No one says "I do" with the intention of splitting up down the road. So when it becomes clear that a marriage has an expiration date, the realization — and the following divorce process — can be heartbreaking, messy, and downright traumatic. That said, it is absolutely possible to be divorced and happy, even it takes a while to get there. .
In the haze of splitting assets and re-adjusting to a new lifestyle, you may wonder how to get going on the road to emotional recovery. But Noah Clyman, clinical director of NYC Cognitive Therapy, a private practice in Manhattan that provides individual, couples, and group therapy, points out a little piece logic. "You've experienced happiness before you had a relationship," he says. "Therefore, you don't need a relationship to be happy, and you can experience happiness without a relationship."
Ahead, you'll hear about finding happiness post-divorce from a therapist and two women who've gone through it. From finding yourself amidst the joys of the single life to embarking on new relationships (and reflecting on the lessons learned from the old ones), you'll see that life goes on after a marriage ends. More importantly, when you learn to love yourself first, you'll experience the best happiness that life has to offer.
A Therapist's Take On Finding Happiness Post-Divorce
Clyman, who is certified by the Academy of Cognitive Therapy, poses a question to those who are struggling emotionally following a marital break-up. "Do you believe that you cannot be happy without a relationship?" he asks. "If so, recognize that this is an important self-defeating belief that needs to be targeted and changed. The belief that you 'need' a relationship leads to all kind of problems, such as settling for someone who actually isn't right for you or staying in an abusive relationship."
He also suggests making a list of your favorite activities, maybe ones you've put on the back burner — say, practicing yoga, having a spa day, or heck, taking a post-breakup vacation — and scheduling them like you would an appointment to hold yourself accountable. "Focus on enjoying your own company and falling in love with yourself," he says, and recommends taking a dating hiatus for at least six months to get re-acquainted with yourself. "Use this as an opportunity to get clearer about how you want to feel in a relationship. What are you looking for in a mate? What are your relationship needs? What kind of person is a good match for you, and vice versa?"
Finally, Clyman shares a few mantras that have helped is clients through some of their toughest post-divorce moments. (Try repeating these along with deep breathing or meditation exercises.) "No matter what happens, you will be fine; Pain will pass and waves will come less frequently; You will be stronger; Don’t be scared of heartbreak, or you won’t experience the joy of the heart."
Lauren Webster, 38 || Admissions & Marketing Director
"Full disclosure: I've been divorced twice. My first marriage ended simply due to youth and inexperience. My second marriage ended in 2017. There were a myriad of reasons, but they boil down to [differences in] lifestyle. We'd long since stopped finding solutions to our growing divide. It was far better to plan for an intentionally single life than to be stuck unhappy with the wrong person.
Except for the emotional trauma from an unpleasant and messy divorce, everything was better. My sleep. My work. My eating habits. My sex life. I could go out wherever I wished, whenever, with whomever, and no one asked any questions or was moping at home waiting for me. I traveled, I deepened relationships with friends, and made new ones.
"If you're happy alone--genuinely living life to its fullest--a relationship will add value to your life."
I loved being single. I enjoyed it so much that I never thought I would meet someone who was worth 'not being single' for. Nine months into being single-and-thrilled-about-it, I tapped a cute, tattooed boy on the shoulder. He turned out to be an amazing human, who I am now committed to and living with. Being single was an absolute blast; being partnered with the right person is even better. I never thought I'd be able to say that."
April Cohen, 39 || Realtor
'“[During my marriage] I had some friends say things to me [about my complaining]. That was the point where I was like, ‘April, life is too short to not be happy.’ I am not a stress case, but when I look back, I have no idea why I was so tightly wound and always irritable. I honestly feel like there was a lot of unhappiness that I wasn’t even aware of.
You never plan for a divorce. You think you’re marrying someone you will be with your entire life, so even if you asked for the divorce and never want to be with that person again, it still sucks. The whole process is a mess, whether you are initiating it or not. I wouldn’t wish the experience on anyone. I cried in bed the day of my divorce. I didn’t want to be with him, but I couldn’t believe that we couldn’t work it out — and I asked for the divorce!
"I never need to get married again. I know that a piece of paper and a ring will not validate my future forever man.”
However, when you go from being in a relationship that’s constant work to just doing your own thing, it’s a huge breath of fresh air. I am dating and having a blast. The best part is figuring out what I don’t want [in a partner]. I find it more important than knowing what you want, because 'what you want' isn't always what you really want; does that make sense?"