Losing Your Identity Post-divorce

losing your identity post-divorce
Women and Divorce
Wendi Schuller Author of The Global Guide to Divorce

When one’s identity was wrapped around the ex, such as being a doctor’s wife, it is especially challenging to reinvent oneself post-divorce.

Suddenly the role of being the social director for the office staff and charming sidekick at far flung medical conferences is gone. If you owned a business together, you may lose your job in the divorce, particularly if your wife was the solicitor in the law practice and you had another role.

In a divorce, the stay-at-home spouse or one to leave the family business, may get a lump sum for job training.

A new trend in collaborative divorce is to bring a career coach on board to determine how much it would cost to get this career training. Or the career coach may assist in determining alimony if one spouse did not work and now has to start over in the job market.

Mary was married to a plastic surgeon and enjoyed the perks that went along with being a doctor’s wife.

They entertained, went to extravagant parties and took some nice trips.  She appreciated being able to stay home with their children. Mary was in a devastating car accident and underwent months of rehab therapy.

During this time her husband began an affair with his secretary and filed for a divorce before Mary was completely recovered. Mary was blindsided by this and stated that being a doctor’s wife and stay-at-home mum was her whole life.

It took a bit of adjusting not to be part of the medical community anymore and have to seek a part-time job. Mary also changed her volunteer venue from the hospital to another one, in order to avoid her ex and was happier with her new choice. It took over a year for Mary to develop a new life. You are more than a job or spouse of a professional.

Tom was a stay-at-home father for their daughter and money became especially tight when she turned nine. There were after school activities and less of a need for one parent to be home.

Tom just could not give up his identity of house-husband and this was one factor in his divorce. Much to his family’s dismay, he only held a part-time job for a brief time.

He later married a woman who saw herself as the stay-at-home spouse, so this marriage too ended in divorce.  Tom is fixated on his house-husband or stay-at-home parent role and still has not adjusted to a change in identity.

Losing One’s Identity Post-divorceLoss of the “Family Man” identity has been difficult for many men when they no longer see their children 24/7.

Their work mates change their label from “Married Man” into the category of “Single.”

A few men have expressed that they do not see themselves as swinging singles and that their married colleagues have been more distant.

Others have indicated that their father role has contracted when they are not hands on every day. Some divorced men in my community have volunteered with Boy Scouts and other youth programs to transform the father role into mentoring others along with their own children.

Several women have expressed anxiety over losing their housewife identity and sense of structure post-divorce.  They had a daily and weekly routine of tasks and activities and took great pride in running an efficient household.

My older friend was one of these women who felt a bit lost without a schedule, but learned to enjoy having the freedom of not catering to someone else’s needs.

First steps in dealing with loss of identity is to realize that one’s former identity is gone and not coming back. Mourn this change and share these feelings of identity loss with friends.

A support system allows you to vent and points out new opportunities on the horizon. Look at other components within your identity, nurturer, events planner, and so forth to develop them for hobbies, jobs or volunteering.

See what new tasks you can do for a favorite charity, which is fulfilling and can lead to a paid position. Losing my job in divorce, turned out to be a great thing. Discovered that I had been stuck in a rut, and my job post-divorce is an adventure.

Look at your different roles in life, such as aunt, daughter, and volunteer to expand them. Spend more time with family or become a more involved aunt. When you are losing one identity, seek out new ones, by becoming a member in social, book, religious, political or other groups.

The trick is to discover what obstacle is hindering leaving the past behind. Be open to new opportunities and friendships.

Getting through an acrimonious divorce made me stronger and more resilient. Find people and activities that support your newly single status. Uncover your hidden interests and talents that will enrich your life.

Click here for more articles by Wendi Schuller


Wendi Schuller is a nurse, hypnotherapist and is certified in Neuro-linguistic Programing (NLP).

Her most recent book is The Global Guide to Divorce and she has over 200 published articles.

She is a guest on radio programs in the US and UK. Her website is globalguidetodivorce.com.

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