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Starting Life Over after Divorce at 40: 17 tips for how to move on

Life after divorce can be overwhelming but there are many ways to move on and start a new life!

Divorce, or the breakup of any long-term relationship, is one of the most difficult life experiences to navigate.

Depending up on your age group, or years of marriage, the effects of divorce may vary but one thing remains consistent – the divorce rate is climbing and dealing with the fall out isn’t getting any easier.    

Many would agree that it never feels like a good time to get divorced, but when divorce hits in your 40’s it can feel particularly overwhelming.  It’s the prime of life where careers may be thriving, children are being raised and the wheels are in motion for long-term planning.  It has been 10, maybe even 20 years with the same partner and one way of life.

How do you suddenly restart or rebuild a solo life in your 40’s? 

The good news is that, despite the emotional turmoil of divorce or breakup, there are plenty of ways to move forward as a 40 something!

Here are 17 helpful tips for how to embrace your new life and begin to move on:

1. Embrace your alone time

The thought of spending time alone might feel scary but that exclusive time to yourself carries far reaching benefits and can be very healthy.  The key here is not to confuse solitude with loneliness.  Spending some intentional time in solitude is an opportunity to reset yourself.  Whether you find yourself with a lot of time alone or not, you will quickly learn to love that space.

2. Create a new space

Whether you stay in your current family home or move to a new home, your space is now just that, YOUR space.  Always hated the color of a certain room?  Time to repaint!  If your kitchen table brings back bad memories but you can’t afford to buy a new one, consider repainting the one you have.  Look for little things to do, like reupholstering seat cushions with a new print that you love.  As a bonus, that creative process can be one way you choose to spend some of that newfound alone time.

3. Learn something new

This new beginning can be a two-fold opportunity.  While this is a great time to try a new activity, it can also offer the chance to challenge yourself by learning new life skills.  If your ex-spouse was handy and you suddenly find yourself battling a leaky faucet solo, head to YouTube to learn some DIY techniques before calling a plumber.  Learning new things is empowering and can help build more confidence in your new life!

4. Purge

The best way to begin your fresh start is by taking the huge opportunity to declutter.  Not to mention, the process of purging can be extremely therapeutic. Saying goodbye to things that no longer serve a purpose in your life will free up space to welcome in the new things that do!

5. Reconnect to something that brought you joy in the past

Perhaps you gave up a love for certain cuisine because your former partner couldn’t stomach it.  Or maybe there’s a particular genre of movie that you haven’t seen in years because they found it boring.  Rekindle your former passions and add them back into the next chapter of your life!

6. Create an emotional support list

There will be good days and there will be bad days.  It’s important to remember that sharing wins with someone can be just as fulfilling as having someone to cry to.  Make a list of people to reach out to when you need to share the good or the bad.  Trusted friends are great but challenge yourself to go beyond your bestie and add a variety of people!  Tapping into different resources can help shed new perspectives that you may not have previously considered. 

7. Journal

While the emotional turmoil of divorce can sometimes feel front and center, there is whole lot of personal growth and learning that accompanies such a tumultuous time.  Journaling is a great tool for multiple reasons.  It can help you purge emotions but it can also offer an opportunity to get creative, stay accountable to your goals and promote self-awareness.  There are different forms and methods of journaling including bullet journals, using journal prompts or even dictating audio journals.  Find the one that feels best for you!

8. Make a vision board

You deserve a happy life and I bet you have a vision of what that looks like in your head.  Take that vision and turn it into something you can see on a regular basis.  If you feel crafty, grab a piece of poster board and start adding pictures, words and phrases of things that inspire you or that you aspire to experience.  If you’re like me, and not so crafty, create a vision board on Pinterest!  Revisit your board often as a reminder of what is possible and what you’re working towards in your new life.

9. Set intentions

Intentions are different than goals.  Intentions are guiding principles for who you want to be and how you show up in life.  They support your goals by aligning with them to set the tone for how you act throughout your life.  Intentions are the starting point that gives you a purpose to focus on.  One of the best ways to set an intention is to pick a single word.  For example, if your intention is to “be,” then perhaps your focus is to maintain more presence.  You might be looking to then set goals that cascade off a desire to be more present.

