Candace Ganger
October 18, 2015 9:00 am

There was a time when I thought my husband and I would be together forever. That’s the idea when you exchange vows. But as I’ve discussed before, I married my high school sweetheart right out of high school. Yep, barely 18 and we were ready to ride into the sunset. Together forever, right? It’s a decision that, at the time, seemed to be the best path for us both. We loved each other and had no reason to believe we wouldn’t make it. Others would argue a laundry list of reasons we’d fizzle (such as finances, age, maturity, and more), but we stayed the course for four years. Some of that time was great, some of it was spent fixing things that went wrong, and the remainder was just to prove those naysayers wrong. But in the end, we just didn’t make it and sometimes, that’s just the way it goes.

Once we separated, I found myself in this strange, new place. We’d been together from the age of 16 so that whole section of life where you figure out who you are, what you like, what your purpose may be, etc, had passed me. There was no college dorm life experience or children who demanded my time in the mix so the questions only mounted. The absence of answers depressed me. I bounced between living quarters with no direction and no plan. It felt like I was free-falling into nothingness. What should I do now? Where will I live? WHO AM I? These questions plagued me day after day. I questioned the divorce, the relationship and my choices because I didn’t, and couldn’t, know what was in store for me thereafter. It all just felt…different.

It wasn’t until I reinvented myself, picked up the pieces, and moved to another state, did I start to find my way. Here’s what I learned through that process.

You’ll find your way, eventually

In the beginning, it was really hard to find my footing as only half of a couple. Things we did together I had to suddenly do alone and quite honestly, it was scary. Grocery shopping for one, finding a car of my own, a place to live, alone, and making life decisions, alone, was all new to me. There was no fallback or person to confide in when I questioned my decisions. Eventually, though, all those things just became normal things I did. The word ‘alone’ wasn’t as bad as I first thought and I actually grew to prefer it. I became more self-reliant and, in turn, more confident.

Confusion is “normal”

What is normal, really? No one goes through the same experience the exact same way.  All the time I spent questioning myself, my decisions, and my life? Part of the process. When it comes to making huge life choices, there is no standard form of normal.  You might feel confused. And relieved. And happy. And angry. And sad. All at the same time. That’s okay! The confusion will pass at some point but until then, just hang on for dear life and trust what your gut is telling you.

Take the time you need

Divorce shouldn’t be taken lightly. Even as young as we were, we knew getting a divorce meant we’d tried all the things necessary to make it work but in the end, realized we’d be better off a part. It’s a sign of maturity to try and fail than to just give up outright. But, a divorce is like death. Take the time to grieve the loss of that relationship. This is very important because if you don’t, all the feelings of doubt or anger or whatever it is, may resurface another time in your life and you’ll be forced to deal with it all over again. I didn’t take as much time to grieve as I should have because I didn’t realize it’s not selfish, it’s necessary.

Don’t jump into another relationship

Sometimes we meet the right people at the wrong time. It’s not something that can be helped (usually) and may temporarily seem like a good thing. These kinds of relationships keep us from grieving the loss of the relationship before it (see above), and more than likely, won’t work out. Use the time you have after a divorce to discover your needs. Grow, evolve, and eventually, you’ll meet the person who will develop into the relationship that will become who you spend your life with. And that, my friends, will be the one that lasts because now you know yourself better than you ever have.

Develop a plan

I moved to another state to recreate myself. I wanted a blank canvas to paint on, both emotionally, and physically. This isn’t something I suggest for everyone because there’s a lof that goes into it (finding a job, a place to live, etc). It was hard and there were a lot of holes and lessons to be learned. If I’d taken the time earlier on to make a solid plan for my new life, I could’ve saved myself a lot of heartache. However, as I look back at the choice I made to move, it was the best thing I’ve ever done. It taught me how to depend on myself in a way I couldn’t have living so close to family and friends.

There may be setbacks

Setbacks are part of life in general but when it comes to divorce, there’s bound to be a little more tension than usual. Maybe you’re feeling nostalgic and are tempted to reach out to the ex when you know you shouldn’t. Maybe your new life isn’t as exciting as you hoped it would be. Or maybe the divorce itself is complicated, or involves children. These things are inevitable and part of the journey. But what decides the outcome is attitude. Change your attitude, change your life. It’s all about perspective. Use those setbacks to build a stronger backbone. And remember, it won’t last forever.

Getting a divorce is hard. Re-inventing yourself afterwards is even harder. I’ve been there! But believe me when I say, trust in the decisions you make and believe once the dust settles, you’ll be stronger (and wiser) than ever before.

[Image via 20th Century Fox]

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