Heartbreak

5 Things I Would Never Do As A Newly Divorced Woman

Photo: daniel m ernst / shutterstock.com
brunette woman leaning against a wall, chin in hands

I remember like it was yesterday, being a newly divorced woman.

I was 45 years old and I felt like my whole world had been turned upside down. Everything that I knew, everything that had kept me balanced, had been ripped out from underneath me.

But, here I am, 11 years later, newly engaged and living a great life.

There are things that I might have done back then but now, with the benefit of hindsight and wisdom, there are things that I would never do as a newly divorced woman if I was one.

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5 things I wish I had never done as a newly divorced woman

1. Isolate myself.

When my husband first told me he wanted a divorce, I had no idea what to do with myself. I was devastated and confused and embarrassed and humiliated. He wanted a divorce, he was moving on to someone else, leaving me, his wife of 18 years.

At first, I called people. I called my mom and my sister and my dad and my best friends. I spent hours on the phone with them, processing what had happened. It felt good. They were validating my anger and I needed that.

As time went on, I retreated into myself. I was embarrassed that I was in this place, a soon-to-be single woman who used to be a wife.

I felt like a lot of my friends were turning away from me, almost worried that getting divorced was contagious.

I got massively depressed and stopped exercising, which made me feel horrible.

So, instead of getting out there and getting support from people who loved me, I retreated into my house and left only to walk the dogs.

One long, lonely mistake

I cried and watched TV and drank alone and consumed foods that were very bad for me. I spent hours looking over old photos and doing research on being abandoned by my husband for another woman. I rode out our 18th wedding anniversary alone, sad and hopeless.

What I know now is that isolating myself is something that I would never do as a newly divorced woman. That was probably the worst thing that I could have done. I needed people. I needed to live. If I stayed in my house, alone, I wasn’t going to heal.

If I were newly divorced now I would spend lots of time with my family and friends.

I wouldn’t have overwhelmed them with my feelings but I would have processed them sometimes. It was spending time with them that would really have fed my soul. Being with people who loved me was exactly what I needed at the moment.

I also would have gotten out of the house every day, if only for a change of scenery. I know that if I had been able to distract myself from my toxic thoughts, even if just for a short period of time, it would have been very good for my mental health.

And I would have exercised more. I would have done yoga every day to help soothe my soul, and I would have gone on a good walk every day, something that has always been a coping mechanism for me.

So, if you find that as a newly divorced woman you are isolating, stop right now.

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2. Bad mouth my ex.

The need to badmouth my ex was huge. I wanted to tell the world what he had done and make everyone see my pain.

So, I did. I badmouthed him to anyone who would listen, including his sister and my kids. I questioned why he had done what he did and what a horrible person he was.

And my bad-mouthing was contagious, particularly with my mother. She made it her daily practice to say as many bad things as she could about my ex, which, honestly, wasn’t very good for me.

As a matter of fact, listening to her bad mouth him left a bad taste in my mouth — so I slowed it down.

But, still, 11 years later, my ex and I badmouth each other sometimes (although he would more than me) and we still don’t get along. I know that if we didn’t do that, there would be a better chance that we would be able to be in the same room together.

If the need to badmouth your ex is overwhelming, indulge it for a bit. But, after a time, shut it down. Let it go.

Don’t spend another moment thinking about how horrible they are. Instead, spend the time taking care of yourself, moving ahead with your life with someone who would never leave you.

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3. Ignore my finances.

Many recently divorced women are not very well-versed in managing their finances.

Of course, many women manage the family finances but many women do not. I know that in my marriage, I did everything but manage our money. I spent it well but wasn’t in charge of organizing it.

My ex did the taxes and managed our investments and I just went along, doing the other tasks that I was assigned in our household.

So, when I was divorced, I had no idea what to do to make sure that I had enough money to do what I needed to do.

Because part of the divorce process includes figuring out my monthly expenses, I did know, at least roughly, what I needed to get by and I was very careful to try to stay within that budget.

I didn’t have access to as much money as I had before so this wasn’t easy — but I worked hard at it.

I also hired people to do the things that I couldn’t do. We had had a financial advisor but I sought out a new one, someone who was just mine. I got some recommendations from friends and family and found someone new pretty quickly. That person has made my money grow significantly over the past few years.

I also found someone to do my taxes. One of the reasons I had never filed for divorce earlier in my marriage was that I was petrified about how to do my taxes. I know that they were complicated and I was intimidated. But having someone to help me took a load off my shoulders.

A decade later, I am well-versed in how to do taxes and how to work with a money manager. While it was scary at first, with time, I learned how to manage my money so that I had what I needed to live well.

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4. Jump into a new relationship.

One thing that I definitely did — but would never do now as a newly divorced woman — was to get into a new relationship. If you try to do that, it will end in disaster.

Now, understand that I am not telling you not to date. Date away! Have some great sex! Meet some new people. After all, you are single now and your life can’t stop.

What I am saying is that, as a newly divorced woman, jumping into a new relationship is a bad idea. Horrible idea.

I got into a relationship about five months after my husband asked for a divorce. The man I was involved with said that he knew that I wasn’t ready to be in a relationship but that I was so amazing he was willing to take a chance. He regretted it pretty quickly.

My ex and I were going through divorce proceedings and that was difficult. I didn’t know how to be in a relationship with someone new and I regularly made mistakes. I wanted to be in control like I was in my marriage but that didn’t work for him. And I looked to him for emotional support, something that he was willing to do but only so far.

What I know now is that I should have just dated. I should have gotten through my divorce and the emotions around that. I should have tried out different men, to see how I should be with someone who wasn’t my husband. I should have worked out my "stuff" before trying to be someone’s partner.

So, if you are newly divorced, get yourself out there and date. I know that you would like the safety of a new relationship but don’t kid yourself. Now is not the time.

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5. Avoid seeking support.

I can’t tell you enough how important it is as a newly divorced person to get some help. After all, you have never been through a divorce before and you could use some help getting through it.

I found myself a lawyer who could advise me about the next steps. We used a mediator to do the rest of the divorce work.

I found a therapist to help me work through being abandoned.

I found a life coach who could help me figure out how to live my life moving forward.

I found a massage therapist who gave me monthly massages so I felt taken care of.

I found a friend who had been through a divorce and she was happy to guide me as to the things that worked for her and what didn’t work for her.

I found a support group of other women going through it to share resources and support each other.

I was so thankful to have all of these people. Before I found them, I was stumbling around in the dark, trying to figure things out and feeling like I was failing on all counts.

The time to ask for help is now!

I wish I had known then the things that I now know that I would never do as a newly divorced woman.

I was so scared and alone and I made stupid mistakes.

Yes, my life is good now but, if I had made some different choices, the road might have been a little less rough.

So, get out there and live life as best you can and get the support you need. Take care of your finances and never bad mouth your ex. And date (and have lots of sex, if you want to) but don’t get into a new relationship. That will come when you are ready and it will be amazing.

I promise you that you can get through this. I did and so do millions of other women every day!

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Mitzi Bockmann is an NYC-based Certified Life Coach and mental health advocate. She works with all kinds of people to help them go from depressed and overwhelmed to confident and happy in their relationships and in their world.

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