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Posted in : Divorce

Phycological Impact of a Divorce

Divorce rates have some startling statistics. 20% of all marriages will fail in the first five years. A further 48% dissolve by the 20-year mark. This means that divorce has a definitive psychological impact. While the effects differ between men, women, and children, it is still a recognized occurrence in divorced families.

The psychological effect of divorce in women

Women are twice as likely to initiate divorce as men. Post-divorce women tend to adapt better and experience less stress than men. There are many reasons for this, but some are tied to the fact that women are more likely to seek out support systems than men. Women are also more likely to notice the problems in the marriage sooner and experience relief when those problems end. Finally, women are more likely to experience a rise in self-esteem after divorce.

The psychological effect of divorce in men

Men tend to have more emotional adjustment problems than women. This is tied to the loss of intimacy, loss of social connections, and a reduction in finances. Men remarry faster than women. On the other side of the coin, men are initially more negative about divorce and will devote more energy into salvaging the marriage.

The Many Emotions of Divorce

Guilt is one of the most common emotions felt by women in divorce. In fact, in the stages of the dissolution of a relationship, guilt is one of the most frequently cited emotions at many different stages. The woman’s guilt is most likely connected to the belief that they are responsible for the demise of the marriage. If children are involved, the feelings of guilt can be compounded.

For those that initiate the separation, male or female, it is normal to experience emotions like grief, fear, relief, distance, impatience, resentment, and doubt. Likewise, the party who is on the receiving end often feels emotions of shock, betrayal, loss of control, victimization, decreased self-esteem, and a desire to “get even.”

Another psychological result of the dissolution of a marriage is the rationalization that the marriage was a wholly unpleasant experience. This can lead to bouts of fault-finding on the parts of both individuals. If one spouse can be portrayed as really awful, the other spouse feels they can demand compensation without feelings of guilt. It can also lead to attempts at “getting even,” leading to energy being put into one or both spouses attempting to appear blameless.

In these initial stages, it is important to understand that marriages do not break down overnight. There is almost never a “singularity” type event that leads to divorce. It is also important to acknowledge, despite the tendency for fault finding in the soon-to-be ex, that the breakup is not the sole fault of one party.

The emotional process is further complicated by the fact that in most cases, one spouse is at a different stage of the emotional process while both parties are in the same stage of the physical (legal) process. After the legal proceedings are over, healing can truly begin. Blame and anger can turn to tolerance and forgiveness as both parties become involved in new roles.

Divorce can rip people apart. At first, it’s like a nuclear warhead going off, but the effects of the divorce will lessen over time. It is always important to seek counseling, either professionally or through friends and family members, so you can receive psychological assistance through this difficult stage in life.


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