How I Healed When My 5-Year Marriage Ended

Written by Anna Viola

The very first weekend my ex-husband and I decided to call it quits, I had to attend a wedding. We were married for five years before I moved out. At that wedding, I found myself sitting at a table with some of my closest friends next to an empty seat where my husband should have been. I felt like there was a black hole growing in my chest just sucking all the emotion and life out of me.

When I was married, I knew my role: I was a career woman, wife, and planner extraordinaire.

What I didn't plan for was a divorce and finding myself suddenly "out of place." Here are the things that helped me find purpose during one of the most difficult times of my life:

1. I started a new fitness routine.

When you're married, you have a routine with your partner. You work, get home, make dinner, and go for a walk. Your weekends are filled with errands to run, places to see, double dates you're invited to. Then you find yourself with no routine and no schedule to follow. There is no "norm."

Though it may not seem like it, you can turn this into an opportunity. The things you didn't have time for before you can make time for now. One of these things is exercise. I joined ClassPass and found that working out, and having a set schedule for it, helped me so much. I felt more accepted among the strangers in my classes than I did with some of my old friends.

At first it was just something to do to keep busy, but now it's become such a vital part of my life. I tried barre classes, stand-up paddle boarding, and cycling. Conquering these classes made me feel more confident in myself. Besides, it's so much cheaper than therapy.

2. I prioritized taking care of myself.

I used to put off so many things when I was married. Pedicures and facials would be put off to make time for my partner. When I found myself unmarried, I discovered how much I enjoyed "me time." I got on a regular facial routine, started taking care of my hair (hello, hair masks on a Sunday night!), and got pedicures regularly. It made me feel better about myself, both physically and emotionally.

3. I made new friends.

Something people don't talk about is how your relationship with current friends changes during a divorce. If you were like me, my ex-husband and I had a circle of friends we hung out with a lot. My friends became his friends; his friends became mine. Their wives became my girlfriends, and my girlfriends' husbands became his friends.

Then you get divorced and everyone has something to say about the divorce because they feel like they're divorcing too. Even your closest and truest friends can make you feel alienated.

It's OK to give yourself a break from those friends. Take a time-out. Don't get me wrong: I'm not saying ditch your friends completely because of their relationship status. I'm saying find new friends you can relate to more. Find old friends that you haven't spoken to in forever. Chances are, you have a long-lost friend who has gone through a divorce. They are the ones who help the most.

4. I established a support system.

Find old friends, acquaintances, or new friends who have been through a divorce. No matter how true their intentions are, people who have not gone through it, will not be able to relate to the pain it causes. I had a friend who was going through a divorce when I was planning my wedding, and I did the worst thing to her: I made her a bridesmaid. Years later, while going through my own divorce, I apologized to her. There was no way I could have known what she had been going through until I went through it myself.

Find a support group and lean on it. Contact the members whenever you feel down and out of place. Just talking it out with people who have been through it is more helpful than you might think.

5. I focused on what I learned.

My divorce taught me more about myself than I had known before. Now that I'm dating someone new, I find myself cautiously watching out for behavior patterns that contributed to my past relationship's demise. I also find myself watching out for red flags that I would have previously ignored. Yes, divorce is hard and painful, but it can also teach us invaluable lessons about ourselves.

6. I tried new things.

This is your chance to redefine who YOU are. Maybe it's time you finally pursue those dreams you've put on hold. Take that sushi-making class you've been talking about. Go to that drum circle meetup your ex-spouse never wanted to go to. If there is something in your life that isn't working for you anymore, whether it be a workout, a diet, a haircut, a relationship, or a job — it may be time for a change. Today, I'm finding my own happiness and I know you will too.

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