real life

"Advice on 'starting your life' after divorce from someone's who's gone through it."

Hello, friend. So, you’ve just left someone, or they’ve left you; regardless of how or what (or whom) went down, this is a fact: you were once in a couple, and now you’re not.

Now, apparently, you’re ‘starting over’.

Or at least, that’s what you’re told about life after divorce by family, friends, lawyers, society, movies, and even your dry cleaner. Because that’s what newly single people do: they ‘start over’.

Listen to Nama sharing why you should be looking at separation as an opportunity to reinvent yourself on The Split. Post continues after audio.

But as your friend, I want you to know that all those people are wrong. You’re not ‘starting over’; whatever you’re doing right now is your next chapter.

You’re not back to ‘square one’. You’ve lived a full life since you were last single – had a relationship, maybe kids, maybe even a change in surname.

You’re not the same person you were before. You’re not starting from scratch. You’re not ‘starting’ anything; you’re growing.

I know it may not feel like that right now, because I was you ten years ago. Wondering what my next chapter could, and should, look like. Wondering how I’m going to do it on my own.

But here I am, a decade later, and I can confidently say to you this is the mindset that’s helped me live my best damn life in this time.

Look at how far you’ve come, not how far you have to go.

So, here you are, perhaps alone in bed or on the sofa – where there was once someone else – reading this.

You’ve probably spent a lot of tears, time, and money you don’t have to get to this moment. There were most likely moments when you thought it was all too much, and questioned your decisions.

And yet, you did it. You’ve come so far, my friend.

Not everyone will see it that way, but you have.

I had a friend who cried when she saw my first home after my separation. I’d gone from a big house with all the trappings to what was essentially a granny flat – as a single mum at age 33. She was heartbroken for me.

My mum was worried for me, too. She would call every night after my son was in bed, telling me she suspected those quiet moments were the hardest.

I had to reassure both of them that this solitude and peace of mind was so much better than the alternative.

Living life the way it was before was stagnation; this, at least, was progress.

It is what it is, so make the most of it.

So life is very different to the way it was, now.

The new situation has created a lot of change, some of which has been outright inconvenient upheaval, and you’ve lost a lot of what you thought you were in the process.

OK, friend. Now move on.

Yep, that’s some tough love, but it’s that attitude that’s seen me embrace every opportunity to make a better life for myself for the last decade. I haven’t been controlled by my past. I haven’t spent too long mourning my lost self.

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I haven’t had time for that. And you don’t, either.

The thing is, you’re here for a good time, not a long time. Make the most of every day, and look at it as a fresh new chapter, a chance to get things ‘right’ according to your terms.

Buy your first piece of furniture. Go on your first holiday without compromises. Rediscover yourself as you, not ‘us’.

Although, some people might fight you on that.

I had a friend who would get so sh*tty that I would arrive at dinner parties without a partner. I never understood it; why should I bring someone along just for the sake of it, and have to look after them? Now I realise that me being ‘alone’ threatened her confidence in her own life being the only way to live.

That was her problem, not mine. I shouldn’t have to compromise my freedom to make her feel comfortable, no matter how amazing her lasagne was.

I’m single, Cheryl; please deal with it.

Dating is just making new friends.

At some point, you’ll probably think about R.O.M.A.N.C.E., which usually necessitates dating.

To anyone freshly single, I say this: don’t think of it as dating. Think of it as widening your circle and making friends. No pressure.

Be open to everyone of all ages and backgrounds. That way, you’re working out what you like, and need – because those things have definitely changed from the last time you were single. 

BUT.

You’re also OK on your own. It’s really and truly OK to be single, and not want to seek companionship – as long as you have other friends and hobbies, because that stuff’s good for your mental health.

As a resource, please let me point you to an excellent movie called How to Be Single. It’s nothing like Bridget Jones, whom, I hate to break it to you, is the worst role model for single person life, ever.

There. I said it.

Nothing will ever stay the same.

I don’t say that to scare you; it’s a good thing. It means that no matter how crappy something feels, there’s hope.

From finances to custody arrangements, where you’re living to who you’re doing it with, things will be different in six months, a year, six years, from now.

And probably better. I promise.

Nama Winston has had a decade-long legal career (paid), and a decade-long parenting career (unpaid). Now a Mamamia Contributor and freelance writer, Nama uses her past experience as a lawyer to discuss everything from politics, to parenting. You can follow her on Instagram: @namawinston and Facebook: @NamaWinston.

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