How to Live Alone After Divorce

            The divorce process can be long and tiring.  Many clients who have reached the end wonder, “What’s next?”  Living alone (part of the week) can be a challenge, post-divorce, and as you adjust.

Woman alone.

            It’s normal to have mixed feelings.  It can be a relief to no longer live with your ex, but  it can also be a difficult transition.  It’s normal to have mixed feelings – even if (especially if) you initiated the end of the marriage.  The divorce process sweeps you up, and you are keeping your eye on the goal, as you negotiate, and push through.  When it is over, it can leave a void.

  • Enjoy being by yourself. Living alone is a chance to get to know yourself better. Reflect on the current time by journaling post-divorce.
  • Explore other interests.  After divorce, you can revisit something you loved in high school or college that has fallen by the wayside?  Singing, playing an instrument, soccer, softball, social activism?  Maybe it’s gardening, going for a bike ride, or finally starting that sewing or carpentry project you’ve been meaning to do for years. For some more inspiration for solo activities click here or here. It’s good to remember that you don’t need anyone else to have fun!
  • When you live alone and you’re feeling lonely, or if you had a bad day at work, don’t be afraid to reach out to a friend or family member.
    • When you get married it’s easy for friends to slip through the cracks, and you find you have less time for catching up with people or making phone calls. Start a routine of calling your friends.
    • Return the phone call mom has been nagging you for.
    • Go out to drinks once a week with your college buddies. It’s important to remember that you have people who love and support you.

            As you adjust to divorce, it can be hard to be alone with one’s thoughts, but if you take this opportunity to do some self-exploration, you may find it a rewarding experience.

Seeing People Change

Probably the most important piece – in order to mediate – is to have two people who want to come through the big picture OK. Neither is out to destroy the other.

I had a couple come into my office last week who I could tell HATED each other. He works really long hours, and she is furious and has felt completely abandoned by him for years.

She has (to some extent in response) been over-spending, especially in these last couple of years, since they separated. He makes a lot of money – but they have a lot of credit card debt, which they really shouldn’t have to have at their income level. He is furious with her about that.

But at the same time, they both love their kids, and so they found the motivation to come to mediation, in order to get their divorce settled – and when the negotiations are over, some of the tension may dissipate – and in order to try to make things go as smoothly for the kids as possible.

So – the wife (I’ll call her Elise) said, “I am thinking of selling our apartment & buying a house with a tenant, in a cheaper neighborhood. Then we would have more room, and lower costs. But I can’t afford to buy a house unless I have all of the equity in the apartment, to work with.”

At first the husband (I’ll call him Dan) said, “No way I am giving you all the equity in the apartment. There is a lot there, and it’s mine, I want it.”

But within 5 minutes he said, “You know my children will never need a home. Since they live with you – if you want to move to a house, and you need the money, fine, we can continue to have joint ownership of the house, or I’ll give you the money.”

It was amazing to see the switch – to see him go from “no way,” to “sure.” and it was because he could remember his bigger goal – to make sure the kids are OK. And in this case – the hours he works – 7 days/week, for weeks at a time – he knows that the mom is the #1 person for the kids, they live with her. So – though he hates her as his ex-wife – he loves her as the mother of his children.

Opportunity for Future Conflicts?

(Now me as the lawyer-mediator-deal-maker is beginning to wonder if there is a way that the settlement could be structured so that he would give her 100% of the equity and not have to remain a joint owner. That might be possible, given all the facts of their situation, but we will have to see.)

Should they continue as joint-owners of a home? What I would worry about is the possibility for ongoing active conflict after the divorce, which is the one thing that the experts agree is the worst thing for the children. If they continue to own the house, will he be secretly mad at her, resentful, because he didn’t get his equity out, and he can’t buy a house? What about if they need a new roof or boiler? We would either have to work out all the details, so that these things are not opportunity for future conflicts, because the children, who always feel guilty when their parents fight (whether divorced or not!) may feel that they parents still own the house – a source of contention – because of them.