Those feelings are normal, expected even, after a divorce. Questions like, ‘Who is my family?’ ‘Who are my friends?’ and ‘Who am I without my partner?’ are all provoked when a couple separates. A 2011 study from the University of Arizona found that divorcees who are able to answer those questions flexibly have an easier time recovering and are more likely to move on. But that means letting go of the dreams that were wrapped up in the marriage.
For Caputo, the dream of a family, a nice house and two dogs was a huge part of who she thought she’d be. Moving on meant she had to let go of that dream—for now—allowing real life with all its messy, unexpected loose ends to open the door for new plans. Caputo finally found closure when she decided to trash her wedding dress, an experience she’s now writing about in a forthcoming book called “Trash the Dress: Stories of Celebrating Divorce in Your 20s.” The dress hadn’t brought her the happiness she’d hoped, so she refashioned it, turning her strapless, vintage sheath into a sexy, frilly romper. “It was my final good riddance to the past,” she says.
To help close that door and start moving on, Lewandowski encourages new divorcees to get back into activities they loved when they were single, whether that means going for regular hikes or sleeping with the cute barista who knows your coffee order by heart. His research shows that doing what he calls “rediscovery activities” for only two weeks leads to a noticeable mood boost and fewer feelings of loneliness. Ever the optimist, he adds, “[Young] divorcees probably have the most opportunity for self-expansion because there are so many more potential partners available.”
On Wilhelm’s blog, Divorced Before 30, there’s a photo of her as a bride, standing next to a “Dead End” road sign that’s now more ironic than funny. At the time, that’s exactly what her marriage felt like—a rocky road to nowhere. “In truth, it was just a detour,” she says now. “And a fortuitous one at that. If it weren’t for that experience, I wouldn’t have moved home to Minnesota or reconnected with the old friend who became my husband. I well up with gratitude when I think about my life today—my husband and children—and my divorce played a role in making this all possible. Life is always more interesting than anything we could have anticipated.”
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