Marriages don’t just explode all of a sudden. Although many divorces seem like a bomb being dropped, their end usually builds up over time. And, even though the spouse who gets left behind often expresses their surprise, it is an expression of their pain and fear.
Once a couple hits a roadblock and conflicts stop getting resolved, the end of the marriage becomes much more likely. But, even before that, an emotional divorce can occur with every hurtful remark that doesn’t end with an apology or every unresolved fight.
What is emotional divorce?
Emotional divorce is a sort of defense mechanism, or purely coping with a threat to one’s emotional well-being. It can happen before or after the legal divorce; psychologically, it might be more important than the signing of the divorce papers.
For the spouse who divorces themselves emotionally before the legal divorce, it is a sort of introduction to the inevitable end of the marriage. And for the spouse who divorces themselves emotionally after the divorce itself, it is a sort of closure.
So, what causes emotional disconnection in marriage?
Interestingly, although things would have been apparent to anyone outside of the marriage, the spouse who gets left behind is often in shock when the walk-away spouse requests a divorce.
The inability to accept the divorce by one partner can be because they may not be ready for the emotional divorce yet, and they want to keep trying to mend the marriage.
The spouse who gets left behind usually still searches for ways to save the marriage, although, at that point, it becomes impossible.
So, one spouse may become clingy and beg for another chance as their panicky behavior gradually becomes increasingly intense. This sometimes reaches the point of rather odd behavior, such as stalking, threatening, harassing, etc.
The left-behind spouse usually has severe anxiety over how their future alone will look like.
Being single again might sound like hell on Earth. This is why most left-behind spouses try to find a way to postpone the divorce, to stall because they are still hoping that the walk-away spouse will have a change of heart.
Why would you emotionally divorce your spouse?
For many reasons, in unhealthy or eroding marriages, there are a lot of emotional hurts. And couples deal with emotionally draining relationships in different ways.
Couples almost always keep on trying for some time. But, without an out-and-out change in the marriage, it is usually inevitable that the spouses, or one of them, begins the emotional divorce to ease the pain and to help their well-being.
Emotional separation may occur for more than one reason. But, in essence, the emotional divorce definition is applied when the spouse crosses the line between tolerance for emotional stress and the need to feel well again.
In other words, after several attempts and a few different approaches, the walk-away spouse usually starts to regain their boundaries, separated from those they shared with their spouse. It is also usually the spouse who will initiate the divorce.
The walk-away spouse will start to be distant, sometimes even cold. They resent the other spouse’s continuous attempts to save the marriage, as they have given up on working on it. One partner may want the divorce to go smoothly as they want their happiness now.
Has your marriage reached the stage of an emotional divorce?
Emotional divorce can be hard to track as you may confuse it with a bad phase in your relationship if it takes place before the legal separation. Therefore before you learn how to get through a divorce emotionally, try to find out what stage of the divorce you are in.
Emotional divorce stages can be hard to detect as they can happen gradually as you slowly detach from your partner and the marriage itself.
An emotionally disconnected marriage can be overwhelming to accept, as it is a change from the attachment that one previously held in a marriage. But it is essential to find healthy ways to deal with being emotionally disconnected from your spouse, to have a chance at happiness again.
If you find yourself exhibiting signs of emotional divorce, there are a few things you can (and must) do.
First of all, you have to accept reality. Your spouse has decided, and they decided upon long and careful deliberation. What you need to do now is to accept their decision.
You may have to accept that it is no longer in your power to fix the marriage, but you can improve the relationship between the new roles of ex-spouses.
2. Manage your emotions
The second important thing to work on when dealing with an emotional divorce is regaining control over your emotions. You cannot push your spouse back to loving you and back to marriage. But you can control your own emotions of divorce and reactions and regain balance for yourself.
By accepting the reality of emotional distance in marriage, you can begin to heal.
Check out this video to learn how to manage your emotions more healthily:
3. Talk to a therapist
Emotional divorce can be stressful, so seek the advice of a licensed professional. They can guide you through this stage and get you to a healthier place in the future.
A therapist can guide you toward dealing with the emotional loss in a way that gives you a chance to move on in the true sense and be happy again.
4. Indulge in some self-care
An emotional divorce points to an emotional disconnection from your spouse, which can make you question everything and reconfigure all aspects of your life. But amidst all this change, take some time out for yourself.
Self-care can help you feel better about yourself and your life. It can help you heal and feel re-energized. It can also help you focus on yourself instead of the marriage or spouse that you have lost.
5. Establish and maintain boundaries
An emotional divorce indicates the emotional breakdown of a marriage, at least for one partner. However, if the legal separation has not been finalized, it can lead to some blurred lines.
Establish strong mental and physical boundaries with your partner that protect you from getting hurt even further. Boundaries can help you safeguard your mental health from deteriorating further.
What are the emotional stages of separation?
When you are going through an emotional divorce, it usually does not happen all of a sudden. It may involve several stages that you go through gradually over some time.
The stages of separation may include denial of the situation, anger, guilt, fear, grief, re-invention and finally, acceptance.
If you feel disconnected or frustrated about the state of your marriage but want to avoid separation and/or divorce, the marriage.com course meant for married couples is an excellent resource to help you overcome the most challenging aspects of being married.
Rachael Pace is a noted relationship writer associated with Marriage.com. She provides inspiration, support, and empowerment in the form of motivational articles and essays. Rachael enjoys studying the evolution of loving partnerships and is passionate about writing on them. She believes that everyone should make room for love in their lives and encourages couples to work on overcoming their challenges together.