The 10 Emotional Stages Of Divorce (So You Can Know When You're Finally Done)

Knowing can help you move through faster.

Last updated on Jun 09, 2023

sad woman dealing with divorce Gladskikh Tatiana / Shutterstock

Just as in death and dying, there are emotional stages people go through during a divorce. Mostly these stages pertain to the person who didn't initiate the divorce, although some of them are applicable even if you did initiate it.

Depending on each individual, a person can skip stages, get stuck in some, or move on only to revisit previous stages. 

These stages do not represent a neat and clean progression through divorce but it will give you an idea of where you are and where you want to get to so you can be happy again: 


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Here are 10 emotional stages of divorce (so you know can know when you're finally done): 

1. Pain

Pain occurs when you first hear your spouse wanting a divorce. The pain can be so great, you wonder if you will even survive. Pain is an emotion we use to send our spouse the message of just how devastated we truly are.


2. Bitterness

Sometimes, following the pain will be bitterness. This is usually about blaming your spouse for not being the person you wanted him to be. It is in the bitterness stage that you might decide to get revenge, trying to hurt your spouse as much as he hurt you.

Here, you are angry about what your spouse did, his decision to divorce, and you are asking, "How can you do this to me?"

3. Desperation

Desperation comes next when you realize your spouse is serious and really does want a divorce. You will focus all of your energy on getting him to change his mind.

During this stage, you can alternate between rage and super sweet. Everything you try is your best attempt to win him back.


4. Frustration

Frustration sets in when you finally realize things are not going to change. This divorce is going to happen whether you want it to or not. You have tried all within your arsenal to change his mind but you realize there is nothing more you can do.

Should you come up with another idea, you will likely revisit the desperation stage.

5. Despair

When the frustration fades, you will be left with despair and more pain. This is when you really begin to accept the fact that there is nothing you can do to change this situation.

In the frustration stage, you are still racking your brain trying to think of what else you could do but despair sets in when you are completely out of options and know you have lost your spouse and your forever life together.


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6. Exhaustion

After experiencing the emotional roller coaster of the previous five stages, you are totally and completely exhausted. Your energy is drained. You may feel depressed. You simply lack the energy you need to complete day-to-day responsibilities.

7. Determined

When you enter the determined stage, you are sick and tired of being sick and tired! You may not know your next step but you definitely know you are tired of feeling bad and become determined to change that.

8. Hopeful

As you build up your determination and begin researching your options, you realize there is hope. Others have recovered from divorce and so will you. You begin to see the light at the end of your long, dark tunnel.


9. Happiness

Happiness comes when you can recognize there are some positive things about this divorce. There was likely a lesson or gift in the process.

Was it good that you found out now, instead of later? Are there opportunities you can now take advantage of you wouldn't have done while married? Do you know who your true friends are? Have you met wonderful people as a result of being single?

Did you learn something very important about yourself? Do you know how you want to be in your next relationship as a result of this divorce?

Happiness comes when you can see the positive side of this experience.


10. Balanced

This is the stage I'd love to see everyone get to, but sadly not everyone does. It is a similar place to Maslow's self-actualization. In the balanced stage, you come to understand and accept all that life offers. You realize nothing is either "good" or "bad." Everything has an equal balance of positivity and negativity.

How you experience things simply depends on where you place your focus. In the balanced stage, you fear nothing. You know you can triumph in any situation. You accept all life has to offer as being exactly as it is meant to be. You are truly able to accept and embrace life and people exactly as they are.

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Kim Olver is the author of Secrets of Happy Couples: Loving Yourself, Your Partner, and Your Life


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