The biggest lies you've heard about divorce recovery... debunked!
Maybe "lies" is a bit strong; maybe the words "myths" or "stories" work better. Regardless, there is a lot of pervasive misinformation (and bad advice) about divorce out there. So I'm here to help debunk it—because divorce is hard enough without accidently making it even harder.
I've seen so many people suffer needlessly when trying to recover from their divorce as a result of believing these untruths; if you're starting over again, don't let these lies influence you.
I also suffered from divorce recovery lies when I divorced. I believed the notion that all divorces are basically the same AND that I'd get over my divorce more quickly if I didn't think about it or allow myself to feel much anger about it.
I believed that if I started dating, it meant I must be over my divorce. I didn't understand that those were such false misconceptions. But I learned—the hard way. I don't want that to happen to you. There is no one way divorce "should" go. So here are the most false ideas about divorce out there. Don't let these "lies" limit you, your healing, or your truth:
1. All divorces are basically the same. Divorces are all different. Laws vary depending on where you live. Your marriage was not like anyone else's marriage because you and your ex-spouse are two unique individuals. Your divorce will be just as unique as you are.
There might be similarities between your divorce and someone else's that you can use to help with your divorce recovery, but it won't be the same.
2. It takes one year for every four years of marriage to get over your divorce. False.
From my experience as a divorce coach, everyone is different and requires a different amount of time to recover from their divorce. Some people who stayed married for years find it fairly easy to get through their divorce recovery, and others never do.
What I believe is that it depends on how much effort you're willing to invest in yourself and moving on with your life, as to how quickly you'll start to feel better again.
3. Everyone going through divorce has the same emotions in the same order. This is just so wrong. There are similarities to the emotions that people experience when dealing with divorce recovery, but everyone experiences them in a different order, in different intensities, and for different durations.
4. The pain of divorce decreases linearly over time. For most people, the pain of divorce is more cyclical than linear. At first the emotions of divorce are intense and change rapidly, but over time they tend to decrease in intensity and variety. Flare-ups occur at any time after they've decreased.
5. Once you think you're over your divorce, it never comes up again. As I mentioned in the discussion about the previous lie, the painful emotions of divorce can flare up after you think the worst is over. The times when people might see a flare up are at the holidays, anniversaries, or other special occasions, but not everyone does.
6. Your family members will always help you as you go through divorce. As much as I wish this wasn't a lie, it is. It's not so much a lie because you can't count on your family, but because most families don't know how to help you get through divorce ... unless you're getting through it exactly as they expect you to.
So, although most people can count on their families for help, they won't always provide the exact help you need and want, when you need and want it.
7. It's not OK to feel sorry for yourself. Now, I'm not advocating becoming a puddle of self-pity, but it's OK to feel bad for yourself when you're going through a divorce. The hopes, dreams, and expectations you had when you got married won't come true.
Most people experience grief when that happens. It's OK for you to feel some sadness for yourself; however, if that's the only thing you're feeling, you might want to reach out to someone and get more support to heal.
8. You'll get over your divorce quicker if you just avoid thinking about it. Stuffing your thoughts and feelings about your divorce is not the best answer. When I did this, I wound up with health problems, including anorexia and anxiety attacks. So, at least in my case, trying to ignore what was going on actually made things worse.
9. You should feel really angry at your ex. Most people feel anger at their ex at some point during their divorce, but it's not a requirement. There are examples of people who get divorced and actually gain the ability to communicate with each other.
I have some neighbors who are recently divorced; they went through a period of intense anger, but now communicate better than in the marriage.
10. Everyone gets depressed when they go through divorce. Most people experience sadness (sometimes intense sadness) when they get divorced, but sadness is not synonymous with depression.
11. If you haven't been married for very long, you should get over it quicker than someone who remained married for many years. There really are no rules about how long it takes you to get over divorce. I know of one woman whose husband asked for a divorce after nine months of marriage. Devastated, it took her about a year to get over the grief.
I know of another woman married for about a year and got divorced, but she was over it within a couple of months. I also know of people married for 10+ years who were over their divorce before the decree finalized.
