Like other single moms, I can remember the first night alone in my house without my kids. I used Netflix and wine and books to distract me, but an uncomfortable silence lingered in every room of the house. There are some lonely nights in the beginning. Sleeping alone in a big empty bed after a decade of marriage feels strange and foreign.
But it gets easier, and the only way to the other side is to walk through the fire on your own. There are stereotypes of divorced men and women who leap at the chance to hitch themselves to the first potential date to cross their paths. But those stories inevitably lead to heartbreak and failure down the road. I firmly believe that my time alone is the primary reason why I've emerged better and stronger after my divorce.
Here are a few reasons you should take the time to be alone in order to heal after your marriage has ended:
1. You need to know your identity outside of others:
You may have spent years as a parent and a spouse when you had to place your needs last in order to appease others. It is only when you have space and time to breathe that you will begin to see your reflection in the mirror as who you truly are. Your value does not hinge on your role in someone else's life. Who are you when you remove those demands and titles? Only you can respond to that question, and it takes some time to know the answer.
2. You have to grieve the emotional investment before you can move forward:
Divorce is a loss, and you need to grieve it as such. This timeline varies from person to person, and often one partner might move on very quickly because he was never emotionally invested in the marriage to begin with. Know that this is okay and that your timeline is unique to your own experience, and you need to honor it. Realize that if you feel pain, it is evidence that you loved and invested in the relationship, which is nothing to be ashamed of. But take your time to grieve that loss. You need to feel whole spiritually and emotionally before moving forward, or your next relationship will be doomed before it even begins.
3. Time alone can increase your confidence:
It will show you that you can weather the storm on your own without clinging to another person. My confidence as a woman has increased exponentially as a result of my time on my own. I know that I can get through any challenge in front of me without needing a man to save me.
4. You will see your past relationship in a whole new light without someone else's influence:
A friend of mine once said "there's a lot to unpack" after a divorce. There are layers upon layers of emotional implications you will need to wade through after the practical tasks of custody schedules and finances are sorted out. I learned countless lessons about myself by reflecting on my decade of marriage, and I could not have had the time or space to reflect on these ideas with someone else in my life. It's not the experience of a failed marriage that automatically gives you insight; it's the time you take to reflect and honestly examine what happened that grants you wisdom.
5. You can take time to discern which traits are important to you in a future partner:
My ideas on this have changed in the past year of being single. I now have a clearer idea of the traits that are important to me - and by contrast, the characteristics that are red flags I will want to avoid. Casually dating or observing others can allow you to gain experience and discover what is most important to you before you commit to another relationship. I'm grateful I didn't attach myself to the first man who came along because it would not have given me any space or freedom to really think about what I want in a partner.
6. The more you process on your own, the less you will burden another person with it:
There is no way to be perfectly prepared for a future relationship, but I would never want to burden someone with the heaviness of my own sadness or anger in the early months after my divorce. True healing takes time. Second marriages already have a 60% divorce rate, why further inflate the chances of failure with your own unresolved emotional issues?
7. You have to do the work yourself:
No other man or woman will heal you. Only you can accomplish that. In Tiny Beautiful Things, Cheryl Strayed speaks about this when she explains, "Nobody will protect you from your suffering. It's just there, and you have to survive it. You have to endure it. You have to live through it and love it and move on and be better for it and run as far as you can in the direction of your best and happiest dreams across the bridge that was built by your own desire to heal."
Your own desire to heal is a powerful thing, and so is your solitude. To be fully healed, you have to be fully present. To be fully present, you have to allow the time and space to exist on your own as you are - without the distraction or expectations of another person.
An original version of this post first appeared on Divorced Moms. Katie writes regularly on her blog, Mama the Reader. Follow along there or on Facebook as she explores life as a writer, a reader, and a single mother.