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Divorce is a shock to the system. Even if getting divorced is your idea, when it finally becomes a reality, you may find yourself even more unbalanced than your spouse when it comes to coping with divorce emotions. There's a really good article by Thrive Global that breaks down the emotions you feel during divorce into three groups: anger and revenge, guilt and shame, fear and anxiety. Regardless of which group of emotion may be stronger for you, it's true that there's a method to this madness - and you tend to experience them in six distinct phases.
This list best describes the order of divorce emotions from the perspective of the “receiver” (the spouse who is told “I want a divorce”), but is also relevant for the “deliverer” (the spouse who requests the divorce).
Six Phases of Divorce Emotions
You find it hard to believe this is happening to you. You refuse to accept that the relationship is over and struggle with trying to find solutions to the marital problems. You will spend time believing that if you do or say the right thing your spouse will come back to you. You hate feeling out of control of the destiny of your marriage. You will be convinced that divorce is not the solution to marital problems.
You will feel panic, rage, and numbness. You may feel like you are going crazy. You will swing between despair that your marriage is over and hope that it will be restored. It will seem impossible to cope with these feelings.
You will experience some common fears when thinking about your future alone. You will wonder how you are going to survive. Will you ever find love again? Will the pain ever end or will you feel this way the rest of your life?
You can’t seem to settle your feelings and thoughts. You swing from being hopeful to feeling utter despair. During this stage, you will try to intellectualize what has happened. If you can only understand what is going on then the pain will go away and all will make sense again.
You will tell yourself stories to try to make sense of what is happening and your imagination will run wild. You will wonder if there was more you could have done, or if there is anything wrong with you. Maybe your spouse never even loved you. You will wonder if your entire marriage was a lie.
You are still holding onto the hope that your marriage will be restored. There is a willingness to change anything about yourself or do anything that is asked if you could just get your spouse to come back to you. The important thing to learn during this stage is that you can’t control the thoughts, desires or actions of another human being.
During this stage you will finally realize that the marriage is over, that there is nothing you can do or say to change that. You will become more willing to forgive the faults of your ex spouse and take responsibility for your part in the breakdown of the marriage. You will begin to feel a sense of liberation and some hope for the future.
The obsessive thoughts have stopped, the need to heal your marriage is behind you and you begin to feel as if you can and will have a fulfilling life. Suddenly you are looking ahead and not behind you, you are making plans and following through with them. You will open up to the idea of finding new interests.
This is a period of growth where you will discover that you have strengths and talents and are able to go forward in spite of the fear you feel. Your pain gives way to hope and you discover that there is life after divorce and that the future is, indeed, bright.