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Stress and divorce pt.1: Why is divorce so stressful?

Experts and couples alike often say that divorce is one of the most stressful events anyone could experience. And they are not wrong. The Holmes-Rahe Stress Inventory ranks divorce and separation just below the stress of losing a loved one—which is at the top of the list.

There is no doubt that divorce is stressful, but many people might wonder why? The answer to that question is different for everyone. However, there are three primary causes of the stress involved in a divorce.

Divorce is a significant life change

Change is inevitable, but that does not mean it is not stressful. Even positive life changes, including having children, moving to a new house or beginning a new job can result in a considerable amount of stress. 

Divorce is a life change that impacts the couple as well as their children and extended family. Whether a divorce is a positive or negative change, it upends what many people have grown accustomed to over many years.

Many emotions are a part of a divorce

Just as every divorce is different, everyone also experiences a wide range of emotions during divorce. Many people worry more about the effects their divorce will have on their children, that they do not take time to evaluate their own emotions.

Some of the emotions common in divorce include:

  • Grief over the end of a relationship
  • Anger at a spouse or the situation 
  • Anxiety about the future of their family and life
  • Pain and doubt regarding the situation

The combination of these extreme emotions can cause high levels of stress and substantially impact both spouse’s mental health.

Divorce is made up of many events, not a single action

Getting divorced might seem like one single event. After all, it leads up to two individuals signing an agreement to end their marriage.

And it is no secret that the process of divorce can be long-lasting and made up of many steps. Determining a custody agreement alone can take an extensive amount of time and energy. Distributing marital property can also lead to tense disputes and lengthy negotiations of who keeps what.

However, it still takes time for newly divorced individuals to settle into their new lifestyle and routine even after a divorce is finalized. The changes that divorce causes are long-term. And stress usually accompanies change, for better or worse.