12 emotions you go through getting divorced – and how to handle them

Anya Meyerowitz
·7-min read
Photo credit: Francesco Carta fotografo
Photo credit: Francesco Carta fotografo

From Red Online

Divorce rates are increasing around the world, and relationship experts warn the pandemic-induced break-up curve may not have peaked yet. So, if you're currently filing for a divorce, you're certainly not alone.

In fact, the range of emotions you might be going through are very common for anyone experiencing the event.

'Divorce is a traumatic event, whether you are the instigator or the recipient,' relationship expert and psychotherapist, Neil Wilkie explains. 'It can get particularly difficult if there is a third party, children or disagreement over finances.'

The timescales can range from short to very drawn out and the process can go from straightforward to unpleasant and adversarial.

'Both parties will be grieving the loss of a relationship that had once been good and facing uncertainty over their futures,' Neil continues. 'They will be going through the stages of grief at different speeds and in different ways.'

However, Neil also tells us that there are 12 emotions that someone getting divorced might experience and has also given his expert advice on how to cope with each of them.


If you are the recipient, the whole event may come as a complete shock to you. If you are the instigator, divorces rarely go smoothly as there is significant emotional capital tied up in the marriage. The reaction of your partner may be a real shock.

How to handle this?

Accept that the shock will pass, it is part of the normal cycle of grief. You need to be on your best form to get through this and achieve the best possible outcome for you.


The natural response is to try and pretend this is not happening, it is a bad dream and when I wake up, it will all go away. There are many questions that will be unleashed; how could this happen, why didn’t I see this coming, how could they, where did it all go wrong?

How to handle this?

Understand that this is happening. You may not want it but if your partner is committed to a divorce, you cannot choose the legal outcome, only how it will affect your future.

Photo credit: Aitor Diago
Photo credit: Aitor Diago


It is all too painful, and you want to avoid reality. Burying your head in the sand may feel a safe warm place to be but you will eventually suffocate!

How to handle this?

There are important discussions to be had with your partner and legal formalities to go through. Putting these off is just avoiding reality, putting more emotional pressure on yourself and is likely to worsen the outcome for you. Deal with the difficult stuff first.


It is natural to feel angry about a situation that you may not have had choice in and that could have a huge impact on the rest of your life.

How to handle this?

Yes, show your partner how you really feel and then let the anger flow through you. If you hold onto it, then it will have a corrosive effect on your life.


You are on a path with no way off. You are not in control as your partner may have a very different agenda to you.

How to handle this?

Work out what is important for you to have control over and see if you can make some progress on these. See what common ground you have with your partner and try and work together on this to create an agreed timescale and milestones.


Your world has just changed, security has gone, and you are anxious about what your future will be.

How to handle this?

Create as many anchors as you can; friends to talk to, people that can help you, safe places that can give you calm. Draw a picture of the future that you would like and put this somewhere prominent so that you can see it every day.


Desperately wanting your partner to change their mind; you try to win them back with seduction, promises to change and be the person that you think they want.

How to handle this?

Are you really sure that you want a relationship with them or is this about your pride? If you met them for the first time today would you want them? It is important for you both to have a conversation, before the divorce becomes a one-way street, about could the two of you create a new and different relationship that would work for both of you?

Photo credit: PeopleImages
Photo credit: PeopleImages


Your world has been destroyed and the future is looking hopeless. You just want to spend the rest of your life feeling sad and sorry for yourself.

How to handle this?

Is that how you really want to feel? Do you want the rest of your life to be limited by the divorce? A few bottles of wine and a duvet day may help but they are not the long-term solution as you deserve better. Take the opportunity to pamper yourself and get ready to embrace a better future


There is so much to deal with; legal arrangements, selling houses, moving, splitting possessions, sorting out the children, financial arrangements and all while normal life has to continue. It is one of the most overwhelming experiences in life where solid ground turns to an earthquake.

How to handle this?

Create a plan and break your journey to a new life down into manageable chunks. This is an elephant that has to be eaten in very small pieces. Give yourself a reward for achieving important milestones. Also ensure there is equitable sharing of the workload between the two of you.


Hostility to each other is likely to emerge as you both cannot get what you want. Compromises will have to be made and you will both have different perceptions about the fairness of these.

How to handle this?

Understand that hostility will be counterproductive. You are more likely to get what you want from the negotiations if you are reasonable and pleasant. Future life will also be much better, particularly if you have children together, if you can be on amicable terms.


You want to inflict pain on your partner to make them realise how much you have been hurt by the divorce. It may not have been about the affair or betrayal, if there was one; it could have been about the financial or childcare arrangements. Desire to get even or be in control can become all consuming.

How to handle this?

Recognise that the desire for revenge could end up hurting you (and your children if you have any) more than them. Get all the negative emotions out by free writing (non-stop writing for 10 minutes, shouting from the hilltops or beating a dining chair with a rolled-up newspaper. Then focus on creating the future that you want and deserve.


You have been through the stages of loss and grief and now you are accepting the new reality. It may not have been what you want but the divorce has happened and there is no going back.

How to handle this?

You can have a better life in the future, and you deserve one. Work out what you have really learned from the past relationship and how this will help you have a better one in the future. Bring with you the happy memories and clarity on what you want in the future.

Neil Wilkie is a Relationship Expert, Psychotherapist, author of Reset and creator of the online therapy platform, The Relationship Paradigm.

Subscribe to Red now to get the magazine delivered to your door.

Like this article? Sign up to our newsletter to get more articles like this delivered straight to your inbox.

You Might Also Like