Once your divorce settlement is final, you know where everything of value that you acquired during your marriage has gone. But what about the intangibles, like the love and emotional bonds you shared with another person? Where do they go?
The truth is, it is often much easier to part with material things than the emotional ties you have to your ex-spouse. No one likes to experience pain, so it is natural to avoid it by holding on to what was. And while this may feel comforting at first, it is in reality holding you back from exploring the possibilities your new life holds for you.
The good news is that with some time and effort, you can learn to let go. Here are some things you can do that will help you detach emotionally from your ex:
Accept what has changed.
Accepting the change that divorce brings is key to helping you move on. Wishing for the past to be different only prolongs your pain and delays your progress in dealing with your grief. Nothing in life stays the same; once you accept this, you free yourself to let go of what should have been in order to create a more meaningful life. Start this process simply, by removing items from your home that remind you of your former life so you can focus on moving forward.
Grieve the death of your marriage.
Divorce is the end of a life you shared with another person, a sort of death in many respects. And like a death, the end of that life needs to be grieved. This means mindfully mourning your loss by feeling and processing your emotions as they come. While you may be tempted to block or numb these feelings with alcohol, drugs, or partying, resist these temptations. When you are feeling sad, it is important for you to sit with it, process it, then let it go. If you have difficulty doing this on your own, seek help in navigating the grieving process.
Live separate lives.
It can be really difficult to establish separate lives when you have children, but there are some strategies you can use to help. When it’s time for your ex to have the children, either arrange to meet in a neutral location for the hand-off or, if your ex will be picking them up at your home, ask him or her to wait at the door or in the car while the kids gather their things. Maintain an online parenting calendar so you can reduce the time you have to communicate directly with your ex. And when you do have to communicate with your ex, try to do it via email or text.
You also need to resist the temptation to know the details of your ex’s new life. Don’t stalk him/her on social media and do not question your children about his/her activities.
Break the pattern of reliance on each other.
In every marriage, there are certain roles each spouse takes on -- he may have maintained the landscaping and lawn or fixed things around the house; she may have done all the scheduling for the children, paid the bills, maintained the house, etc. It is natural to have relied on your ex for certain things, but now that you are divorce, it is time to break this pattern of reliance on each other.
Start by reminding yourself that you are no longer a couple. Don’t act as his wife or her husband. Don’t rely on your ex for anything outside your divorce decree; you need to look elsewhere for help and support so you can truly end your emotional attachment.
As you begin to detach from your old life, you will find that any lingering feelings of emptiness, jealousy, resentment, or other negative emotions no longer hold any power over you -- and that you are finally free to move confidently into what your new life has in store.