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Reactions to the Stress of the End of a Marriage

It is widely recognized that separation/divorce is at the top of the list of distress producing situations, along with the death of a spouse. The reactions to this stress seem so personal and so horrible, as though they have never happened to anyone else, but be assured, you are not alone!

  • Feelings of Marginality: There is a loss of access to previous support networks; your situation can be different from your friends. You have a feeling of being “on the outside, looking in”.
  • Obsessive review: should-a, would-a, could-a; if only; why didn’t we?
  • False starts: flying off in all different direction, impulsive adoption of, and relinquishment of, one plan after another.
  • Disorientation and Confusion: an inability to cope. driving and realizing you don’t know where you are. an increase in fender benders.
  • Loss of Self-Confidence: agrees to plans of other, your own plans change.
  • Fantasies of Revenge: I’ll get even; when he/she comes crawling back, I’ll laugh in his/her face. The children will blame him/her.
  • Apathy, sadness: staying in bed in the fetal position, sucking thumb.
  • Checking up on him/her: desperate calls to friends or to him/her, spying, following their car, driving by their residence, asking children about spouse.
  • Excesses: drinking too much, smoking too much, eating too much (or not at all), sexing too much (or not at all).
  • Physical Symptoms: heavy feeling in chest or stomach, colitis, headaches, fever, heart disturbances, other physical distress.
  • Fear: can you love or trust again? fear of the unknown of singleness.
  • Anger and guilt: anger towards spouse; inability to express that anger leads to depression; resentment towards those not sharing your discomfort; blaming everyone else; the idea of being a failure. “If only I’d been more attractive, better in bed, less bossy, more understanding”. “HOW COULD YOU DO THIS TO ME”!
  • PAIN!

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