Why Does Divorce Create Such Turmoil?


© Susan Anderson July 28 2013  www.AbandonmentRecovery.com


Abandonment is our first fear.  It is primal and universal to all human beings.  Abandonment is the special element that makes loss of a job, separation, bereavement and divorce so painful.  Abandonment is that feeling of being left on the doorstep – of feeling left behind.


The upheaval of divorce is considerable.  There is the heart wrenching process of separation, the legalities, moving, financial burdens, childcare issues, social changes, and the list goes on.  The bottom line is that divorce is an emotional experience that jangles the raw nerve of abandonment.


If rejection or betrayal were involved in the reason to end the marriage, that primal fear is right there on the surface of your every waking moment.  The rejection stings, aches and burns.  But even if the divorce was your choice, abandonment is an underlying issue.  Some may have felt abandoned by their spouses during the marriage; others may have felt a lack of love toward their partners and are finally getting out in hopes of fulfilling their long self-neglected needs.


Divorce involves a change of identity from married to single, which can be a cause for joy and celebration. But for some, the identity crisis can continue to tug at that raw nerve.  You went from being someone’s partner to being alone.  When you start to use the possessive pronoun “my,” you find out that “my” refers to an “ex,” rather than your go-to person.  You are asked to check the box that says “divorced.”   It’s a small trifle, but a reminder that your status has changed.  You now belong to a new group.


Regardless who, if anyone, is at fault, the sense of failure is almost always shared.  How did I wind up here?  Why couldn’t we make it work?  Why did I choose someone like this?  Why am I not like the others who have successful long term relationships?  Is there something wrong with me?


The people in your life will know about your divorce.  You may feel abandoned by public approval, as if you’ve somehow fallen from grace, abandoned by society. You may feel exposed.  You may sense that the label “divorce” red-flags you.  Might people now begin to wonder if I am worthy?  Will they start to notice my faults?   Does ‘being divorced’ suggest some deficiency?


And what about losing your membership to the coupled world?  No longer two, you are now barred entry to Noah’s ark.  You find yourself invited to fewer dinner parties now that you are not part of a couple.  By losing your other half, you wonder if people see you as only half of a person.


There is secondary abandonment. Some friends may pull away because they don’t want to take sides or have clearly taken your spouse’s side.  Sometimes this secondary abandonment hurts worse than the loss of the partner.


Divorce is a time of reawakening and change.  To make that change for the better, you must grab that abandonment nerve by the tail and flip it to your favor. Make a commitment to yourself that you will benefit from your experience rather than be diminished by it.  This means that you must:

  • Welcome all of the feelings that are stirred up – including abandonment, the primal fear itself.  This brings you to the depths of yourself, opening you to an opportunity for profound personal change.
  • Nurture  your feelings.  This is a time to practice self love in the form of accepting and validating yourself as a separate human being.
  • Take action.  Baby steps build momentum.  You don’t think your way out of the turmoil of like divorce and separation; you DO your way out.  Keep moving in a positive direction.  Constructive behaviors lead to profound personal growth.
  • Spur your growth by becoming involved in the abandonment recovery movement.  The tools are there to guide you through. Learn how to work with your feelings rather than against them. Get support to take positive, goal-directed actions.  Learn how to make healthy new connections.
  • Get help at www.AbandonmentRecovery.com

Susan Anderson is a psychotherapist and specialist in abandonment. Founder of the Abandonment Recovery movement, she is author of Journey from Abandonment to Healing; Taming your Outer Child: Overcoming your Self Defeating Patterns; Black Swan: The Twelve Lessons of Abandonment Recovery; and The Abandonment Recovery Workbook.