When people talk about divorce, they always talk about the legal process of ending a marriage.

Really, what they’re talking about is legal divorce. This is only the first type of divorce, however.

The other type is what I call “emotional divorce.” Emotional divorce is the universe of stuff people go through that isn’t the legal side of things. It’s the emotional turmoil, the fear, the spiritual angst, the money troubles, etc.

Much of the time, people go through emotional divorce alone. They hide what’s going on, either because they’re embarrassed or because they’re genuinely trying to make things work and sharing too much of their emotions will (they feel) hasten the divorce.

Because of this, emotional divorce is often a lonely process, punctuated with doubt, crying (lots of crying), and depression.

In my experience, people get divorced in stages. Usually, people get emotionally divorced, and, then, make the decision to get legally divorced.

This makes sense. Without divorcing emotionally, there’s not much reason someone would divorce legally.

But some people do divorce legally before they divorce emotionally. These are almost always the spouses caught off guard by divorce.

I’ve had, I can’t tell you how many, spouses come in to our office in shock because they were served divorce papers and they had no idea they were even close to divorce. Sure, they knew there were problems (what marriage doesn’t have problems?), but they literally had no idea their spouse wanted out.

These are the people that end up going through legal divorce before they really deal with the emotional side of divorce. These are the people who sit in my office and cry because they don’t understand why their getting divorced. They’re blindsided. They’re hurt. They sit in mediation and cry because they can’t believe it’s actually real, that they’re actually negotiating their divorce.

Honestly, it’s a tough thing to watch. There’s lots of empathy in those moments.

But, honestly, it’s no easier for the person who divorces emotionally before divorcing legally. They, at some point, go through the same emotions, the same hurt.

And that’s why compassion and empathy are so important. They’re about the only things that help guide people through divorce so they can get through and be successful after.

Thank you for letting me discuss this subject. I hope it helps someone better understand and deal with the two types of divorce.

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