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Maryland Client Advocates Since 1950

Expect the emotional stages of divorce

You’ve probably heard of the “stages of grief,” but have you ever heard of the stages of divorce?

It’s unlikely that anybody just wakes up one day and makes such a life-altering decision as divorce. More than likely, anyone considering divorce has been going through a long emotional process, and he or she is likely to continue to go through more emotional stages related to the divorce as things proceed.

The best way to handle the emotions of divorce is to understand that what you are feeling is totally normal, and part of the necessary process toward eventual healing. Prepare yourself and know what to expect.

1. Unhappiness

You become discontent or disillusioned with your marriage. You start to think about what it would be like not to be married anymore, but neither you nor your spouse openly discuss the problems.

2. Tension

You may feel a lot of mixed emotions as you and your spouse begin to openly address the issues you have. Quarreling is common, but so are feelings of fear, doubt and grief.

3. Decision

Many people make the decision to divorce months before they act on it. They may emotionally start to distance themselves from their spouse first. Affairs often happen in this stage. There may be a lot of feelings of anger or sadness, but also a sense that a decision has been made and the marriage is over. It’s common to start making an exit plan.

4. Motivation

This is when one or both members of a couple feel motivated to seek legal advice, announce their decision and start to separate. One spouse may move out. The couple tells their friends and family that the marriage is over. There may be a lot of anxiety, even guilt and anger, but also motivation to move on.

5. Acceptance

Some people see this as a long phase with more than one stage, but the guilt, anxiety, fear and anger tends to fade as both members of the couple finally move on an embrace new lives.

There’s honestly no way to predict if you and your spouse will hit the same phases at once. It’s common for one spouse to lag somewhat behind the other. However, take heart. Whatever stage you are in before “acceptance” is only temporary. That means that you can take comfort in the idea that all of the anger, frustration or fear associated with divorce is also temporary.