Divorce – and Your New Identity

When it comes to divorce, many factors – including details and context of the relationship, personal ideas about the framework of marriage and accompanying vows, and family/cultural values – impact the way one views and copes with the end of wedlock. For some it’s broken promises and failed expectations resulting in major heartbreak/loss and messy legal implications. For others, divorce is more amicable and the result of both parties agreeing that a separation is necessary.

Regardless of the reason for divorce or level of pain associated with the loss, it’s a major change that involves having to re-establish identity to at least some degree. Along with marriage comes an identity that often involves being at-least partly wrapped up and in the identity of your spouse. Individuals become “couples”. Jack the individual and Jill the individual turn into “Jack and Jill”. Presumptions about Jill come along with perceptions about Jack (and vice versa). Partner selection tells the world a little bit about who you as an individual and can have a lasting impact on social network, career, socio-economic status, and reputation. Leaving a relationship (whether by choice or not), often leads to the necessity for self-discovery and redefinition of what it means to be an individual…what it means to be YOU and not you and somebody else…and what it means to be a “divorcee” in a world where certain stigma still exists.

Although establishment of identity after divorce doesn’t always come easy, it can bring a sense of freedom and opportunity. It may mean having to take a look at all of the ways you can or do already define yourself – whether it be linked to occupation, family roles, interests, and values – and exploring and pursuing exactly what it is you want to be. It may mean having to learn or re-learn what it means to be fully independent and having to find how to gain strength and happiness from within without reliance on external sources.

The process of finding your single self after divorce will be a fluid process and ever-changing journey that will take place over the course of days/weeks/months/years. It is not only the end of a chapter, but the beginning of a new one and should be viewed as an opportunity for positive growth/change, adventure, and new experiences.

As a part of the healing process, you might want to consider talking to family/friends, attending a support group for divorce, or seeing a counselor. Post-divorce therapy can help you express feelings in a healthy way and will help you gain insight about yourself, to include: attachment style, past relationship patterns, and learning about why you’re attracted to the kind of people you’re attracted to. In addition, you’ll learn skills to help you cope and will build a foundation for healthy future relationships.

Joel Schmidt, MA, Licensed Mental Health Counselor

For a free Float on Counseling consultation, call 727-258-5231 or click here to send a message.

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