If you can understand the rollercoaster of emotions you will probably with dealing with when
you separate, it will help in minimizing the impact on yourself and the
While for some women separation and divorce is a
relieving end to an abusive and or extremely toxic and unhappy marriage, for
others, the disintegration of the relationship and
the divorce itself can actually cause you deep psychological distress that
stops you from moving forward.
My worst nightmare became a reality after having pondered over the decision for eight years to leave the marriage. My worst nightmare had become a reality. Even though it had been coming for a while, I was still thrown into that emotional rollercoaster, when my former had to leave. It was like learning how to ice skate, with emotions!
You may be in this place now, where you find that you have been forced to leave the marriage or your spouse has up and left. Whatever the case, you are now on the emotional rollercoaster.
This is very normal. Your marriage just died and you’re overwhelmed with emotions that you cannot describe. You have to learn how to best deal with these emotions because, with the pain of your emotions, it’s very easy to lose sight of the end result, which is getting through the divorce process and minimizing the impact of the pain and on your children. It is important to be aware of what you are feeling and why you are feeling it. Being able to understand our emotions while this is happening will help you get a grip on your thoughts and release them in a more controlled manner, as opposed to not thinking about it and defaulting to emotional outbursts. This doesn’t mean that you hide your feelings; you just learn to control them in a way that doesn’t further fuel your already raw emotions.
Emotions You May Experience
Even though I had initiated the separation and divorce in my
marriage, I went through all manner of feelings starting with fear, hurt,
feeling rejected confused and unloved, relief, resentment for being pushed to
make the decision for my daughter and me, anger, doubt, guilt…plenty of guilt
and disappointment. Many times at night I’d
cry myself to sleep away from our daughter. Not always, but most.
I remember that inner feeling of paralysis – going through the motions of each day, with a young child who needed to be taken care of. Always wearing a paper-thin mask, of ‘being okay’ to present to the world, while inside I was so broken, and yet had to keep going when all I wanted to do was curl up in a corner and go to sleep.
I was overflowing with the following emotions that are common
and natural to those going through marital separation:
1. Guilt and Shame: Guilt that I had brought the marriage to an end, guilt that even though I had done all I could to save our marriage I had failed. Guilt that this is not what I had in mind for our daughter. Guilt that I couldn’t take her pain away. I didn’t experience shame, but many women do.
Shame because your marriage ‘failed’ the social
stereotype of the ‘perfect’ family. Shame, because you realize that everybody
is going to look down on you and your children as coming from a ‘broken’ home.
The shame of already being ‘stigmatized’.
and Anxiety: Fear and anxiety are
overwhelming. There are so many ‘unknowns’ that bring on fear and anxiety.
How am I going to pay the
bills? Will the children be visiting your ex? How will this affect them? Will
you be able to give them a stable happy environment? Will they continue school?
Where will you live?
The issues that come to
cause anxiety and fear are endless.
Then there is the fear….the fear that comes from losing control. The
fear that your ex will hound you, claim and get everything he wants.
Fear that the new women in your children’s lives will prefer them to
you. The constant threats he will pursue custody and take your children away. Will
you get your share of the assets you had between the two of you as a couple?
- Anger and Revenge:
You have to face it. Your marriage and relationship are now over…..women
are often filled with anger and much as we don’t admit it, revenge. You’re
angry that your spouse betrayed you and your family. You were abandoned,
disrespected and thrown out like a dirty piece of cloth. You’re angry that you invested so much time
and effort into a relationship that has not worked out.
You’re angry because your spouse is now telling you that you’re not
going to get anything out of the marriage or that you’re never going to see
your children again.
This anger can come in two extremes. I went into a passive, ‘I am not going to fight you, ever’, whereas there are those whose anger will turn into rage, where you can become consumed with revenge.
The Grief Carried in Your Emotions
In many ways, separation followed by divorce is like going through the death of a loved one and involves loss and grief. It’s made worse by the fact that your spouse is actually still alive. It changes the structure of your family forever. Not all separation and divorce emotional responses are the same and are unique to your circumstances surrounding your separation. You may experience them in the order they are presented here, or only go through some of the stages.
The point is that divorce is a process, and it may not be the
same process for everyone as going through stages of divorce means
different things to different people. Most women go through:
1. Shock: It
usually takes two to three years to form a strong attachment to a person and
for some, if separation occurs after this time it usually involves a reaction
called separation shock. You realize
that your marriage has broken down and there isn’t any hope of any kind of
reconciliation leaves you in a state of shock. Nothing prepares you for the
actual situation, no matter how bad the marriage had become.
Denial: If you didn’t initiate the divorce, you will spend
a lot of time in this denial stage.
Denial provides comfort and security – it helps you distance yourself
from an overwhelming reality. Is this
really happening to you?
refuse to accept that the relationship is over and struggle with trying to find
solutions to marital problems.
time believing that if you do or say the right thing your spouse will come
home. You hate feeling out of control of the destiny of your marriage.
are convinced that divorce is not the solution to marital problems. Denial is a
powerful coping tool some use to keep from facing the reality of their
Anger and Resentment: The anger stage is frequently
visited by both parties. It is heavy with blame, rage and an endless dissecting
of the events that went on in the marriage. Because we suppress emotions while
in denial, these feelings are unleashed when we get to this stage, and can
become quite destructive.
stage can become very consuming as you get eaten up by the anger. Hostile and
vindictive decisions are made in this phase that contributes towards an
Bargaining: The next stage is bargaining and this is where
you say things like “if you will stay, I will agree to become a second wife” or
“I’ll do whatever you want if we get back together”.
hold onto the hope that your marriage will be restored. There is a willingness
to change anything about yourself and if you could just get it right, your
spouse would return.
The important thing to learn during this stage is that you can’t control the thoughts, desires or actions of another human being. The left-behind spouse—the one who didn’t want a divorce—is likely to linger in this stage longer than the spouse who chose to divorce.
Depression: Often this stage can last for a long time. It
is also the most difficult and the darkest period in divorce. At this point, the reality of the situation
has settled in for both parties. Depression is a danger at this stage and you
may cry at the drop of a hat. You can’t seem to settle your feelings and
swing from being hopeful to feeling utter despair. You try to break down
what has happened over and over again in your mind, in the effort to understand
your pain and make it go away.
can lead to many destructive thoughts, from how things could have gone
differently to placing the blame entirely on you. It’s a very vulnerable
time for you.
Acceptance: Once you reach this stage, you’ll find some
peace. Beyond dealing with your reality, you are able to embrace it with 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 have a fulfilling
life. You make plans and follow through with them.
open up to the idea of finding new interests. You no longer dwell on the past
but are emotionally prepared for the future. This is a period of growth
where you discover that you have strengths and talents to build on and you are
able to go forward in spite of your fear. Your pain gives way to hope and you
discover that there actually life after divorce.
While attempting to manage your emotional recovery during and after divorce, give yourself a break. Understand that it is normal and you will move through recovery at your own pace.