“The Four Emotional Stages of Deciding Divorce and How Mediation Can Help”

Golden Rings On Torn Piece Of Paper With Divorce Text

When we hear the term “divorce”, many most likely picture a number of images in your mind. If you yourself have gone through a divorce, this may conjure up a raft of emotions.  If  your divorce was particularly contentious, you may recall images from the last weeks or months of the marriage that bring about anger, frustration or resentment.   If you were suddenly presented with divorce papers but didn’t see it coming, it may bring back the memories of bewilderment, sadness, futility and depression. 

Since divorce is, unfortunately, such a common occurrence today, when talking about this issue the focus many times is on asset distribution, custody issues, co-parenting and visitation. You don’t hear much about the emotional impact of divorce and the effects this can have on the parties involved. This article attempts to explain the emotional side of deciding to divorce and stages a person may go through in this decision.


This stage can occur up to a couple of years before actually deciding to divorce. The partner may feel discontented and resentful, while at the same starting to distance themselves from their partner. During this stage the dissatisfied partner may start planning a strategy for leaving the marriage.

Expressing Dissatisfaction

In this phase the dissatisfied partner may start verbalizing, or expressing otherwise, discontent to their spouse. They may attempt marital counseling or— sometimes as a last resort, go on  a “getaway” to attempt another honeymoon as “one last try” at the marriage.  The person may even feel relief that their feelings are no longer bottled up and their partner knows of their dissatisfaction.

Deciding to Divorce

In this phase the spouse will create emotional distance from their partner.  This is seldom reversible due to the separating spouse being unhappy for a while and considering and planning the divorce for, sometimes,  years. The husband or wife who is made aware of this can feel rejected, depressed and/or angry at this stage.

Acting on the Decision

This is where physical separation takes place.  Along with this comes emotional separation from the partner, redefining yourself as a single person again and letting friends and family know of your intention to divorce. 

Although this is a brief and simplified synopsis of the emotional side of divorce, it will hopefully give the reader insight into what it “feels” like in considering divorce and the stages people typically go through.  Also when people think of divorce they think of a long and drawn out court battle that can last for years.  This scenario can occur but doesn’t have to.  Mediation is a far better remedy to this process as it can save thousands of dollars in legal and counseling fees.  Mediators can help couples focus on the process of divorcing while addressing the emotional , parenting and custody issues as well as asset distribution. The mediation process can help couples heal faster during a challenging time in their lives. 

* The information in this blog article was taken from an article titled, “Psychological and Emotional Aspects of Divorce”, by Kathleen O’Connell Corcoran published in 1997.

Lee Miller is a trained mediator in the Los Angeles area who has been helping couples through the divorce process for over 14 years. To reach Lee, call (310) 879-5630 or email her at leemiller.therapist@gmail.com