Getting a divorce is not an easy thing to do. Experts share what it’s really like for people whose marriages dissolve. When we think about divorce, we probably imagine two adults arguing, sad children stuck in the middle, or even a courtroom battle. However, when two people are getting a divorce, it’s far more complex than that.
To begin with, chances are you’ll never even be in a courtroom with your ex. Additionally, there are some positive aspects regarding a divorce that you may not have seen coming. This article will provide you the opinion of many specialists, including relationship coaches, divorce lawyers, couples counselors. So read on if you’re interested in finding out what really goes on when a marriage ends. Here are 20 effects of divorce that people don’t talk about, according to specialists.
It’s a grieving process
Thanks to sensational tabloids and reality TV, people believe that a divorce is a time of high drama and intense emotions when in reality, divorce doesn’t feel like a twist in a soap opera at all. To be honest, it feels like a death.
“There are so many losses inherent in a divorce and you need to allow yourself time and space to grieve for all those losses,” says relationship coach Susan Trotter, PhD, of divorce education organization Vesta. “The grief process though is not linear. Understanding that will help to normalize your emotions and can motivate you to get the support you need.”
She explains that it’s very important for everyone going through a divorce to seek the professional help they need and to pay attention to the people that surround them. “Find people who are positive and have good energy, and that will help you to stay focused and more positive, too,” Trotter adds. “Mindset is critical in the divorce process.”
But it’s also a business transaction
Divorce is both an emotionally fraught time of grieving and a business transaction at the same time. You’ll be surprised to find out just how much paperwork and money are involved in the process. Specialists explain that keeping one’s attention on these aspects instead of focusing the split can often be the healthiest approach to getting through it.
“Learning how to take the emotions out of the settlement process, and instead focus on the division of assets as a ‘business transaction’ will help you to make better decisions in that regard for you and your family,” suggests Trotter. “It will also help you decide what is worth fighting for and what is not.”
You may never be in the same room with your ex during the divorce proceedings
Something that may be surprising for you is that once two people split, they rarely see their ex-partners as the proceedings unfold. The important decisions are made without people having to see each other, rather than dramatic courtroom showdowns a many would imagine.
“Many times your case isn’t settled in a courtroom even if you’ve hired an attorney,” explains Charles MacCall, chief operations officer for Rosen Law Firm, which specializes in divorce cases. “You may come to the terms of your settlement on a FaceTime call with your attorney while you are rushing between work meetings across the country, or you may figure out who gets the pots and pans while sitting in different rooms at a mediation.”
MacCall adds that if you do have a mediator, they are the only ones who will see both of you, in order to reach a settlement.
You won’t have to compromise as much as you’d expect
A divorce requires plenty of compromises just like marriage. However, it’s not that bad as you would imagine, considering the many freedoms than newly separated people suddenly realize they have.
“One of the stories I hear over and over from my clients is the surprise when they move into their new place and they get to pick out what color to paint the walls,” says MacCall. “There is no debate, there is no negotiation; they alone get to decide. And it isn’t just the little personal preference parts either—financially, many of my clients feel both a sense of fear and a sense of excitement when they realize that making decisions over large purchases and investment strategies are theirs alone.”
A “clean break” is much harder than it sounds
Most of the time, the hardest thing is to liberate yourself from the person you’ve been married to, no matter for how long. “It takes forever to untangle yourself from your spouse—tax documents, car registrations, changing your name,” says Carmel Jones, who writes about sex and relationships for The Big Fling.
“Going through the documents when getting a divorce to put everything you have into your name is going to take a very long time, and you will need to communicate with your spouse often.”
It can be a big relief
Divorce can bring lots of stress-financial, emotional and spiritual. However, it can also bring you an incredible sense of relief, as many people who had gone through a divorce describe it.
“As a young Catholic girl, I was terrified that getting a divorce would be devastating,” says Sonia M. Frontera, a divorce attorney and author of Divorce Dilemma. “Yet, once I empowered myself to leave my husband, I found much more joy and freedom being alone. The divorce process and rebuilding my life took over all the fears that stopped me from leaving sooner and I am grateful for the experience.”
Frontera explains how divorce taught her to release grudges, turn the page on the pain of the past and most importantly, to move forward and enjoy freedom.
You may feel sorry for your spouse
Feeling sorry for the other person is very common, even in the case of a bitter divorce where there are plenty of bad feelings toward the end. Therefore, those warm feelings you used to have for your ex-spouse don’t just disappear, especially since you’re both going through many of the same difficulties.
“Even though my husband was vicious to me, once I decided to leave, he turned to mush,” says Frontera. “Although I wasn’t going to change my mind, I did feel sorry for him and behaved with compassion throughout the divorce process and beyond.”
You’ll lose some friendships
Divorce also comes hand in hand with losing some friendships, as collateral damage. Many of the people who had gone through a divorce explain that most of the time, mutual friends are lost in the process. And that doesn’t necessarily mean that a friend chooses one member of a couple instead of the other. It’s just a change in the dynamics, especially for people who used to go on couple dates. The split can throw off the balance.
“While most people were supportive and were happy to see me end my marriage, some people distanced themselves from me and kept me away from their husbands,” says Frontera. “You will become a threat to insecure friends and may need to let them go.”
You will have more time to yourself
Newly divorced people are often overwhelmed by the amount of free time they now have, compared to how time-consuming being married was. Even those who have kids will have more time on their own, as their children split days between parents.
“Many seem to think a divorce means more work in terms of childcare, but in a joint custody situation, you will actually have more time for self-care,” says MacCall. “Taking the time to take care of yourself will also make you a better role model for your children.”
