Mark Twain famously said that marriage makes two fractional lives whole. It’s a sentiment that you most likely agreed with on your wedding day, but now your life has taken an unexpected turn. You’re getting a divorce, and that whole is being divided into two halves once again. Your marriage has failed, but that doesn’t mean you have.
As someone who will soon be divorced, you might find it beneficial to view the time you spent married as a season of your life. Seasons change, and so did your needs. When you realized your marriage was no longer working, you made the rational decision to end it.
But there’s no reason why you shouldn’t be able to look back at your marriage and see it for everything it was – not just the bad times. You can also be grateful for the lessons it taught you, particularly when it comes to what you do and don’t want in a future romantic relationship.
Perhaps much of your marriage can be remembered with fondness. Maybe it led to the creation of your children or provided you with great memories that you wouldn’t have otherwise experienced. Maybe it taught you about yourself and helped you grow into the person you are today.
Keeping all this in mind, should those who prioritize their happiness over the longevity of their martial contracts be dubbed “failures?” Not according to Dr. Kelly Campbell, a professor of psychology at California State University, San Bernardino, and an expert in interpersonal relationships.
“A failed marriage doesn’t make you a failure. We can only make decisions based on who we are at the time [of marriage], and the information we have at the time,” Campbell says.
“There are many reasons that a marriage could end, including a partner who changes, a partner who never revealed their true self until after the marriage, big life changes, or getting married before the partners really knew each other.”
To find your soulmate you must ‘know yourself and be yourself‘
Not only does your failed marriage not make you a failure, but it also doesn’t mean you’ve forever failed at love – even though it might feel that way now.
“Always believe there is an ideal match for you because there is. No matter what your preferences, no matter who you are, there is someone out there who is a great fit. But to find them, you have to know yourself and be yourself,” Campbell says.
She says that taking time to rediscover your own identity after a divorce is vital.
“Ask yourself who you are now and get to know your own values and boundaries. Augment self-esteem and establish or strengthen respect for yourself…you show people how you expect to be treated based on how you treat yourself. If you aren’t showing yourself respect and love, others won’t either.”
Surrounding yourself with friends and family who accept and appreciate you is also hugely important, she says. “Get a support system around you that builds you up and doesn’t tear you down, one that values who you truly are and supports your successes.”
Be patient with yourself
The time needed to heal after a divorce is different for everyone, but no one should expect the process to happen overnight. In fact, Campbell says it can take years – especially for women.
“Divorce is one of the most stressful life events, so giving yourself time to cope and heal is important. A therapist can also facilitate the processing of feelings and events that accompany the divorce,” she says.
Once you start dating again, Campbell says that embracing your hobbies can be a great way to meet a romantic interest.
“One of the biggest predictors of a happy long-term relationship is similarities. The more similar you are to your partner, the better. Sharing the same hobby is a great start.”
Don’t put pressure on yourself to marry again
You should also be willing to walk away from prospective partners who aren’t the right fit, even if that isn’t always easy.
“Be prepared to stop interactions with prospective partners who violate your values and boundaries so that you don’t end up in a mismatched relationship where you lose yourself,” Campbell says.
But not everyone who has been divorced finds themselves looking to be married again – and that’s totally fine.
“Nowadays, there are many relationship alternatives that are socially acceptable. It’s important for people to liberate themselves from the pressure to marry,” Campbell says.
She adds that getting married for the wrong reasons – such as believing marriage is the only acceptable long-term romantic arrangement – could increase the likelihood of divorce in the future.
No matter what your romantic goals are for the future, Campbell says it’s important for everyone to “become okay with being alone.”
“If you do that, it will liberate you from needing to find a partner. You can want to find someone, but you shouldn’t need to.”
As you embark on your next adventure, remember that your marriage was just one piece of the puzzle. Your marital status didn’t define you when you were married, and it won’t define you once the divorce is final.
… And no, you are absolutely not a failure.