10. Set short term goals

Start small and realistic.  Using the SMART goal method (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant and Timely) craft two or three smaller goals you would like to achieve.  Think about how your priorities may have shifted as a result of divorce and use those to build out your specific goals.  Sign up at the bottom of the page for access to a free goal planning kit, including a SMART goal worksheet.

11. Set long term goals

The end of your marriage doesn’t have to mean the end of your long-term goals.  If you still want to achieve some of the same things you were planning on, now is a great time to revisit what it will take to make it happen.

12. Focus on quality time with your kids

If you are now a single mother or single father and have just been thrust into a custody schedule the thought of sharing your children’s time can be devastating.  The most important thing is to focus on the quality of time you have with your children, not the quantity. This new norm offers uninterrupted time for you to connect with your kids in ways that you may not have had the opportunity to do, or thought about doing, before. 

13. Learn your new financial normal

Money can be a huge stress.  Having a solid understanding of where you financially stand is not only a necessity, but it will help to improve your own mental fitness, support your overall well-being and promote a confident money mindset.  Whether you utilize mediation or handle your divorce proceedings in court, most financial decisions about things like spousal support, child support, debt, retirement plans and any other assets will be made during that time in a structured divorce settlement.  Once you know your new normal, create a budget and assess what changes need to be made to your current lifestyle to achieve what you want for yourself.  There are tons of free resources out there to help guide you.  Some of my favorites include Clever Girl Finance and Dave Ramsey.  Try to peel the emotional aspect away from it as best as can.  If you are the one who finds yourself providing your spouse any form of financial support focus on the fact that this is to help your children.

14. Schedule your time

If you find yourself feeling blue during your down time, a common reason might be that you didn’t plan for it well enough.  If you have young children and a shared custody schedule, look ahead on the calendar and decide in advance what you want to do during the time when you’re alone.  Whether it’s an opportunity to check things off your to-do list, finally check out that new class at the gym or meet up with a friend, write it down and book it. 

15. Help others

Reaching out to help others can cultivate a new sense of purpose.  It offers a healthy distraction from your own woes and helps to promote a gratitude mindset.  You aren’t necessarily denying your reality, rather you’re highlighting you’re still capable of a thankful mindset. Finding opportunities to volunteer can expand your social circles as well.  Think about your passions or what you feel connected to and explore organizations in your community.  Animal rescues, YMCA’s and food pantries are just a few places to check out. If you have children, this can be an amazing way to include them and spend quality time!

16. Don’t be afraid to date

Dating should be fun and without pressure.  It can also offer a wonderful opportunity to learn more about yourself and what you want, and don’t want, in a new relationship.  If you were in your previous relationship for a really long time the dating scene may have changed a bit. Twenty years ago, online dating was a bit taboo compared to now.  It may feel a little foreign to swipe through potential new partners for the first time but dating apps have come a long way and can be an efficient way to help meet new people and even make new friends. Yes, it is still possible to find new love in the produce section of the grocery store, but you also may end up spending plenty of time around the tomatoes with no luck.  Push out of your comfort zone and download a dating app!

17. Revisit the facts

No matter what age group you’re a part of, breakups can wreak havoc on your confidence and ignite self-doubt.  Be skeptical of your own negative thoughts and fact check them.  A healthy amount of self-reflection is good but remember to base it on evidence to help avoid any gas lighting.

The bottom line is that starting over any age is not easy.  The emotional rollercoaster of divorce brings new emotions and challenges to contend with on what can sometimes feel like an hourly basis. 

The positive side of dealing with this turmoil in your 40’s is that while you have a healthy amount of life experience to reflect on, the best years are still left ahead.  While getting divorced at this stage of life presents some particularly difficult circumstances, it also offers opportunities to restart a new life in ways you couldn’t have previously imagined.

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Allie

Thursday 12th of January 2023

This is such a great list! Speaking from my own experience, I've done everything on this list with the possible exception of the vision board (it lives in my head, lol!). Every single one of these items has helped me to grow and live a more fulfilling life. The most impactful one of all has been #9!

Robyn

Friday 8th of December 2023

Thank you, Allie! So glad to hear this list resonated with you. And yes, setting intentions is incredibly impactful! I especially love how simple intentions can help you get clear and keep focus.