Finding yourself newly single disorients you for a little while, even if you anticipated the separation. Suddenly your schedule looks different, your closet looks different, and even the way you grocery shop looks different. Especially if you’re splitting custody with your ex, you might wonder exactly what you’re supposed to do now that the dust of the relationship has settled. We have seven suggestions to help figure out how to live with your new normal.
Indulge in some serious me time
Whatever “me time” means to you, find a way to do it. Does the thought of a massage sound amazing? A day completely lost in a book in a cushy chair at your favorite coffee shop? You don’t need to spend a lot of money — though it’s your choice to do that, too! — but take some time to do exactly what you want, without checking in with anyone else.
Purge your space
Sure, you’ve split up furniture — and maybe even the house — and you’re fairly certain you’ve removed all of your spouse’s socks from that basket where spare socks live on top of your dryer. Their presence still lingers, though, and you might not even realize it. Start with your music collection. Marriage (or long-term cohabitation) involves compromise in all sorts of areas, including music. Go through your library and get rid of those albums that make your ears bleed but your partner loved. You don’t have to listen to those any longer.
While you’re figuring out your new normal, you might have a tendency to hoard responsibility as a way to keep a sense of control over everything. You don’t have to do that. Accept help when it’s offered, and ask for it when you need it — including professionals. If you’ve never been handy around the house, unclogging a toilet can feel empowering, but trying to fix a water leak yourself might leave you frustrated — and wet. Call a plumber and keep an eye on them while they work. Next time, you might be able to pull out your tools and do the job yourself.
Embrace spending time with yourself
After being in a relationship for so long, you’re ingrained to think of certain activities as pair-based: movies, lingering dinners at your favorite restaurant, or spending time with a favorite couple. You don’t need to give up those moments and activities, even when the kids are with your co-parent, and you’re on your own. Start small, maybe with a movie, where the lights will go down and you won’t feel scrutinized. Work up to your favorite restaurant. Bring a book or magazine and savor your meal — plus you get the dessert all to yourself.
Tackle a project
Find a hobby you’ve let stagnate, or pick a new one. Vow to make every recipe from your favorite food blog. Learn to crochet one of those impossibly fluffy sweaters. Refinish a piece of furniture you scored at a thrift shop you never even realized existed. Staying busy lets you live outside of your head and worries for a little while, and it’s gratifying to set — and reach — tangible goals you’re setting only for yourself. Bonus: your kids will see you exploring interests they never knew you had, which can encourage them to try something new, too.
Take a weekend trip with the kids
For many parents who suddenly find themselves single, things that seemed like an adventure with a partner can seem a little intimidating solo. Break through that self-doubt by doing something with just you and the kids. Find a cheap flight or simply take a road trip a few towns over. Expect hiccups in your plans and enjoy the detours, whether you try new types of food, check out a new tourist spot, or just laugh with each other.
You don’t need to jump into the wide world of dating until you’re absolutely ready — and maybe not even then — but remember it’s ok to shine a little light around yourself. Smile at the waiter, make small talk with a good looking coworker, hold eye contact for just an extra breath. Those moments aren’t dates; they don’t involve an emotional investment or even a time investment, really, but they’re the bits of human connection that can remind you of your existence as a person outside of your other roles: ex-spouse and parent.