking to stay under the spouse's health insurance plan. But if there's no dire reason to keep you legally bound to someone, making the divorce official sooner than later helps you grieve.
You may be separated from someone for a long time, but when you stand in a court and they say it's completely over, it can and most likely will bring up emotions regarding your broken marriage. Make the divorce official sooner than later in order to cut ties and heal.
2. We spent too much time together.
It's highly advisable to stay civil with your ex if you have children together and be adults for their sake, but learn from this one mistake of mine, please: don't spend too much time with your ex and child/children.
Why? Well, originally our intention as separated parents was noble. We wanted to keep things "normal" for our daughter; and plus, neither one of us wanted to miss out on certain events or special trips with her. While it's better that we worked together for our child to make things stable and pleasant for her, it also sent her mixed signals and impeded her grieving process — as well as mine.
When we first separated, our daughter was three (she's now four years old), and my daughter didn't understand why we could have a great time together at Sesame Place, but couldn't manage to all sleep under the same roof that very same night.
For me? I found myself severely depressed wondering why we could have a lovely day out together, yet weren't able to pull that off every day of the week. And during the few times we fought, I felt incensed that I allowed all three of us to be together since the idea of divorcing was so our daughter wouldn't have to witness the arguing.
It was always small spats, but the tension was there. Then when the fight would stop, we would go on to have a great day, and again I wondered, "Why can't we stay married?"
Spend the necessary events together for your child's sake so he or she can have a nice civil and stable family life, but don't spend too much time together; it's a false reality for everyone and sets back the grieving process.
3. We were still intimate even after the separation.
Horny or not, don't do it. Use a vibrator or have a safe fling. Do not, I repeat, do not sleep, hook up, or kiss your ex. It's dangerous territory and you will feel worse later. Do you really need that?
4. I didn't hold off on dating.
I've been very smart about dating for the majority of this separation process and haven't had any serious relationships. Whereas, surprise, surprise, he already has a girlfriend. Do men always shack up with someone first? I think yes. When we first separated, I was eager to start dating right away and the few dates I went on in that early separation period ended up leaving me a bit shell shocked.
Although I've backed away and have barely dated throughout this fifteen month period, starting too quickly made me feel a bit hopeless about moving forward with another person, and set the stage for me to doubt whether divorce was the best choice. And no divorcing woman needs extra doubt.
5. I lived in the same house we used to share.
For me, living in the marital home made moving on harder, except I didn't even realize this fact until my ex signed the house over to the bank and I found my own place.
It was like living with a ghost: my ex's presence was always there, and whenever he came to pick up our child, he acted as if he still lived there. My advice? Move somewhere new and start fresh.
6. I put all the blame on myself.
All too often I beat myself up over the divorce, as if I was the cause of said dissolution. And I wasn't. We both contributed to our marriage's demise, and spending so much time putting myself mentally through the ringer made letting go much harder.
When you go through the divorce process, one should reflect on his or her contribution to the marriage's demise, as well as what interpersonal changes the individual needs to make to be a healthy and positive fit for a new partner. But most importantly, for oneself. Still, while beating yourself up may be common in the divorce grieving process, it's not a healthy habit to form if you want to let go and move on.
7. I kept my wedding and engagement rings.
Another thing women do in order to avoid the harsh reality of divorce is keep their rings. Keeping my rings for all this time has simply made moving forward harder. Keeping a wedding ring is almost like saying to yourself, — actually, it's lying to yourself — "Maybe things will end up working out," or, "Why don't I just treasure the past a little longer?"
It's nice to keep items like wedding photographs, especially if you have children who may want to know what mommy and daddy were once like, but holding onto a ring is simply burying yourself in deep denial. It's a diamond, not a fortune teller, marriage counselor, or dream builder. That diamond is the representative of your dead dream and mine.
Holding onto it because I don't want to look at it and remember what it used to represent is toxic to me and my new life. Selling your engagement and wedding rings not only scores you some great cash, but also helps you mentally prepare and make room for a new and lasting love. Think of it as love Feng Shui: clean out the dead dream that's become a nightmare in order to finally get the happy ending you want.
It's what I am doing. It's what you should do, too.
Moving on after divorce has no easy and quick timeline, and everyone does it in his or her own time. But don't you dare become that person sitting in a bar years after your divorce, bitter over your fallen marriage.
Happiness is around the corner if you just keep walking, baby step by baby step.
This article was originally published at DivorcedMoms.Com. Reprinted with permission from the author.