The common belief that half of all marriages end in divorce is actually true: According to the American Psychology Association, "about 40 to 50 percent of married couples in the United States divorce, and the divorce rate for subsequent marriages is even higher."
Yes, dissolutions of marriages happen—but it's not impossible for couples to find closure and move on. As licensed psychotherapist Tina Gilbertson explains in Psychology Today, going through a divorce tends to hit our self-esteem the hardest. So regardless of the reasons that pushed you and your partner to call it quits, there are ways to heal your heart.
Meet the Expert
Tina Gilbertson is a psychotherapist who specializes in supporting parents of estranged adult children. She is the founder of the Reconnection Club and the author of Constructive Wallowing: How to Beat Bad Feelings By Letting Yourself Have Them and Reconnecting with Your Estranged Adult Child.
How to Move on After Divorce
Remember that you're not alone. Gilbertson points out that there's "a very large minority of all marriages in the U.S. don’t last a lifetime."
Think of the divorce as the next chapter of your life. Look at the end of your marriage as a transition to the next part of your life. "Remember, it takes courage to let go of the familiar, even when the familiar isn’t working or causes you pain," Gilbertson says.
Practice constructive wallowing. According to Gilbertson, it's okay to mourn the positive parts of your marriage—in fact, it's healthy to acknowledge them so you can work through them and make room for something new.
Don't be afraid to ask for help. If you're not already seeing a mental health professional, consider working with a therapist who can help you work through your feelings in a constructive way. Joining a divorce support group can also be therapeutic.
Focus on what you do have, and what you can control. Keep in mind that you paralyze yourself by focusing on the things you don’t have and can't do.
Work on understanding yourself before trying to find a new partner. You now have permission slips to have temporary adult relationships to soothe your soul, but don’t introduce romantic partners to your kids unless it’s serious.
Forgive yourself. Try not to beat yourself up—life can do that for you.
Learn to create little victories for yourself and build on them. Shoot for one little thing each day that can show progress in a particular area of your life.
If you have children, remember to keep your relationship civil with your ex. You have a responsibility to your children to do everything in your power to keep their relationship with both parents warm, loving, and civil, if possible. For better or worse, their lives were changed without their consent.
Don't talk negatively about your ex. Even if your relationship was rocky with your former partner, avoid speaking negatively about them around your kids—that could end up straining your relationship with your children, or worse, damage their emotional health.
Understand that the divorce will affect your friendships, too. Friends will take sides and this will hurt, but those who are true will be there to listen and will be there forever.
Focus on finding good caretakers for your kids. If you’re a single working parent, do everything in your power to make sure you find the best caretakers for your children. You will derive peace of mind when this is in place.
Make your newfound free time count. If you feel that your ex was holding you back from accomplishing your dreams and aspirations, now's the time to check off the items on your bucket list. (Hint: If you've got the financial means, consider finally taking that exotic vacation.)
Find the silver lining in everything. It may take time to get accustomed to sleeping alone every night, for instance, but that also means that you'll be able to come and go as you please on your own schedule.
Break a sweat. Exercise raises serotonin in your brain and helps fight depression, so practice self-care and sign up for your favorite workout of choice.
Don't neglect your other relationships. Force yourself to stay involved with people and socialize for business and pleasure.
American Psychological Association. Marriage and Divorce. 2020.
Psychology Today. 7 Ways to Get Your Self-Esteem Back After Divorce. August 2016.
Vukalovich D, Caltabiano N. The Effectiveness of a Community Group Intervention Program on Adjustment to Separation and Divorce. J Divorce Remarriage. 2008;48(3-4):145-168. doi:10.1300/J087v48n03_09
Young SN. How to Increase Serotonin in the Human Brain Without Drugs. J Psychiatry Neurosci. 2007;32(6):394-399.