Young man alone outside a house balcony terrace looking depressed suffering emotinal crisis...
Written by Kristine Reich

Be ready for the social and emotional costs of divorce

The costs of divorce go beyond the attorney fees and splitting assets. When “we” becomes “me,” and much of your social life was couples-oriented, how do you handle the knowledge that friends don’t know which of you to invite? One of the emotional costs of divorce is loneliness, and it’s exacerbated by being “dropped” from social circles.

Social Alienation: One of the Emotional Costs of Divorce

During – even before – a divorce, you’ll be surprised and hurt when some of your friends “take sides.” You may find yourself out of the loop completely in several circles, and that hurts. Social-emotional costs of divorce may include:

  • Exclusion – Suddenly, you are uninvited to couples’ activities. No one wants a fifth wheel, and social spouses may be concerned about an attractive, single man or woman joining their group. Whether they perceive you as a threat or an inconvenience, it doesn’t matter, you’re out.
  • Loneliness – Thursdays was movie night, either at home or downtown. Once a month, you had “date night” at a favorite restaurant. You had great seats at the Phoenix Suns’ home games! Now, these activities with your partner are over and you have a void in your new lifestyle.

This is a good time to begin different activities and make new acquaintances. Rather than resigning yourself to social alienation, initiate contact with others; volunteer activities and gatherings where you join others who share your interests and take your new lifestyle in a positive direction.

Stages of Pre-Divorce

Just as death and dying have recognizable emotional passages (denial, anger, bargaining, depression, acceptance), pre-divorce has its own grieving process. According to Dr. Donald Saposnek, this process can include:


You may feel dissatisfaction, alienation, and anger. Clues your spouse may be considering divorce can manifest themselves as attempts to avoid communication by:

  • Drinking or drug abuse
  • Extra-marital affairs
  • Spending more time at work or with friends
  • Verbal or physical abuse


When you tell your partner you want a divorce, the first reaction may be denial; an emotional withdrawal. He or she will use denial – pretending that everything is okay – as a way to take control of a lifestyle-threatening situation.


Your partner may contact everyone you know, family and friends, asking for advice. The following are attempts at rationalizing the situation: “This is a menopausal thing,” “You’re crazy,” and, “Your brother says you’ll come to your senses soon.” If you seek therapy with your partner to help him or her cope, and your partner ends the sessions after one or 2 weeks, that too was a rationalization that if he/she changed through therapy, you would change your mind about the divorce.


Here comes the button-pushing. One of the emotional costs of divorce is your own fear and anxiety. When he says you can’t survive financially on your own, when she says the kids will hate you, or when he says, “What if you wind up dating someone abusive?” these scare tactics feed your fears.


When threats don’t work, he may threaten or attempt suicide – but ensure you’re aware of it, so he doesn’t “really” risk his life. A threat of suicide can be a cry for help. It can also be an attention-getting, manipulative way to frighten you enough to stop the talks of divorce. His fears may be very real, but his survival instinct is much greater.

Collaboration Can Reduce the Emotional Costs of Divorce

At any time: pre-divorce, during your divorce, or post-divorce, you can have conversations with each other in a positive, blameless way. Our Communication Coaches can help structure your interactions as part of your collaborative divorce. We want what’s best for you, your partner, and your kids, and our goal is to reduce the emotional costs of divorce.

Best Legal Choices has legal, financial, and communication professionals available to work with you and your partner, finding solutions that are beneficial to you as a family.