Understanding Fear in Divorce


  • Fear can be a debilitating factor before, during, and after the divorce process.
  • There is psychological reasoning that we experience fear during the end of a relationship.
  • For parents, they should not allow fear for their children's well-being as reasoning to stay in a dysfunctional or volatile relationship.

"This means that your fear of exiting an unhappy and dysfunctional relationship can sometimes make your children passive participants in your unfulfilling discontent."

When a relationship ends, a level of uncertainty can sweep many of the emotions away, creating a level of fear of being alone that one has not previously experienced. In ending a union that is meant to last forever, questions about the future surface, creating a level of self-doubt in one’s decision-making.

While this may be true, there still is a level of understanding that the ending of a marriage is due to the dysfunction of the relationship and a sense of unhappiness it caused the individuals in it. We, as a society, often look at divorce and the act of moving forward after the process as an act of independence, but for those experiencing the ups and downs of the situation, it can entail a great amount of fear, in moving forward with one’s life.

Fear and questions

Even without the act of marriage, many find ending a relationship to be an emotionally taxing occurrence. The stress of the situation can entice many to avoid the process of ending a relationship all together. This act of avoidance promotes the fear necessary to allow the insecure emotions of staying in an unhappy relationship, to grow and remain, leaving you to deal with the fallout.

For those divorcing, many can see the fear involved as debilitating. If you cannot function in a relationship with one person, how will anyone be able to accept you?

This is a question that does not offer value. In assessing yourself, the question is constructed to compare your relationship with a soon-to-be-ex-spouse with an unknown. The question also does not account for the personalities and dynamics that can be unique to any given relationship. It undervalues what it means to invest in others, sharing a part of yourself and creating a connection unique to that person.

Survival and motivation

While the necessity to find another unique experience in any new relationship is yours and yours alone, there can be fear associated with outside motivating factors. These fears find motivation in seeking a tolerable and secure place in life, according the Robert E. Emery’s “Cultural Sociology of Divorce: An Encyclopedia.”

The element of survival also sparks fear during the divorce process. Emery states that there is a level of abject terror in the idea that one’s very psychological or physical survival is in jeopardy. All behavior is driven to seek safety in this state, and from a psychological perspective, cognitive distortion may be heightened, such as believing in the idea that one cannot experience happiness without a spouse.

Fear and parenting

Many who are divorced and have children can find themselves paralyzed by the fear, but forced to function out of necessity for their children’s sake. This does not always give them the opportunity to deal with their feelings in the healthiest manners.

Some parents feel guilty in the situation and that maybe it would be better for the children if their parents stayed married. According to Psychology Today, spending time in a home filled with negative emotion, tension, and chronic conflict would be more harmful and traumatizing that a parental divorce. Children have a tendency to absorb these negative feelings and claim responsibility for them on some level. This means that your fear of exiting an unhappy and dysfunctional relationship can sometimes make your children passive participants in your unfulfilling discontent.

Parents facing these fears can find themselves in a constant state of grief, wondering if the fear of finding another relationship or maintaining a life for one’s children is even a possibility. If they find themselves still actively married, the fear can cause them to cling to the false hope that their relationship will improve and that there won’t be any need to end the union and move forward in one’s life.

However, without taking steps to improve one’s marriage, one’s marriage is not going to improve. Noticeable action brings the change sought after, and when it’s not and decisions are made, you, as the emotional guardian of the relationship who hoped for things to get better, can often be the one grieving for the end of the relationship.

Taking things slowly

This grief can elevate one’s fears and feed into depression and other dangerous mental health issues that can arise. Before sorting through the feelings, it’s important to understand the space you’re allowed to allot yourself without isolating yourself completely. An imbalance can feed into many of the negative emotions of the situation.

Sometimes, it can be best to slow things down. According to The Huffington Post, taking everything one day at a time can make all of the difference. While fear should not dictate anyone’s emotional ability to move forward in life, there are many situations that arise, such as divorce, which may require the pacing to slow. This may entail taking time to process one’s feelings or seeking professional help. Either way, the end goal is emotional health and overcoming one’s fears.

Retrain yourself

Many look to handle fear through the act of retraining your mind. According to The Huffington Post, there are ways to retrain your mind, in an effort to live a mentally-healthier life.

When it comes to fear, many can feel consumed in it, but it can be beneficial to think of it as something created in your own mind. Because of its origins, you have the ability to see that and use it how you wish. This sentiment can be especially helpful for those finding it difficult to be motivated with a spouse no longer in their day-to-day lives.

Understand and overcome fear

The day-to-day lives of an individual recovering from the divorce experience can vary just as much as the personal and unique experiences of relationships. While it may seem like a good idea to throw away the fear and dive head-first into moving forward, it can be beneficial to understand why you are afraid.

Feeling fear is not something to be ashamed about, and while we may embrace or reject the idea that personal uncertainty exists after the end of a marriage, it’s important to remember why you sought relationships before you got married. Understanding your need for a connection with another person can provide a unique perspective in helping you overcome your fears.

The unique experience that we have in relationships can motivate people to seek out new experiences and overcome many of the fears that can surface before, during, and after the divorce process. After feeling the fears and processing the emotions of divorce, one can attain a healthier understanding of their post-divorce emotional makeup.

End of Content Icon

Leave a Reply