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Reinvent yourself: Moving forward after divorce

Your marriage is ending, and you're just not sure what you're going to do. You always assumed you'd stay married, have children, grow old and retire. It's what your parents did. It's what everyone expected of you.

Now what? Your life hasn't played out how you planned, so what do you do next?

It may be time to reinvent yourself. Instead of thinking about what your life will not be, think about what it can be. Think about what you want to make it. Here are a few tips that can help:

1. Think of this process as discovering yourself

When you get married, you give up some control. You make decisions based on what your spouse wants. You make compromises. It changes who you are. Maybe getting divorced is just the chance you need to discover who you want to be, all on your own.

2. Take risks and try something new

Do not let yourself fall into any old ruts and settle for a mediocre life. Go out and take some risks. Work hard to become someone you can feel proud of. Maybe you've always wanted to climb a mountain or run a marathon or start your own company. Take a chance and work toward that goal.

3. Get back into the hobbies you once loved

Maybe you gave some hobbies up during your marriage. Getting back into them can feel exciting and it also helps you really feel like yourself. Perhaps you used to write fiction, for instance, and you stopped because life got too busy. Maybe you loved photography and traveling, but you stayed home because of your spouse's career. Now you may enjoy jumping back into these activities that you left behind.

4. Relax and take breaks

This whole process should not just feel like work. You need to have some time to yourself. Go to the movies. Take a day off to read a book in the back yard. Spend time with friends you haven't seen in too long. You want to work to reinvent yourself and carve out this new life, but do not wear yourself out doing it.

5. Remember that you are more than your divorce

Divorce is not the defining feature of your life. It's something that happened, but focusing on it makes you feel like it was a failure. Instead, think of it as an opportunity. It gave you new chances that you never thought you would have. You can become whoever you want.

The legal process

Of course, the first step is getting through the legal process. Make sure you understand your rights and what steps you need to take.

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