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Divorce Sucks - But Why Is It So Painful?

We all know the stats – around 1 in 3 marriages in Australia are ending in divorce. Attitudes to divorce have and continue to evolve, meaning people are less pressured to stay married because of society or cultural expectations, compared to in the past.

However this makes the emotional impact of separation no easier to bear. In fact, many studies indicate that divorce is considered the second most stressful life event someone can experience, exceeded only by the death of a spouse.

So why is divorce such a stressful and painful process? Everyone experiences it differently but some key reasons include:

1. Loss

While loss is an expected part of life, many of us never learn how to grieve in a healthy way. Most of us learn from a young age to numb, hide or deny the feeling of loss and as we move through adulthood, we continue to grieve as best we know how.

The loss of divorce is enormous, often coupled with regrets, unfinished business and destroyed hopes for the future.

It takes significant time, space and emotional healing to come to terms with this loss. If we want to fully recover, it can't be rushed.

2. Sense of Failure

Whether it comes from a personality default, cultural expectations or family dynamics, many people have a worry or fear of failure. Divorce can feel like we have put our “failure” on display for the world to see. And it can feel incredibly shameful.

3. Impact on Children

If the pain of separation wasn’t enough, parents are also faced with helping their children manage their sense of loss and often confusion too. This can create a conflict for parents who are trying to do what is best for their children which may be at odds with what feels best for them. It is a fine line to walk and despite the best intentions, it is nearly impossible to do it perfectly.

4. Change in Social Status

Many newly separated people notice a decline in their social interactions and it can be uncomfortable to acknowledge some of the reasons why:

  • Mutual friends may feel obliged to choose a part of the couple to "side" with.

  • Single people create odd numbers in groups in a way that disrupt social norms.

  • Divorce can remind others that relationships are fragile, and they prefer not to be reminded, especially if experiencing their own marital issues.

The reality is divorce sucks and most people rush to move on from it because the pain can feel unbearable. Giving yourself compassion and time to grieve, process and heal is the single most important thing you can do to recover during a divorce.

Counselling can be really useful to talk through all of those conflicting emotions, ensuring “the unfinished business” that often results from divorce is concluded as much as possible, and giving you a point to move forward positively from.

If you’re struggling with a separation, divorce or relationship breakdown, please contact me at