The psychological effects of divorce
The psychological effects of divorce are huge. My own divorce was the most shattering thing I’ve had to deal with, even compared to several months in a coma, a prognosis that a bright 28-year-old would never walk again and a lifetime of physical disability and challenge. Divorce can be equally as difficult as dealing with your partner’s death. Losing a spouse that you love more than life itself is difficult. Way beyond difficult. But, sometimes, so is divorce.
This section of the website brings together the information, tools and hope you need to avoid – or survive – a divorce. Most important, there are tools – ConnectionCue™ and RelationshipCue™ cards – that will guide you, either as a couple or singly. The same tools that will help – if anything can – to save your marriage, are also the ones to guide you through this time and help you soar.
Unresolved Issues from the past
The psychological effects of divorce brings up the unresolved issues in your life… As if you didn’t already have enough to deal with. The next months could well be the most difficult period in your life. This website holds practical tips that will help, not just to make you feel better but to use each ounce of pain as a stepping stone toward amazing personal growth.
If you have a child (or several) it is even harder because you feel you have to guide them through this period of grief for them: the loss of the family as it was. At the same time – the worst time for you – you have to forge a new – acceptable – family for them. It is vital that children are able to love both parents – and feel good about all of their ‘nuts and bolts’.
Put one foot after the other and you will get to the other side. If ever there is a time for counselling, this is it. Email counselling support, at the very least, will be invaluable. Does your health plan cover counselling? Consider arranging for your children – whether at a young age or in teenage – to have ‘their own’ – professional – person to talk to. I can’t stress this enough.
For a while life itself seems impossible and overwhelming – and for good reason because the psychological effects of divorce and separation are impossible and overwhelming. You may need to talk about nothing else and the most loving thing a friend can do is just listen.
When my marriage ended, I felt as if I’d been run over by a truck. Every part of me physically ached and it lasted for months. It was like I was sad and hurt and ached right down into the centre of every bone in my body. These are the psychological effects of divorce.
On top of that very few people seemed to truly understand? Or even really care. Some people actually seemed relieved and I wondered why? Perhaps it was because my marriage had seemed ‘too good to be true’ and my separation confirmed their understanding of life and their own disillusion with relationships? I kept hearing things like “It’s just one of those things”. Or ‘it’s for the best’ – I never understood how that could be! And ‘you’ll be right as rain in a few weeks, you’ll see’. Or ‘don’t worry, these things happen’. I could have smacked them!
I was in shock. I was sure – then and now – that I couldn’t have felt worse if my husband had died. In fact in so many ways I still think that would have been easier at the time. I felt so unbearably alone.
Of course separation and divorce is a death… It is the final resting place for all the dreams you held so dear and dreamed of for your life as a spouse. Perhaps you held some of these dreams since your childhood? In any case, it is very significant. Very real.
At the end of a marriage, there is a real need to mourn. And that takes as long as it takes. Those are all part of the psychological effects of divorce.
The Physical Effects of Divorce in the Brain
Marriage is the the safe place you created to raise your children. Physical safety. Emotional safety. Financial safety. The part of the brain concerned with safety is the amygdala, in the oldest (reptilian or ancient) part of the brain. The amygdala is a little like a smoke alarm: a short burst of hairspray or a full-blown fire both trigger the same, ear-splittingly loud alarm. Daily your sense of safety is compromised and you feel a continual anxiety in your gut. On top of that, when the amygdala is stimulated, part of the thinking brain shuts down. It’s a natural and physical reaction. So soothing yourself or thinking your way out of ‘this mess’ becomes another trigger. Wave after wave. It was at least 2 years before this constant anxiety, this fear that I couldn’t survive, went away. It had become ‘normal’ for me. Then one day I noticed that it was no longer there and hadn’t been there for a while and I cried with relief!
When that happens – and only when you’re ready and not before – will come a new beginning.
A birth, if you like.
And as any mother will tell you, most births are also messy and painful! Ask any new mother if they would do it again and most will say ‘no way’. Later they will also tell you that the memory of childbirth fades and they would do it again. Some mothers have one child. Some have several. So it is with marriages or relationships.
Another similarity between marriage and pregnancy is that mistakes are often made. But ask any mother of ‘a mistake’ if she would ever change a thing? I bet the answer is a resounding ‘No”. The psychological effects of divorce are far-reaching and effect not only the partners but the children too. However, with the right guidance, the effects need not be too destructive.
Please be patient and gentle with yourself.
I would enjoy to read and share any of your experiences that you write to me about. With your permission (never without) I would like to edit and add your real-life experiences. I look forward to hearing from you!
Julie Taylor MTC