Divorce is complicated. Not only have you gone through a tremendously trying time in your life, you’re trying to relearn how to approach so many relationships that you’ve depended on for years. Divorce impacts you, your ex-spouse, and your children. But it also impacts the relationship you’ve formed with your previous in-laws, shared friends, and community groups you and your ex-spouse participated in together. Many people are unsure of how to approach you as an individual when they’ve only ever known you as part of a married partnership, and it can feel like you’ve lost a large part of who you are as a result.
I often joke about how my job as a financial advisor isn’t limited to the financial life of my clients. No matter what kind of money advice I give, it won’t do anyone any good unless it’s deeply tied to supporting you through each season of your life – including the period of nerve wracking social uncertainty that comes after divorce.
Before we dive in, I’d like to reiterate that I’m certainly not a psychologist or a counselor. I’m just someone who has seen enough people go through this process to know what you’re experiencing right now, and to be able to offer some insight. If I’ve learned anything over the years of working with divorcees, it’s that building a strong network of people who love and support you while you’re going through this new season of your life is key to both emotional and financial success. So, let’s jump into how to start conversations and build renewed relationships with people you care about as someone who has just gone through a divorce.
With Your Younger Children
This is challenging, because your young children may or may not fully understand the implications of parents getting divorced. This is an emotional time for them, just as it’s an emotional time for you and your ex-spouse. I’ve seen two things consistently work when it comes to maintaining and even strengthening relationships with your young kids after divorce:
Don’t discuss your ex unless it’s positive. This isn’t an easy thing to do, but it’s still important to show your kids that you respect one another (even if that’s the last thing you feel when you think about them).
Make the kids your focus. For example, when you’re building new family traditions, make it fun. Ask for your kids’ input. Try new things, and don’t totally forego old traditions just because you’re not going through them with your ex-spouse. Focusing on your kids helps everyone understand that there’s still so much love there for your children, even if you and your ex-spouse aren’t together anymore.
With Your Adult Children
Adult children experience divorce differently than young children do, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t an emotional challenge for them. They may feel less secure in their own adult lives knowing that the perceived idea of their “home” isn’t the same anymore. The two things I’ve seen work consistently here are not dissimilar to how you’d approach divorce if you had young kids:
Don’t discuss your ex unless it’s positive. Yep, this one stays the same. It’s hard not to confide in an adult child, especially if your relationship has evolved to something less of a parent-child bond and more of a friendship over the years. Still, keeping things cordial and generally positive will help your adult child feel safe and not as though they have to “take sides.”
Understand that they aren’t your support system. Again, this is hard depending on the type of relationship you have with your adult children. But remembering that you can’t rely on them right now for support will benefit both of you, and will help each of you heal in a healthy way.
With Your Community and Family Members
It can feel especially challenging to go through a divorce, only to come out on the other side and realize you’ve also lost mutual friends, in-laws, family members, and other people who you loved for many years before your divorce. These people may have been a large part of your life while you were married, and it’s jarring to realize they may not be part of your life anymore. Sometimes, it makes sense to leave some friends behind – especially if they haven’t been supportive in the past or throughout your divorce proceedings. However, when you have other friends, in-laws, or family members who you don’t want to stop associating with just because you’re newly single, your best bet is to be transparent about what you want out of your relationship.
Reaching out to friends, in-laws, or other family members who were mutually connected to you and your ex and letting them know that you still value your relationship with them can do a world of good. It can be tough to advocate for yourself in these situations, but maintaining those relationships that brought you so much joy in the past is well worth it.
Find Your Tribe
Everyone needs a tribe when they’re going through a life changing event like a divorce. I’ve seen clients tap into local church communities, join a gym, start attending art workshops – you name it, they’ve done it, and it’s worked out incredibly well. Finding a group of people, who are either new to your life or who have always been there for you, who will support you through this and who you can support as well is a game changer.
Even if it feels like life is overwhelming right now, it’s important to continue to put yourself out there to build your support network. You deserve lifelong friendships that you can count on, both during this season of change and challenges, and as you move through your journey as a human being. There are going to be future ups and downs in life beyond your divorce, and finding a tribe to celebrate and commiserate with you is incredibly valuable.