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The Emotional Stages of Divorce and Why You Want to Know Them

March 21, 2024
Advice, Divorce
The Emotional Stages of Divorce

Whether you started the ball rolling to end your marriage or were blindsided by it, divorce is disruptive, to say the least. While everyone will have unique experiences and emotions during their divorce, everyone will travel through similar stages.

We’ll discuss those stages below. Afterward, we’ll tell you why knowing them is so important.

Divorce and Grieving

You may have heard of the many stages of grief. Like grief, divorce comes with a similar set of stages a person travels through.

People usually experience grief after a loss. It stands to reason divorce would look similar, whether you initiated it or not.

Divorce is a loss. You lose someone you once loved. Sure, you sever bonds to the person you married, but also often to friends and extended family. You lose financial stability. You say goodbye to long-held dreams, hopes, and ambitions. If kids are in the mix, you might lose a portion of your time with them to your co-parent. Lots of loss can translate into grief for divorcees.

Divorce Stages

The stages of divorce take each divorcee on a similar pathway. However, each stage will vary in duration and intensity, making everyone’s journey uniquely different.

Let’s define and discuss the different stages of divorce.

  • Disillusionment and Blame: At this stage, plans for divorce usually start in at least one spouse’s mind. Disenchantment and disapproval may begin years before a divorce or come from a single life event shortly before either partner mentions it.
  • Denial: One or both partners may deny their fault in the dissolution. Either may deny that the divorce will happen and may have delusions that they can fix the relationship.
  • Shock: One or both partners may look and feel something akin to shell shock–unsure of what to do, unable to focus or make rational decisions, acting in uncharacteristic ways.
  • Emotional Swings: A period of big changes in emotions is coming. Sometimes, a person might feel a paralyzing dread of an unknown future. At other times, they may feel free and elated at the thought of reinventing themself and their life. A person will find that they are especially sensitive and have trouble concentrating.Ideally, a person in this stage should ask for support–a mental health coach, a financial advisor, childcare, or housekeeping services. Unfortunately, this period of big emotional swings could leave a person not knowing what they need or how to ask for it.

    One helpful tip is to download a co-parenting app for Android or iPhone. It can be an accountability tool that prevents you from overspending. If children are in the mix, it’s a safe way to request and pay for child-related expenses without having to come into physical contact with your ex, which can help you heal from emotional wounds faster.

  • Bargaining: A partner in this stage will find themselves hopeful in working things out and reuniting with their ex. They might be overly willing to change or do anything to get back with them. This willingness could lead some to take drastic measures.
  • Acceptance: Realism sets in at this stage. The person no longer dreams of getting back together with their ex. They no longer focus on blaming or shaming. They introspectively look at what they could have done differently or better and take that lesson into the next phase of their life.
  • Recovery: Stewing over old wounds and negative thoughts stops. The person has a reawakening or rebirth to a new life and self. They feel capable of creating a fresh and happy existence. They may look forward to reconnecting with long-lost friends, hobbies, or interests.

Why You Should Care About the Stages of Divorce

Even the initiator of a divorce will go through different stages with big emotions and reactions. Each partner will experience some sort of chaos, if only in their heart and mind.

The chaos caused by a divorce can increase feelings of stress, sadness, loneliness, isolation, anxiety, and fear. When experiencing the emotional turmoil of an event like divorce, it’s good to know its stages for several reasons:

  • For one, it helps the divorcee know they aren’t alone. The journey is traveled by many.
  • Secondly, it validates what they are feeling and experiencing.
  • Third, when they can put words to what can sometimes be indescribable feelings, they can rid themselves of negative feelings more quickly or ask for help.
  • Finally, the divorcee can track their progress and look for signs of healing.

When you see the stages of divorce as the natural journey to healing, you can look at your divorce as a series of steps to work through instead of a war to fight against. This perspective shift can spare you, your children, and your ex unnecessary pain during an already painful process.

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