Existing Clients/Other Inquiries: 415-399-8380
Nachlis & Fink
Menu Contact
view our practice areas

What are the emotional stages of divorce?

Everyone knows that a divorce is an extremely emotional experience to go through, but did you know that experts have actually identified emotional stages that are typically part of ending a relationship? If you are currently going through a divorce, knowing these stages can help you to normalize your experience and prepare yourself for what may come, from an emotional standpoint.

According to the article from Mediate.com, here are the six emotional stages of ending a relationship:

1. Disillusionment

One party can begin experiencing the emotion of disillusionment a year or two before verbally expressing their feelings to their spouse. Disillusionment includes vague feelings of discontent or resentment, and it may be tied to arguments or breaches of trust.

At this point, distance begins to grow between the spouses. The disillusioned spouse may begin to secretly think about the pros and cons of divorce.

The feelings that are common during this emotional stage are: fear, denial, anxiety, guilt, love, anger, depression and grief.

2. Expressing disillusionment

This stage usually occurs between eight months and 12 months before beginning the legal process to divorce. Essentially, the disillusioned spouse expresses their discontent or ambivalence to other party. In some cases, the spouses decide to give it another shot or attend counseling.

The feelings that are common during this emotional stage can be conflicting, such as relief to have it out in the open but also guilt, doubt, grief and anguish. This stage can feel like a rollercoaster of feelings.

3. Deciding to end the marriage

One or both parties typically decides on divorce to 12 months before actually beginning the legal process. During this time, one or both spouses may try to create emotional distance from the other spouse by disparaging him or her. Affairs may begin at this stage, and both parties often feel victimized.

Other feelings that are common during this stage are: anger, resentment, sadness, guilt, anxiety, impatience, neediness.

4. Acting on the decision to divorce

This stage marks the beginning of the legal divorce process. The spouses may physically and emotionally separate from each other during this time, and let their friends and families know about the separation. Children are often told of the impending divorce during this stage as well (here are tips for talking to children about divorce).

Feelings are often strong during this stage and include traumatization, panic, fear, shame, guilt, blame and histrionics.

5. Growing acceptance

One or both parties begin to acknowledge that the marriage was not happy or fulfilling and they begin to regain a sense of control during this stage, which usually starts during the divorce process or soon after. Future plans are made and new identities, talents and interests are often discovered.

This can be a great time to start the mediation process, if an agreement has not already been reached, because both parties may be looking toward the future.

6. New beginnings

This stage typically occurs at the conclusion of the legal process or within four years thereafter. Both spouses have typically moved on past blame and anger and may even forgive one another.

As you can see, no one emotional stage lasts forever. Hopefully, this offers some home for new beginnings and a normalizes emotions that you may currently be feeling.

No Comments

Leave a comment
Comment Information

We Are Here For You

Bold labels are required.

Contact Information

Privacy Policy


Nachlis & Fink
291 Geary Street
Suite 600
San Francisco, CA 94102

Phone: 415-399-8380
Fax: 415-399-8390
Map & Directions

San Francisco Office