While divorce may have lost its stigma over the years, it most certainly still has its stress. Hopefully at least some of this stress will be reduced in future by the introduction of “no-faults” divorce, which is (once again) on the cards, however those contemplating divorce in the near future will have to navigate it via the existing system, which can be very stressful.
Fortunately there are steps, you can take to stay positive. Here are four suggestions.
Commit to protecting your physical and mental health
Resist the temptation to slide into bad lifestyle habits or to put it another way, even if you’re children aren’t around to see you, behave the way you’d tell them to behave. Make sure your food has a decent amount of nutrients, in reality, allowing yourself the odd treat is fine, just as it is at other times, but stuffing yourself with junk food is never a good idea.
Likewise, keep your drinking habits sensible, in addition to keeping control of your alcohol intake, you should also watch your consumption of caffeine and fizzy drinks (especially anything sold as an “energy drink”).
Keep up your exercise routine if you already have one and start one if you don’t. It doesn’t even have to cost anything. If you have a solid chair in your house, i.e. one on which you can safely stand, then you can use it for an all-round work-out, if necessary with the help of free videos on YouTube (obviously look for credible YouTubers).
Keep in contact with your social circle
Divorce can turn out to be one of those situations in which you find out who your real friends are. Having said that, it’s important to be reasonable in your expectations of people.
For example, if you met a friend through your ex then you may find that they feel compelled to keep their distance from you out of a sense of obligation to the person they knew first. Once the dust has settled, however, you may well be able to renew your friendship.
Also be aware that if people do not contact you as you might have expected them to, this may simply be because they don’t know what to say and are concerned that they may make a difficult situation even worse.
To conclude this point, remember that if someone does genuinely value your company, then they will make the effort to stay in touch even if your circumstances change.
For example, if you need to cancel your gym membership in order to make ends meet in your new situation, then have the confidence to let your key gym buddies know so you have the option to make arrangements to meet up in another situation which is more realistic for your new budget.
Be very careful with your social media usage
While this may seem to contradict the last piece of advice completely, there is a huge difference between a real-world network of friends, even those at a distance with whom you communicate on a one-to-one basis over private channels, and the public internet and it’s the fact that once something has been posted to the internet, you should probably assume that it will be there forever, even if you delete it afterwards.
There is no shortage of real-life stories about celebrities who have lost jobs due to tweets they sent way back when and there are plenty of real-world examples of employees being fired for breaching their employer’s social-media policy in posting made out of office hours. For example, back in 2011, retail giant Argos hit the headlines when it fired an employee for complaining about their job on Facebook.
Employers might be on rather thinner ice with regard to taking action against an existing employee regarding social media posting which had nothing to do with work (a rant about a person’s ex for example) but remember that these days employers routinely check the social-media standing of potential employees, so posts made in (alcohol and) anger during divorce proceedings could still come back to bite you at some point in the future and even if it has no professional repercussions, your comments might still wind up being read by someone you’d rather didn’t see them, your children for example, even if they’re too young to read now.
You also want to refrain from cyberstalking your ex (however discretely) for all kinds of reasons, including potentially legal ones. In other words, until you have reached a point where you are confident that you can use social media without potentially tripping yourself up on it, then you want to avoid posting to it, except for accessing support forums where you can use a specific user ID and post knowing that it will read by understanding people whom you may or may not go on to meet in real life.
You can, however, keep an offline journal, either on a computer or with pen and paper, which you can keep to yourself for as long as you wish (and even destroy later should you so choose) and you can certainly access platforms such as YouTube for entertaining and/or helpful content to cheer you up and help guide you through your situation although even here you may wish to use a new profile.
Sign up for mediation
Obviously your ex-to-be will also need to be on board with this idea; however it could make the process of divorce massively less stressful for both of you, even under the current system.
Mediation is different from counselling in that it is about looking at the future rather than the past and in the context of divorce, that essentially means setting aside the issue of how you reached the point of separation and instead working on finding a path towards a better future for both of you.
Mediation can be particularly relevant to those with children, but even when there are no children involved, it can be very useful for couples to be able to attend family court with a settlement already agreed between them and ready to be signed off by a judge.
Kerry Smith (Head of Family Law at K J Smith Solicitors).
K J Smith Solicitors are family solicitors in Reading, specialising in all aspects of divorce and separation, domestic abuse, matters related to children and more.