- Many family law professionals will agree that fear overrides all other emotions when it comes to divorce.
- One of the most common fears during divorce is the fear of "starting over."
- If possible, avoiding litigation can reduce the stress and conflict of divorce and give both individuals more control over the outcome.
The most common emotional reaction to an impending divorce is fear. Of course, if you are facing a divorce, you are swimming in an emotional soup of grief, anger, relief, worry, guilt, and many other feelings. But family law professionals will say that fear overrides all the other emotions. In this post, you’ll see that you are not alone. Suggestions for managing the fears are at the end.
The four most common fears are the following:
Most divorcing parents fear damaging their children. Will they suffer in school, socially, or from long-term mental health problems?
You might worry about the stigma the children may face. One child told me that friends asked many times, “Who do you like better, your mom or your dad?” You worry that your children will have to take sides.
Parents in high-conflict divorce worry that they will lose their children. They fear that the children will align with one parent and reject the other. If a child resists time with a parent, that parent fears that their ex is actively alienating the child.
You may fear that sharing parenting time with your ex will damage your children’s attachment to you. Perhaps you dread having less than full-time with the children. While most divorced parents will share parenting time, you are afraid that this won’t be good for the children.
Parents fear missing out on the activities the children have with their other parent. This might be holiday celebrations, travel, family traditions, or gatherings. This FOMO is unique to divorcing parents.
If your ex is in a new relationship, you might fear that the children will love the new person more than you.
Money and Finances
You probably fear the loss of financial security. There may be a loss of income, but also increased expenses for two homes, and the cost of the legal process itself.
You may fear losing those assets you’ve worked so hard for, such as your home, or business. You fear having to cut expenses.
You may fear having to increase your income or being forced to return to work.
You fear a reduction in lifestyle and may imagine the worst. Lizzy (not her real name) told me that she dreaded living in a windowless basement studio, which was not realistic in her case.
As you move from being married to being single, you may fear the loss of identity. Chris said, “I won’t fit in my social group anymore. They are all couples.”
You may fear the stigma and judgment of your friends and community, especially in conservative communities, or when you are perceived as the one at fault for the divorce.
You might fear the loss of your support system, especially if your community doesn’t condone divorce.
Among your many emotions, you may fear the guilt of ending your marriage, and the impact this has on your ex or your children.
You probably fear changes in your relationships with family members and in-laws, fear that they will take sides, turn against you, or blame you.
Fears for the Future
You fear the legal process itself. It is overwhelming and intimidating, and you fear a protracted and expensive court battle.
You probably fear having to “start over.” How will you build a new life after divorce?
You fear being alone, lonely, and isolated. If the friends and family connected to your STBX abandon you, you worry whether you can recover.
You fear you will never find love again and will spend the rest of your life alone.
What You Can Do
Slow down. Take things one day at a time. Divorce is a life crisis, so don’t make any big decisions now.
Avoid litigation if you can. Choose mediation or collaborative divorce instead to reduce stress and conflict and give you more control over the outcome.
Focus on getting through each day with good nutrition, sleep, and connecting with others. Try to take a daily walk in fresh air for at least 20 minutes.
See a therapist or a divorce coach for support and information. You can also join a divorce support group.
Don’t fall back on old coping strategies, such as smoking, drinking, promiscuity, etc. This is the time to focus on your physical and mental health.
Remind yourself that millions of people have gotten divorced, and many will say that it takes a year or two to adjust. However, they will also tell you that their lives have grown more interesting and life has become more satisfying. Many people report that they are happier after divorce, if. among other things, they have built a strong support system.
Cultivate hope for the future. Look forward to new hobbies and adventures.
When your fears are overwhelming, write them down. Then ask yourself how realistic they are. In a crisis, it is easy to catastrophize.
Practice calming methods. Deep breathing, meditation, yoga, music, coffee with a friend, and relaxation exercises, all will help your calm your fears. Visualize a beautiful scene, or visualize someone you love (even a pet), and hold the image for five minutes of deep breathing. This will help.
You will get through this life crisis, even if you can’t see the light at the end of the tunnel yet. In the meantime, remind yourself that you are not alone. Pick up the phone to call a friend and breathe.
© Ann Gold Buscho, Ph.D. 2023
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