When you’re going through a divorce it’s often hard to imagine ever feeling happy again. The very thought of starting over can be daunting. But if you’re in an unhealthy relationship, divorce can mean a fresh start. According to a 2013 study conducted by researchers at London’s Kingston University, the majority of women were significantly happier than they’d ever been after divorce.
The study surveyed 10,000 men and women over the course of two decades. Participants were asked to rate their own happiness before and after major milestones in their lives. Although men also felt slightly happier after their divorce was final, the increase was much less marked. Why the gender distinction? Researchers point to a psychological process called “adaptation,” the way in which we adjust to new circumstances. They found that people can very quickly bounce back from traumatic life events; and women embrace adaptation more readily than men.
In general, women have learned coping skills that make them more adaptable to adverse change. According to an article in Divorced Moms, there are six core instincts that women posses that help them process negative events and work towards regaining happiness.
1. Desire to look inward for answers. While men look outward when seeking comfort from emotional pain, women look inward. They are more likely to take an internal inventory of the role they played in the demise of the marriage and are more willing to let go of the past so they can focus on the future.
2. Willingness to see a therapist. Women are more willing than men to sort through their emotions with the help of a professional. Women also tend to take time to grieve the end of their marriage, which leads to acceptance and closure.
3. Instinct to circle the wagons. Women are more likely than men to surround themselves with a positive support system such as friends and family. Men are more prone to isolate themselves socially and may be reluctant to share what’s going on in their lives.
4. Ability to stay focused on the problem. Women are less likely to turn to alcohol, drugs, new relationships, and casual sex to distract them from the trauma of divorce. By facing the issues head-on, those who stay focused can resolve their problems more quickly.
5. Open to new experiences. Women are more likely to seek out new, healthy experiences that enrich their lives after divorce. They are more likely to make new friends, initiate new hobbies, or join in group activities.
6. Focus on physical well-being. Women are more prone to put an effort into staying physically healthy during the trauma of divorce. They focus more on eating properly and working out in an effort to stave off illness and depression. In part, this may occur if they have young children who are now depending on them as the primary parent or custodian.
No matter your gender or what trauma you face, embracing these healthy coping skills can help you work through challenging situations. With a proactive approach, it may be easier to find closure and happiness as you move forward with your life.