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Author Topic: Psychological and Emotional Stages of Divorce - Kathleen Corcoran PhD  (Read 810 times)
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« on: February 17, 2015, 06:18:19 PM »

Psychological and Emotional Stages of Divorce

By Kathleen O'Connell Corcoran*


The decision to end a relationship can be traumatic, chaotic, and filled with contradictory emotions. There are also specific feelings, attitudes, and dynamics associated with whether one is in the role of the initiator or the receiver of the decision to breakup. For example, it is not unusual for the initiator to experience fear, relief, distance, impatience, resentment, doubt, and guilt. Likewise, when a party has not initiated the divorce, they may feel shock, betrayal, loss of control, victimization, decreased self esteem, insecurity, anger, a desire to "get even," and wishes to reconcile.

The emotional breaking up process typically extends over several years and is confounded by each party being at different stages in the emotional process while in the same stage of the physical (or legal) process.

It is also quite normal to do different things to try to create distance from the former partner while divorcing. Unfortunately, this distancing often takes the form of fault finding. If the other person is portrayed as really awful, one can escape any responsibility for the marriage. A common response to divorce is to seek vengeance. When parties put their focus on getting even, there is an equal amount of energy expended on being blameless. What's true is that blaming and fault finding are not necessary or really helpful.

Much of your healing will involve acceptance, focusing on the future, taking responsibility for your own actions, and acting with integrity. Focusing on the future you would like to create may require an acknowledgment of each other's differing emotional stages.

The following information on the emotional stages of ending a relationship is provided to help parties through the emotional quagmire of ending a relationship and assist in their personal healing.

I.   DISILLUSIONMENT OF ONE PARTY (sometimes 1-2 years before verbalized)

A.   Vague feelings of discontentment, arguments, stored resentments, breaches of trust

B.   Problems are real but unacknowledged

C.   Greater distance; lack of mutuality

D.   Confidential, fantasy, consideration of pros and cons of divorce

E.   Development of strategy for separation

F.   Feelings: fear, denial, anxiety, guilt, love, anger, depression, grief

II.   EXPRESSING DISSATISFACTION (8-12 months before invoking legal process)

A.   Expressing discontent or ambivalence to other party

B.   Marital counseling, or

C.   Possible honeymoon phase (one last try)

D.   Feelings: relief (that it's out in the open), tension, emotional roller coaster, guilt, anguish, doubt, grief

III.   DECIDING TO DIVORCE (6-12 months before invoking legal process)

A.   Creating emotional distance (i.e., disparaging the other person/situation in order to leave it)

B.   Seldom reversible (because it's been considered for awhile)

C.   Likely for an affair to occur

D.   Other person just begins Stage I (considering divorce) and feels denial, depressed, rejected, low self-esteem, anger

E.   Both parties feel victimized by the other

F.   Feelings: anger, resentment, sadness, guilt, anxiety for the family, the future, impatience with other, needy

IV.   ACTING ON DECISION (beginning the legal process)

A.   Physical separation

B.   Emotional separation (complicated by emotional flareups)

C.   Creating redefinition (self orientation)

D.   Going public with the decision

E.   Setting the tone for the divorce process (getting legal advice and setting legal precedent: children, support, home)

F.   Choosing sides and divided loyalties of friends and families

G.   Usually when the children find out (they may feel responsible, behave in ways to make parents interact)

H.   Feelings: traumatized, panic, fear, shame, guilt, blame, histrionics

V.   GROWING ACCEPTANCE (during the legal process or after)

A.   Adjustments: physical, emotional

B.   Accepting that the marriage wasn't happy or fulfilling

C.   Regaining a sense of power and control, creating a plan for the future, creating a new identity, discovering new talents

VI.   NEW BEGINNINGS (completing the legal process to four years after)

A.   Parties have moved beyond the blame and anger to forgiveness, new respect, new roles

B.   Experiences: insight, acceptance, integrity.

On the average, it takes family members approximately four to eight years to recover from the emotional and financial expense of a bitter adversarial divorce.

*Adapted from the original article Psychological and Emotional Aspects of Divorce

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« Reply #1 on: November 12, 2015, 01:21:46 AM »

Thank you for this. It was really helpful to me as the partner of someone going through a divorce for the second time from the same woman. My own divorce was very simple in comparison so it helps to understand that someone else might be going through.
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