“Married partnerships usually involve merging your practical lives, such as sharing a home and day-to-day activities and decisions,” she says. “After divorce, the tendency to get ‘lost’ in another person is now replaced with a newfound freedom to explore and discover your individual self.”
You’ll miss your kids
Even though there are positive aspects when it comes to a divorce, like having more time for yourself, you’ll definitely be missing your kids very much. You’ve been used to see them every day and have them around at all times, so their absence will be hard to handle after the divorce.
“For the first few months, you are going to feel extremely lonely for your children and your family life if you have split custody,” says Jones. “It might even make you question whether or not you made the right decision. Eventually, you’ll realize that this time means longer hours of sleep, relaxation, and a time to rediscover yourself.”
You’ll become a better parent
Sure, a divorce will be hard for children as well, but not all the effects are negative. You’ll learn to become a better parent and make the most of the time you spend together with your children.
“One of the effects of kids having two separate homes and spending time with each parent, if this is the arrangement, is that you spend more individual time with your child than ever, and your bond can grow much stronger,” says Ashley.
MacCall even suggests that divorce can lead you to become a better parent. “Because you will likely now have a joint custody schedule, you will have time to work late and run errands when your ex has the kids,” he says. “This means that you will be able to dedicate 100 percent of your attention when it is your time with the kids.”
Your ex-spouse will also become a better parent
“No one wants to be labeled the ‘deadbeat dad’ or the ‘absentee mother’ in a divorce—all of a sudden the spouse who couldn’t be bothered to come to watch their daughter play soccer is now coaching the team,” says MacCall. “The good news is, these new habits tend to stick. Your ex will realize how much they have missed out on, and how neat hanging out with their kid can be.”
Your relationship with your ex might be better than it was when you were married
Divorced parents share that they’re getting to a better place with their former spouse than they were at while married.
“After some time—and we could be talking years—if you begin to co-parent correctly, you’ll be surprised to learn that you can be grateful for your ex as a friend and happy for his/her achievements and relationships outside of your own,” says Jones. “This desire for them to be happy might mean your friendship is stronger than it was when you were actually together romantically.”
But it takes time before you can be friends again
While things may get civil with your ex after a period of time, you will want to be careful before being friendly with the person who was once the most important person in your life. Trying to shift to “friend mode” too quickly can often backfire. “Being friends with your ex usually doesn’t work out soon after divorce,” says Gaspard. “Most of the time, a post-breakup friendship is a setup for further heartbreak, especially for the person who was left and probably feels rejected.”
It can be dangerous to jump right back into dating
Moving on too quickly into a new relationship can only mean that you’re avoiding dealing with the problems that led to the marriage’s end in the first place. You need some time to do little of the work on yourself in order to prevent the same problems from coming up in your next relationship.
“The divorce rate goes up for second, third, and fourth marriages, in part because people are repeating patterns that they don’t recognize,” says Trotter. “It takes time to process everything, and even though you may feel ready to date, you will have more success in future dating and relationships if you take the time to process the divorce [and] learn from your past relationships—what worked and what didn’t, and what your role was in the dynamic, and what you want and need now, which is likely very different from what you wanted and needed when you got married.”
Frontera says that taking some time for herself was valuable for her personally. “Even though I felt unloved during a toxic marriage and longed for love and appreciation afterward, I enjoyed my freedom so much that I didn’t date for four years post-divorce,” she says. “And those were some of the best years of my life.”
You may repeat the same patterns with a new partner
Divorce may separate you from a spouse, but you are still you. Many people who experience a divorce expect it to be totally different with a new partner. Most of them are surprised to find a similar dynamic.
“Divorce is often pursued with the intent of getting rid of major relationship problems, which tend to be tied to core patterns,” says Ashley. “So it can be quite surprising when, after the honeymoon phase of the next relationship, you circle back around to the same dynamic with the new partner.”
Time becomes more important than things
Those who experience a divorce usually have much greater clarity about what matters most in life. That’s when “stuff” turns out to be less important than it was in the past. And that’s mainly because recently divorced people are forced by circumstances to move to a smaller place or give up many things that were important to them. Nonetheless, time becomes more scarce.
“In going through all of your things, dividing them up during the divorce, and scaling down, you’ll have a newfound appreciation for the time you spend with the people you love, and less focus on materialistic items,” says Jones.
Your physical health takes a hit
A 2010 study published in the Journal of Marriage and Family found that both middle-aged men and women are at a higher risk of developing cardiovascular disease after going through a divorce, compared with married people of the same age.
“The study also revealed that middle-aged women who get divorced are more likely to develop cardiovascular disease than middle-aged men who get divorced,” says Fran Walfish, PsyD, a Beverly Hills family and relationship psychotherapist and author of The Self-Aware Parent.
And your mental health does, too
Divorce has a huge impact on one’s mental health. And that’s not only because you feel sad that things didn’t work in your marriage, but also because it tends to add up your anxiety levels.
“You don’t have a companion in the big, bad world anymore, and the future that you once pictured no longer exists,” explains Walfish. “Plus, there’s a ton of uncertainty, which can lead to feeling insecure. Depending on the circumstances, you might suddenly have to move, get a new job, and survive on less money than before.”
You learn to forgive yourself
Guilt, self-doubt, and a general sense of harshness toward yourself are common feelings after a divorce. However, these negative feelings usually give a healthier understanding of oneself. You’ll learn more about forgiveness and you’ll accept your past without feeling guilty.
“The dumper, or person who leaves or ends the relationship, may experience feelings of guilt,” says Gaspard. “But an important part of divorce recovery is forgiving yourself.”