Starting Over After Divorce: How to Survive a Move to a New City

By: Kat Forsythe MSW
Last Update: December 11, 2017

Starting over after divorce can be challenging, but starting over after a move to a new city and divorce is downright daunting.

Congratulations! Your divorce is settled and you’re officially in divorce recovery. It’s a dream come true for everyone: either the fantasy you hoped for or the nightmare you’ve dreaded. Win or lose, a new life looms ahead after divorce – new friends, new identity, and for some, a new home in a city far away from your old haunts.

Starting over after a move to a new city is daunting. "Move" is a four-letter word for a reason! It’s even trickier if you’re over 50, if the kids have left the roost, if your old job has evaporated and you’ll be looking for new employment, or if you’re newly retired, it takes courage and bravery to create a whole new life from scratch – especially after grey divorce. Be proud of yourself for embarking on this adventure.

Packing up and leaving has its own set of problems, but preparing yourself for the emotional challenge once you get to your new town is critical.

These tips will keep you sane while you make the transition in a new place. Keep this list handy in case you have to find a new therapist after your move to a new city.

Moving is hard. Yes, be excited about your new life – a fresh start is energizing – but be realistic, too. You’re making a major life transition.

Tips to Help You Survive Your Move to a New City

1. Be patient with yourself while you’re getting settled.

  • Beware of buyer’s remorse. Even though your marriage was miserable and untenable, it can start to look better – even desirable – when you’re desperately lonely and homesick after a move. Thoughts of “What was I thinking?” or “I miss my old Whole Foods Market” or “I’m all alone and no one cares” start to seep into your 3:00 a.m. gremlins. All of those thoughts are based in your fears and insecurities, and you’ll eventually get past them.
  • It takes time to start over. Plan accordingly. Be your own best friend for a while. It takes anywhere from six months to a year before people start including you on a regular basis. There may be a flurry of activity at first, as you’re the new person in town, but after a while it dies down and your social life gets quiet indeed.
  • You must learn to trust your decision to move. Give it two years before you judge it. By that time, you’ll be ensconced in your new place and you’ll have a hard time remembering the loneliness you felt at the start.

2. Don’t take it personally.

In his book, The Four Agreements: A Practical Guide to Personal Freedom, author Don Miguel Ruiz tells us that the second agreement to yourself for life contentment is “Don’t Take It Personally”. I suggest you write this on a sticky note and put it on your bathroom mirror in your new digs – whether temporary or permanent. You’ll need it when these things happen (and they will):

  • Old friends don’t email you.
  • New friends don’t invite you to join them.
  • No one offers to help you.
  • The business contacts you counted on don’t come through.
  • Your neighbors don’t welcome you.
  • The people who are “the reason you moved there” don’t get in touch.
  • Your own kids are too busy to see you.

3. Be proud: it took real courage to move to a new city after your divorce.

People live busy lives, just as you did before you moved. Most of them don’t have a clue what it’s like to pick up sticks and start all over again, particularly after 50, 60, 70 or even 90!  They don’t have the sheer guts you had to make your move. Be proud of what you’ve done. At the same time, understand that every locale has a dedicated following and its inhabitants think it’s the best place on earth. Smile when they tell you that Daisy’s Diner has the best fried chicken you’ll ever taste. Never mind that you’ve just moved from Atlanta where fried chicken is an art.

You've Made Your Move. Now What?

  1. Keep a journal. Write at least one short paragraph each morning while you sip your sunrise java. Your journal will become your best friend. You’ll be able to trace your growth in your new town, and soon you’ll look back, chortle to yourself, and say, “I’m so far past that, now!” It’s nice to have a gauge.
  2. Expect your circle of friends to change. I tell my clients who relocate after divorce this truth: The people you meet when you first move are available to be your friends for a reason. In other words, the neediest people always surface at first. This is not always the case, but it frequently happens. It takes a while to discover
    the solid folks because they have a life. You will discover them, however. Have faith.
  3. Say yes to every invitation once. Unless the group violates your personal principles, accept every invitation you get, at least one time. I know it’s hard. I know it’s a killer to have to walk in to the event alone. I know you hate strolling up to strangers and making small talk. I know you will spend the day prior saying, “I do not want to go to this.” Suck it up and do it anyway. You’ll meet at least one person you find interesting. At the very least, you’ll know what you don’t want to do. At the best, you may discover a whole new support community.

Know that the newness will end. Your decision to move was the right one. Yes, there are some hurdles, but nothing you can’t handle.

After a Move to a New City, You're Free to be Your True Self 

The primary reason that you relocated is still true: you can start over as a new person. You have a blank white canvas in front of you, and you can paint in any colors for your new life that you’d like. These people don’t know you, so you’re finally free to be your true self that your marriage wouldn’t allow.

Here’s my best divorce advice about moving to a new city after divorce:

  1. Let go of expectations that new acquaintances will turn into BFFs immediately.
  2. Don’t take it personally when you don’t get holiday invitations the first year.
  3. Be your own best friend and explore your new home.
  4. Go into it all with eyes wide open.

Before you know it, you’ll be a townie yourself, and you’ll be saying, “I can’t believe I’ve lived here for five years!”


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