Legal divorce is what most people think of when they think about divorce in general. This is the process of establishing custody agreements and dividing marital assets.
However, it is no secret that this legal process involves a lot of complex emotions. The emotional aspects and effects of ending a marriage continue long after a divorce is finalized. These effects led various family therapists, professionals and experts to coin the term “emotional divorce.”
What is an emotional divorce?
When two people decide to get married, it is usually because they formed an emotional connection and commitment to each other. The history spouses have with each other and the impact of this connection does not suddenly disappear when individuals face struggles in their marriage or begin to consider a divorce.
The loss of this connection is a process – just like a legal divorce. An emotional divorce generally makes up both:
- The breakdown of the emotional attachments between spouses
- An individual’s emotional processing of the divorce
Dealing with the end of any relationship is difficult. That is why the process of an emotional divorce can directly impact the legal divorce, no matter when it occurs.
Timing of the emotional divorce is not the same for everyone
No divorce is the same. Therefore, emotional divorce is different for everyone as well, including when individuals experience it. This phenomenon commonly occurs in three different situations:
- When contemplating divorce: When an individual starts to debate divorce as an option, they might begin the process of an emotional divorce as well. For example, they might not emotionally invest in the relationship any longer or seek emotional support outside of the marriage.
- If staying together for the kids: In situations where the relationship begins to break down, but spouses remain together for their children, they might experience an emotional divorce as well. Most of their interactions relate to the children, household or finances, and spouses detach themselves from the relationship and emotional connection.
- After the divorce: Emotional divorce can also happen as a result of the divorce. Individuals might experience this concurrently with the divorce proceedings or after they finalize the divorce. In this case, individuals come to terms with the new future ahead of them.
Sometimes, an emotional divorce is a conscious decision. If someone is certain they wish to pursue a legal divorce, they might begin the process of detaching themselves emotionally from their spouse.
Whether unconscious or conscious, professionals recognize emotional divorce as a legitimate event and aspect of divorce overall. Individuals in North Carolina should not overlook this process or the effects it could have on their mental health and divorce proceedings and seek assistance is handling both matters.