Like other major life events, divorce takes people through different emotional stages. Recognizing how the stages often unfold can make it easier to deal with the challenges of divorce. It also helps to know that divorces are usually not based on one single event, nor can they always be blamed entirely on one person. The problems often extend back over several years and can eventually snowball into the final separation.
What is the First Stage of Divorce?
The first stage of divorce is usually denial, most experienced by the person who did not initiate the divorce proceedings. Denial can actually be comforting to some, as it allows them to feel distance between their own self and the reality of the situation. Feelings of anxiety, fear of abandonment, panic, numbness, and apprehensiveness may also occur during Stage One. People may not respond to the initial divorce filing and may ignore requests to do so.
Depression can also be part of this stage, and this can be concerning if it affects one’s health. Anxiety and depression can both lead to sleep problems and an inability to carry on with daily living. Plenty of other thoughts can run through one’s mind during this initial phase. It is not uncommon to experience fear, guilt, and resentment. If one’s trust was broken, this can intensify emotions.
What is Stage Two of Divorce?
Once the news of the impending divorce has settled in, people may start blaming one another for their marital problems. Stage two is labeled as the conflict or anger stage, and it is not unusual for one spouse to become the victim and the other to be the victimizer. One expert points out that fault-finding is a major part of this phase; it is not unusual for couples to bring up flaws and past arguments. Things can get quite ugly, especially if one attempts to seek some sort of revenge against the other.
Children can be vulnerable to this anger if it is directed towards them, or if they witness their parents arguing or becoming violent. Feelings of loss and loneliness also occur. Like depression, these feelings can cause people to withdraw from others, including family members. For some however, Stage Two can bring feelings of euphoria; newfound freedom can increase self-esteem and allow people to become more independent and self-reliant.
What About the Other Stages?
As anger and other difficult emotions start to ease, a bargaining stage may begin. This is when one or both partners might think that the divorce is a mistake. The idea of going through with it could seem overwhelming, so one or both may try to negotiate their disagreements in favor of a tentative truce. When compared to a divorce, marriage could seem like a better alternative.
Stage Three may lead to a reconciliation, which can be long-term or short-lived. People can change, but it is not easy to alter established patterns of behavior. This stage can also lead to diminished self-esteem, especially if one person is doing all the work, while the other goes back to their old ways.
Stage Four focuses more on a growing acceptance of the inevitable divorce, although like the other stages, both people may not arrive here at the same time. Once it is understood that the marriage was not a good one and the decision to divorce is accepted, people can regain their sense of control. Now could be the time to create a plan for the future. Ex-spouses can start to discover new resources and talents, meet new people, and think about having a second chance in life. Once the stronger emotions have cooled down, Stage Four could also be the time to start a mediation process. This later stage does not mean that any negative feelings have disappeared. When marriages end, ex-spouses can feel lingering regret, sadness, and grief.
What Else Affects Divorce Outcomes?
Individual reactions vary depending on the length of the marriage, if there are children involved, socioeconomic status, health, and a host of other factors. When spouses are adversarial or there have been traumatic events, the stages can spill over into one another and become more stressful. Bouncing from rage to numbness to elation is not unheard of and is more common than one might think. After the initial shock of separation, it is not possible to predict how emotional the parties will be.
Unpredictable emotions can be hard to live with, but people who understand the nature of divorce and its accompanying feelings may be better prepared to live through its stages. Life transitions can be incredibly complicated, but it is important to keep in mind that there is a light at the end of the tunnel. Sharing concerns with trusted family, friends, therapists, and support groups can help people at any stage of divorce. People who have already gone through it can provide valuable information and understand what others are going through.
Morristown Divorce Lawyers at Lyons & Associates, P.C. Offer Legal Guidance for Those Seeking Divorce
Every divorce situation is unique, and the Morristown divorce lawyers at Lyons & Associates, P.C. have the experience to help you through this difficult time. With offices located in Somerville and Morristown, New Jersey, we serve clients throughout Somerset, Woodbridge, Morristown, Parsippany, Rockaway, Short Hills, Chatham, Randolph, Madison, and Morris Plains. For a confidential consultation, complete our online form or call us at 908-575-9777.