Anxiety After Divorce: Common Triggers and Coping Mechanisms
“No one likes change” may be a popular saying but it’s also reductive. We all know that certain changes – a new job, a new home etc. – can be incredibly exciting and invigorating. Some changes, though, are viewed as overwhelmingly negative – and divorce is one of them.
Because of this, it’s understandable that, whilst a marriage is in the process of being dissolved, those affected find themselves feeling anxious from time to time. Here, in my experience, are the five most common causes of anxiety after divorce along with some simple tips on how to calm your nerves in the face of these triggers.
1. New Living Arrangements
We’re social creatures by nature so the thought of living alone, leaving the family home, finding a new home, being “home alone” with your kids, etc. regularly creates anxiety after divorce.
In my experience, though, it is not really living with their spouse that people will miss but the idealized, imagined version of living with a partner that so many of us have that never really matches up to the reality.
Should such thoughts enter your mind, remember the times that living with your spouse was infuriating. It also helps to think of the friends and family living nearby and remembering that, when you feel lonely, there are always people you can rely on who are just a phone call away.
2. Making New Friends
Human beings are naturally sociable and crave the company of others. With our friendship circle often defined by our marriages, though, it’s fair to assume that some of these relationships will crumble and that we’ll need to go through the lengthy and frustrating process of creating a new friendship circle as a result.
Firstly, you’re probably going to find that some of your existing friends don’t want to take sides and want to maintain a relationship with both you and your spouse. Secondly, remember that you’ve been making new friends throughout the course of your entire life. Consider trying a new hobby or leisure activity or restarting an old one; as long as these get you out of the house, you’ll significantly increase the likelihood of meeting new people who share at least one common interest with you.
3. Increased Costs
When you can split the cost of living with someone, it’s cheaper to live. It’s straightforward and flawless logic and, yes, you’re going to be stretched financially, but think for a moment – is this going to be the first time you have ever struggled with money?
We’ve all had times where we’ve needed to tighten our belts or take on extra work to find the cash to pay our bills. Remember this when anxiety after divorce over cash flow has its claws in you; remind yourself that you got through these tough times and you’ll get through this one, too.
If you’re feeling particularly anxious, sit down, review your monthly expenses, and work out where you can make savings relatively easily. Once you’ve done this, you’ll feel far more prepared and significantly less worried.
Sharing parental responsibility with your former spouse requires patience, compromise, and pragmatism. The need to consistently maintain a civil relationship with someone you may no longer like or, in the worse-case scenario, even actively dislike would make anyone concerned and, yes, it’ll require effort – but I’m certain you already possess all the motivation you need.
No sacrifices are easier to make than those we make for our children. Remaining respectful when you disagree on how to approach a particular problem or you’re trying to rearrange who’ll be having the kids and when is going to be testing but, as you’ll be doing it for your children, you’ll find a way to make it work.
If your ex is very high-conflict or has a personality disorder (such as Narcissistic Personality Disorder or Borderline Personality Disorder), you may need professional help to make co-parenting work and to protect yourself against parental alienation.
5. Dating after Divorce
You may think that starting a new relationship would be the last thing on someone’s mind when they’re in the midst of a divorce. Surprisingly, though – and perhaps due to the inherent desire for affection that we all possess – the thought of trying to meet someone new is a palpable cause for concern amongst those whose marriages are coming to an end.
In this instance, our advice is cliched but with good reason: romantic relationships cannot be forced and, tempting though it may be to try to force the issue, they must be left to occur organically. For this reason, all we can preach in this instance is patience. If anxiety after divorce brought about by the need for companionship becomes too much, seek solace amongst your friends and loved ones.
Jay Williams works as a case manager at Quickie Divorce, one of the largest providers of uncontested divorce solutions in England and Wales. He lives in Cardiff, Wales, with his wife and two-year-old daughter Eirys.