The divorce rate in the United States is the highest in the world; 50 percent of marriages end in divorce. Everyone knows that divorce is difficult.

Many people don’t know that divorce is associated with an increase in depression as individuals experience the loss of partner, hopes, dreams and lifestyle.

The financial reality of divorce can be overwhelming as a couple’s income must now support two households. Men and women may experience divorce differently, but divorce is often difficult for all those involved.

Counseling can provide much needed support during divorce. If you feel like you need support, please request an appointment with an iTherapy.com counselor.

Women’s Experience with Divorce

Women initiate divorce twice as often as men, generally adjust better than men and report experiencing less stress. This may be because women are more likely to: notice marital problems; feel relief when problems end; rely on social support and help from others; add new roles to their lives; and experience an increase in self-esteem when they divorce. Still, it is not easy for the woman. Consider that:

  • 90% of divorced mothers have custody of their children
  • 60% of people under poverty guidelines are divorced women and children
  • 65% of divorced mothers receive no child support

Men’s Experience with Divorce

Men usually have more emotional adjustment problems than women as they experience a loss of intimacy; the loss of social connection; reduced finances and interruption of the parental role. Men initially are more negative about divorce and devote more energy to try to salvage the marriage. However, they generally remarry more quickly than women.

Effects of Divorce on Children

Recent research has shown the previously reported negative effects of divorce on children may have been misunderstood. Current studies show that children of divorce can be very well adjusted. Studies also have shown that children of divorce with depression and conduct disorders often exhibit those problems pre-divorce because of parental conflict.

Emotional Stages of Divorce

The decision to end a relationship can be traumatic, chaotic and full of conflicting emotions. Feelings are different based on who initiated the divorce. The initiator may experience fear, relief, distance, impatience, resentment, doubt and guilt. The other partner may feel surprised, even shocked, betrayed, victimized, insecure, angry, like they have lost control and have decreased self esteem. She or he may have a desire to “get even” or may wish to reconcile. In any case, healing will involve acceptance, focusing on the future, taking responsibility for one’s actions (now and during the marriage) and acting with integrity.

  1. Unhappiness – may last for one or two years before expressing feelings. This stage is marked by vague feelings of discontentment, arguments, stored resentments and breaches of trust. Problems are real, but may be unacknowledged. Partner is distant, may consider pros and cons of divorce and/or develop a strategy for separation. Common feelings include: fear, denial, anxiety, guilt, love, anger, depression, grief.
  2. Expressing Feelings – 8-12 months before taking action. This stage involves expressing discontent or ambivalence to other party. Partners may try marital counseling, or may experience a honeymoon phase (one last try). Common feelings include: relief (that it’s out in the open), tension, emotional roller coaster, guilt, anguish, doubt, grief.
  3. Deciding to Divorce – 6-12 months before taking action. On partner creates emotional distance, disparaging the other person/situation in order to leave it. An affair may occur. At this point, divorce is seldom reversible , because it’s been considered for awhile. The other partner begins considering divorce and feels denial, depressed, rejected, low self-esteem and angry. Both parties feel victimized by the other. Other feelings include: anger, resentment, sadness, guilt, anxiety for the family and the future, impatient with other, needy.
  4. Acting on Decision – beginning the legal process. Physical and emotional separation begins at this point but may be complicated by emotional flare-ups. Each partner begins to redefine themselves apart from a couple. At this point, they also may go public with the decision, sparking friends and families to choose sides and loyalties. This stage sets the tone for the divorce process (getting legal advice and setting legal precedent: children, support, home.
  5. Growing Acceptance – during the legal process or after. Physical and emotional adjustments continue. Partners accept that the marriage wasn’t happy or fulfilling. Each may regain a sense of power and control, creating a plan for the future and a new identity, also discovering new talents and resources.

If you or someone you know may be suffering from a divorce, please request an appointment with an iTherapy counselor to discuss your concerns.