How to rebuild your relationship with yourself when your marriage is over

written by

Emma Heptonstall Image

date published

6th June 2022

However long your marriage lasted, it’s been a deeply personal part of your identity. A way to describe yourself. So often in life we define ourselves by our relationships with others, or the roles we play: Steve’s wife, Ava’s mum, Jenny’s sister, Pete’s boss. How to rebuild your relationship with yourself starts with reflecting on where you’ve been.

Marriage, in particular, has a way of seeping into the stories we tell about ourselves. We often make decisions for the good of the marriage, or our family, or our spouse. And that’s not always a bad thing: life is full of give and take. But what about you? Here’s how to rebuild your relationship with yourself when your marriage is over.

Has marriage ground you down?

Divorce is tough, stressful and emotional, there’s no getting away from it. I’m not going to pretend it’s simple, or a fun personal development exercise. But, it does offer a real opportunity. It offers you the chance to shake off the shackles of your marriage.

What do I mean by that? Well, I’ve seen how women get stuck in patterns of behaviour in their marriage. For example, are any of these true for you?

  • You and your ex-spouse spent evenings zoning out in front of Netflix, neither of you really enjoying what you were watching
  • Hobbies and interests drifted away as you got more involved in looking after your children, or doing things with your other half
  • You and your ex-spouse always did the same household chores: they mowed the lawn, you sorted the laundry
  • The bulk of the childcare was done by you
  • You ‘didn’t mind’ what you did for your birthday – you just wanted everyone to have a nice time

I’ve heard these things countless times from my clients over the years. Marriage gets you stuck in a rut, and you forget who you are. Don’t get me wrong: none of those habits are wrong in themselves. It makes sense to divide tasks and do the ones you’re better at. It might be that you really would have a good time on your birthday whatever you did. But if you find yourself doing the same things simply because that’s how it’s been in your marriage, now the time to reassess.

Who are you now?

Sometimes all it takes is a moment to pause. To step back from the daily routines. Of course, divorce forces you to!

When you split with your partner, routines will change. Hopefully, you will live separately before too long. Even if you do still share a house, you will develop new ways of co-existing.

Take a moment – maybe with a cup of tea or glass of wine. And list how you spend your time. Go over the last seven days. Which of your activities actually made you feel good? Which did you do because you had to (children need collecting from school and feeding, for example, there’s no getting away from it!)? And which did you do simply because it’s what you’ve got used to doing?

Now’s the time to notice. And to start dialing up the ‘feeling good’ activities, and dialing down the ‘because that’s how it is’ activities.

Sometimes, even when we pause, we can feel so lost we have no idea who we are anymore. If that’s you, I have some exercises to help you get back in touch with yourself.

Who did you used to be?

Think back to the woman you were when you first met your spouse. What were you doing with your life? How were you spending your time? What did you do for fun? How did you feel about yourself?

Take a journal and list all the things you can remember about that woman, the one you once were.

What do you see? You might see a vibrant, confident woman, with life ahead of her, full of possibilities. Or you might see an unsure, self-doubting young woman, not sure of her place in the world. Or there might be a bit of both: we are complex beings!

Once you have your mental image of your younger self, think about what you’d like to reconnect with. If she was a happy-go-lucky person, then there’s no reason why you can’t reconnect with that part of yourself. It might take time, but you know it’s possible, because you’ve been her before. Perhaps she liked to travel, and it’s something you haven’t done for years. Gather that wisdom from your younger self. Remind yourself of what’s possible.

Then take a look at how you’ve grown since then. Perhaps your 20 year old self was full of insecurity, and you’ve got a lot more sure of your own skin since then. Great! Recognise the areas you’ve grown and developed, and be proud of them.

Who do you want to be?

The younger you can give you vital, helpful information. But she’s not the whole picture. You’re capable of so much more than you’ve been in the past. So who do you want to be? How to rebuild your relationship with yourself is about deciding who you want to be going forward.

This is where your future self can help you. Imagine yourself five years in the future. Don’t think about details just yet, just know that your future self is living a fulfilled, happy life. Now, take your journal, and write yourself a letter from your future self. What does she have to tell you?

The great thing about listening to your future self is that it’s your inner wisdom talking. It’s not some celebrity giving you advice. Your inner wisdom wants the best for you, and will only tell you things that will be relevant.

Step into the real you

Now’s the time to connect with the person you want to be. Remember, you are rebuilding a relationship with yourself. Rome wasn’t built in a day: every building project takes time, and commitment. Don’t worry if you don’t instantly feel different, or you feel resistance to doing new things.

Remember, though, this is your life we’re talking about. It’s a cliche but you are worth it! Each day, do at least one thing for yourself, one thing that the person you want to be would be proud of. It could be anything, for example:

  • Going for a walk
  • Saying no to something you don’t want to do
  • Going to that dance class you’ve been considering
  • Buying the shoes
  • Reading that book
  • Getting rid of old household items that remind you of your marriage
  • Being kind to yourself every time you notice your mind being self-critical

Every time you take action like this, you place a brick in that new relationship with yourself.

Want some help reconnecting with the powerful woman you want to be?

Doing this work is hard. It can be difficult to ask ourselves the powerful questions that get to the heart of our blocks. It can feel impossible to give ourselves permission. We can’t see what’s holding us back.

I can. As a coach with nearly a decade of working with women during divorce, I can help you with so much more than the legal process. Divorce is tough, but it is also an opportunity. It’s an opportunity to be the person you want to be. To shake off old patterns and beliefs, as you shake off the marriage that no longer serves you. I can walk with you on this path, helping you discover that fulfilled woman in charge of her own destiny. How to rebuild your relationship with yourself starts with you reconnecting with that woman. You know she’s there, waiting for you.

Want to see how I can help? Book in a free 30 minute consultation today.


About Emma

Emma Heptonstall, the Divorce Alchemist is the author of the Amazon best-selling book How to be a Lady Who Leaves, the Ultimate Guide to Getting Divorce Ready. A former lawyer, Emma is a family mediator and founder of Get Divorce Ready the online self-study and group programmes. Emma has been featured on BBC Radio, The Telegraph, the iPaper and in Marie Claire Magazine. Emma is also the host of  The Six Minute Divorce Podcast. To find out more

Get Divorce-Ready™

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