What Do the Ins and Outs of an Emotional Divorce Look Like?

What Do the Ins and Outs of an Emotional Divorce Look Like?…

“He’s checked out.”What Does the Ins and Outs of an Emotional Divorce Look Like

“She isn’t the same person anymore.”

“It feels like we’re roommates.”

What do the ins and outs of an emotional divorce look like?

Emotional Divorce

An emotional divorce usually precedes a legal divorce. It’s when one (or both) parties detaches themselves emotionally from the marriage. By the time the legal divorce is initiated, they’ve already gone through the stages of grief. That’s why the one who walks away usually moves on faster. It’s not because they didn’t care as much as the one who’s been left, they’re just further ahead in the healing process.

An emotional divorce can also take place simultaneously with a legal divorce. Going through the stages of grief at the same time you’re navigating the logistics of the divorce can feel incredibly overwhelming.

There are also some who don’t emotionally divorce until after the legal divorce has been finalized. This usually happens when a divorce is one-sided, and the one that’s been left behind struggles to accept that their partner has decided to move on. They might be looking to save the marriage up to the very last minute, even resorting to things like stalking and harassment to try to “win” their spouse back.

Five Stages of Grief

The five stages of grief- denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance- are the typical pattern an emotional divorce follows. There is no timeline on grief, and no one’s healing process looks the same. The reasons for the emotional divorce also impact how intense, and how long, each stage is. A couple who just drifts apart may not feel emotions as intensely, while a couple who breaks up due to infidelity may see extreme highs and lows during the grief process.


Coping with an emotional divorce comes down to just that- coping with your emotions. Whether it takes place before, during, or after the legal divorce process, allowing yourself to feel those emotions, and learning how to cope with them in a healthy way, is the only way to truly overcome an emotional divorce.

It’s important to remember that there is no right or wrong when it comes to an emotional divorce. Every situation is unique, just like each legal divorce. Despite the fact that no two emotional divorces are alike, there are still some things that anyone going through this difficult time can do to help them cope:

  1. Recognize that your feelings are valid and that your emotions are normal.
  2. Lean into your feelings instead of trying to cover them up. Pushing things under the rug will only prolong the healing process.
  3. Take ownership of the role you played in the breakdown of the marriage.
  4. Seek help from a therapist, divorce coach, or other supportive person or group. Isolating yourself can make things much harder.
  5. Allow yourself as many opportunities to experience joy as possible. Seeing that life goes on, and that there is still good to be found, is a crucial part of the healing process.
  6. Practice self-care. Things like eating right, exercising, spending time with loved ones, getting enough rest, and trying out different relaxation techniques will help you heal your mind, body, and soul.
  7. Be patient. Healing from an emotional divorce takes time. Once you take the pressure off of yourself to heal quickly, or to cope a certain way, you allow yourself the space that’s really needed to fully move on with your life.

Recognizing that divorce happens in two ways- legally and emotionally- might help you feel more prepared for what’s to come. It’s said that knowledge is the best antidote to fear, and that never holds more true than during the uncertainty of divorce. While an emotional divorce may be the most difficult part of the whole process, it’s also something you can heal from- and you deserve to heal.

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Essential Resources

If you’re facing legal/custody battles, a mental health crisis, an urgent medical issue, serious emotional problems, including suicidal thoughts, please seek help from the appropriate professionals near you.

Suicide hotline: 1-800-273-8255
Suicide Prevention Lifeline:
Crisis line: 1-800-356-5395
Crisis text line: Text “help” to 741741
The National Domestic Violence Hotline
The National Coalition Against Domestic Violence (NCADV)

Split.fyi Resources
Split.fyi Marital Life Inventory
Divorce Lifecycle Document
Divorce Process Overview


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