Divorce is always painful, but all the more so if you are the injured party and the outcome of your marriage has caught you by surprise.
Getting married implies that you viewed the partnership you established with your mate as a true commitment meant to last “for better, for worse” and not doomed to failure. I'd say that getting over a divorce is a bit like recuperating after an operation: it takes time, and much longer than we are prepared to wait initially. So, you've got to be patient.
The first step is acceptance.
You've got to accept that your past relationship is over – finito. That's easier said than done when your dream world has been shattered and that it's none of your doing. You're going to go through a period of bereavement in a maelstrom of contradictory feelings: anger, disbelief, self-pity, rage, depression. Don't hesitate to request help in the form of counselling or drugs to help you cope.
It's true that the natural urge is to fill an empty space, but don't rush headlong into putting a replacement mate in your bed while it's still warm. You'll only regret it later, even if it's sexually satisfying at the time. Believe me, you'll find it embarrassing afterwards!
Before you start considering filling the void in your life, you need to learn to love yourself again. You will inevitably go through a period of introspection, self-doubt, and even self-hate even if you're recognized as having no responsibility whatsoever in the divorce.
You want to hurt someone to vent your anger, and the easiest person to hurt is yourself. It's quite easy to understand that when you have a negative image of yourself, it's not the best time to go hunting for a mate, as you'll only attract the wrong people. That means you have to postpone dating until you've regained your self-assurance and a stronger sense of self-fulfillment.
In the meantime, it's important to maintain an active social life, by joining clubs or associations in relation to your interests, enrolling in evening classes or taking up fitness classes or some other physical activity. The busier you are, the better it is for your morale and the less you'll suffer from being alone.
Set yourself review dates at three monthly interviews and check the following questions: Am I a happy person? Have I stopped thinking a lot about the past? Do I enjoy the present? Do I have plans for the future? When you get three yeses out of four, you can envisage dating if it's important for you.
When you do start looking for potential dates, don't make the mistake of looking for love from the outset. You'll have much more fun and much less disappointment if you just look at dating as a social activity. It's a way of meeting people who are out to enjoy themselves and someone else's company. Don't feel that accepting a date automatically implies that you have to have sex too.
Take your time to get to know the person you're dating before you commit yourself to going further. Remember the parallel I drew with getting over an operation: just because you feel better, it doesn't mean that you're fully recovered.
You're still fragile, and playing the dating game will undoubtedly reignite sore memories. However hard you try not to, you'll inevitably end up comparing your date with your ex. Take your time, analyze your feelings and your reactions. As soon as you feel that you're losing the newly-found peace of mind and enthusiasm for life, ease off the dating and concentrate on other ways of meeting people again.
Dating may be a pathway to love, but don't feel that you have to make a conscious effort to date people to find love. Remember: humans fall in love, it's not something we can plan. And if we do try, it rarely goes according to plan. Continuing with the health metaphor, falling in love is not unlike conceiving a baby: the harder you try and the more you think about it, the harder it becomes.
Relax, enjoy life, meet new people and let nature do the rest.
When you do find a new love, make the most of it. Live for the present and don't make the mistake of rushing into wedding plans to recreate the marriage that you have lost. If such ideas do rear up in your mind too early on in your relationship, it means that you are still mourning the past and that it's much too early to commit yourself anew.
Like a fisherman playing with a large catch, let the reel out, ease off and focus on the pleasure of the present. Let the future look after itself and love will find you without you even realizing it – when and only when you're really ready!