12. There's a reason there's no divorce ritual/celebration or marriage funeral—they aren't needed. Despite the fact that for every two marriages in the US this year there will be approximately one divorce, divorce is still looked at as a process that isn't something to celebrate or recognize. Maybe we consider it too personal.
For many people, having public recognition of the fact that the marriage is over is extremely helpful in putting an end to the marriage and a beginning to a newly single life.
13. The intensity and length of your anger, depression, and loneliness are directly proportional to how invested you were in your marriage. Bull. The intensity and length of your emotions is directly proportional to your ability to accept and work through them.
14. There is something wrong with you if you feel like part of you died when your marriage ended. It's pretty common to feel like part of you died when your marriage ends. The part of you that was the spouse in your marriage is no more, and it's OK to grieve the loss of that role.
15. Every divorce attorney only has their client's best interests at heart. How I wish this wasn't a lie. Unfortunately, it is. Just like in any profession, there are good ones and not so good ones. Having an attorney who truly does have your best interests at heart can make your divorce recovery that much easier, as you're not as stressed about the legalities of your divorce.
16. You attorney is also going to help you recover from your divorce. As caring and supportive as your attorney might be, they probably aren't the best-equipped to help you recover from your divorce. However, they probably have a great referral or two for you to get the help you deserve.
17. Everyone takes anti-depressants when they get divorced. This is like when we were teenagers and told our parents that everyone else was doing it, so we needed to do it, too. It's just not true that everyone needs anti-depressants when they get divorced.
In my opinion, we've normalized depression and are ready to take a pill for a "quick fix," instead of really exploring what's going on.
18. Your ex is the reason your marriage failed. Even if your ex behaved in a way that necessitated your divorce, you still played some small role in the failure of the marriage. Even if that role was only agreeing to the marriage, the faster you come to terms with your part in the end of the marriage, the faster you'll be able to recover from your divorce.
19. You should feel really sad when you get divorced. You might feel sad, you might feel relieved, you might feel angry, OR you might feel some other emotion. There's no rule that says the only emotion you should feel during divorce is sadness.
20. You don't need any time to adjust to your newly single life; you should continue doing everything you were doing before just fine. The truth is that for most people, getting divorced is stressful. Any added stress makes doing what you've always done much more difficult. So please, be gentle with yourself when you're going through divorce and allow extra time to take care of YOU.
21. You should start dating right away. Not everyone feels ready to date when they get divorced. There's no reason that you must start dating right away. Take your time and you'll know when you're ready to date.
22. The sooner you get into another relationship, the faster you'll get over your divorce. This works for a few people, but most people need to have a little bit of time to get to know themselves again before jumping into a new relationship.
23. Getting divorced means you are a failure. Getting divorced only means that your marriage didn't work out. It doesn't necessarily mean anything about you as a person.
24. Your friends will always support you. This is another one I wish wasn't on this list of lies. Your friends will support you to the best of their ability. Unfortunately, for some, they might not have any ability to support you. The thing to remember is that they're behaving in ways that make the most sense to them, not necessarily in ways that make the most sense to you.
Be honest, how many of lies on this list do you believe? If you're like most people I work with, you probably believe most of them. Heck, I believed most of them when I got divorced.
So, here's your functional divorce assignment:
- Which of the lies were you surprised to see on the list? Most of us don't realize that what we, and those around us, believe about divorce isn't true.
- What beliefs do you have about divorce that you now wonder are lies? It's common for lists like the one above to trigger other thoughts about what other lies it should include. Here's your chance to explore some of your beliefs about divorce and decide if you still want to believe them or not.
- How has reading this article changed your thoughts about your divorce recovery? When I share these fallacies about divorce with my clients, their first response is denial that they believe any of the lies. Then, when we dig a bit deeper, they recognize they might have bought into one or two of them. Once they make that discovery, we're able to directly address some of the obstacles they've had, and they're able to get through the remainder of their divorce recovery much quicker.
Dr. Karen Finn is a divorce coach and advisor helping people who are considering divorce make a smart decision about staying or leaving their marriage. You can join her anonymous newsletter group for free advice or email her at Karen@functionaldivorce.com for a free consultation. Don’t let the worry about divorce ruin your life, help is available as soon as you’re ready.