People in Virginia who are contemplating ending their marriages have many questions. Who will get custody of the kids? Where will I live? Will I receive alimony? Perhaps the most common question, one that rarely generates a straight answer, is “What does a divorce feel like?” A recent compilation of reactions from husbands and fathers illustrates the wide spectrum of emotions that a divorce can generate.
A common feeling is regret. Many respondents in the poll said that they believed that they could have avoided divorce if they had done a few things differently. Other respondents said that they were relieved that the divorce was underway. After living with constant conflict and anger for several years, the thought that this stress was finally ending was a great relief. If one party believes that their actions precipitated the divorce, guilt can be a common reaction. One man who had an affair during his marriage confessed to feeling that he felt “incredibly guilty” when his wife commenced a divorce proceeding.
In contrast to the man who expressed feelings of guilt, one interviewee said that he was shocked when his wife told him that she wanted a divorce. He viewed his married life as ideal, with wonderful kids and “loads of other blessings.” Receiving the petition for a divorce was a complete shock. Stupidity is a similar reaction. The experience of calling an attorney in the search for a divorce lawyer caused intense feelings of ignorance.
Perhaps the least surprising feeling was intense anger. The reasons for the divorce as written in the divorce petition stirred the subject’s anger toward his wife. He felt that the statements were false and had been suggested by the attorney. In contrast, the most surprising reaction was pride. The subject said that he felt proud of himself after he finally took charge of his unhappy marriage and decided to end it.
Other feelings include conflict, heart break, bitterness and shame. No one can predict the feelings that will emerge as the divorce proceeds on its course. And feelings may change as the divorce proceeds. For example, initial anger may change to a sense of resolution or acceptance. Most experts who are familiar with the process say that the most likely feeling is a sense of having survived one of life’s major traumas.