The Emotional Stages of Divorce For Men

emotional stages of men and divorce

Even when you know your marriage can’t be saved and it’s time to move on, going through a separation and divorce takes an emotional toll. The end of a marriage can be a traumatic experience.

Stanford University sociologist Michael J. Rosenfeld reaffirmed decades of research in 2017 when he said more recent statistics showed that most divorces in the U.S. are at the wife’s request. Additional studies have found that being single is psychologically difficult for men and that divorce and life as a single man after divorce can be painful, particularly for men over 40.

Others have suggested that coming to grips with a divorce is similar to the loss/grief model developed by Swiss-American psychiatrist Elisabeth Kubler-Ross. Her model cites five general stages of emotions that people go through when they’ve suffered the loss of a loved one.

Let’s consider how the Five Stages of Grief™ may apply to men going through a divorce.

Denial — The First Emotional Stage of Divorce

Denial, the first stage of grief, is a phase during which one puts on a temporary defense mechanism to process disturbing news.

Among the symptoms are:

  • Pretending your spouse has gone on a vacation or will be back soon.
  • Continuing to speak about your lost marriage in the present tense.

“It can take a while to wrap your head around the fact that you’ve experienced a significant loss — that things are different, and they’re not going back to the way they were,” clinical psychologist Regina Josell of the Cleveland Clinic says in a recent review of the Five Stages of Grief.

We suggest that men who have separated from their spouse or have been served with divorce papers begin to refer to themselves as “separated.” In the meantime, avoid overuse of alcohol or drugs, which is an escape mechanism that can prove destructive.

As you experience this stage of grief over a divorce, we urge you to reach out and talk to friends or family, especially anyone who has gone through a divorce and adjusted to it well. Don’t try to hold your emotions inside. Consider seeking counseling if necessary to avoid becoming isolated.

Anger — The Second Emotional Stage of Divorce

Many times, anger over an impending divorce quickly turns to blame. It’s easy to blame your spouse for hurting you. Some men blame themselves. Others try to hold it in and wind up unloading their anger suddenly on someone with no connection to your marriage, such as a co-worker or another driver in traffic.

Anger can be especially hurtful if it is directed at your children. They may begin to believe your divorce is their fault. Do not say negative things about your spouse to your children or try to turn your children against their other parent.

If child custody is an issue, sometimes a family law judge speaks to children about their desires. A child who is scared or hurt by the way you have acted may express fears that a judge will hold against you.

Bargaining — The Third Emotional Stage of Divorce

Bargaining is an attempt to postpone the inevitable. Many go through an “if only” stage — If only I had done this … If only I didn’t do that … “We engage in a type of mental gymnastics to try to undo something that we can’t undo,” Dr. Josell, the Cleveland Clinic psychologist, says.

Statisticians say that almost 87% of separated couples proceed to obtain a divorce. Only 13% reunite after separation.

There’s no harm in trying if you truly want to save your marriage. But it takes two. And you cannot control how someone else feels.

Depression — The Fourth Emotional Stage of Divorce

Divorce frequently causes feelings of sadness. Sadness can develop into depression when you experience:

  • Loss of hope about the future
  • Difficulty making decisions
  • Difficulty concentrating

The depression stage of grieving isn’t the same as major depressive disorder, the Cleveland Clinic cautions. Grief-related depression can cause physical symptoms, like aches and pains, changes in sleep patterns, and increased inflammation in your body.

This is a time to reach out to others, even if you don’t feel like it. You should eat well, avoid alcohol and get some exercise to stave off depression.

Acceptance — The Fifth Emotional Stage of Divorce

The acceptance stage of grief is often described as becoming resigned to the reality of the situation. Acceptance is the ability to acknowledge the reality of your loss and allow the sadness it evokes to exist alongside the other more positive feelings you encounter as daily life goes on.

“Acceptance is a sense of understanding that there is a finality to what has happened,” Dr. Josell says. “You can hold onto your sadness while still experiencing good memories of the past and maintaining hope for the future.”

Talk to a Men’s Divorce Lawyer in Raleigh, NC

The family law attorneys of Charles R. Ullman & Associates of Raleigh, NC, know how emotionally challenging divorce and associated issues can be. Our dedicated Raleigh divorce attorneys for men work to guide men who are going through a divorce.

Raleigh Attorney Charles R. Ullman has more than 20 years of experience providing trusted counsel to people going through the process of separation and divorce. Schedule an initial consultation today and face the road ahead buoyed by the understanding and support of an attorney who cares about you and your future. Call (877) 589-6937 or contact us online today.


Charles Ullman & Associates provides you respected, experienced and knowledgeable divorce and family law attorneys. You can trust us to help you through the legal process efficiently and effectively so you can transition to the next phase of your life. Our community involvement reaches beyond charitable support of important causes. We launched our own movement in Fraternities4Family and provide scholarships to able students in need.