Loss, Change, and the Future: The Effects of Divorce

People get divorced for a variety of reasons. It’s relatively easy, and there no longer is a social stigma associated with divorce. Often, there is a lack of commitment to push through the hard times. Whatever the reason, the effects of divorce have a ripple effect, touching many lives beyond the couple itself. Divorce usually turns into a family affair and affects every member thereof.

Effects of Divorce on Women

Women initiate divorce far more than men. Despite the move toward more equal relationships, many women still carry the primary burden in a relationship. They have a job, as do most husbands, but are more likely to be the primary caretaker of the children and responsible for the day to day running of the household. This may lend itself to a basic sense of dissatisfaction.

Both men and women struggle with a sense of loss, depression, and anxiety following a divorce. However, women tend to reach out and recover more quickly. After the stress of divorce, they may experience a sense of freedom. Many divorced women expand their social circle, engage in new activities, and set new goals for themselves. Divorce allows them to take far more control of their lives and become more independent. For them, divorce can be the beginning rather than an ending, which can raise their level of self-esteem. This is especially true if the woman was in an abusive relationship.

Despite this new sense of freedom, women are likely to see a decrease in their standard of living following a divorce. Some may find themselves without emergency funds and live paycheck-to-paycheck.

It’s the majority of women who retain custody of the children, thus forcing them into a full-time job as well as full-time single parenthood. Many of these women receive no financial support from their former partner, sometimes making it difficult for them to meet the needs of their children.

Effects on Divorce for Men

Men may suffer more emotional and health problems than women following a divorce. In many marriages, it’s the woman who tends to the health of the family, ensuring that nourishing meals are provided and encouraging some form of exercise. Left on their own, men often disregard their own well-being and settle for unhealthy habits.

Even if the marriage was rocky, the wife generally acted as an emotional support system. Husbands tend to rely on their spouse’s presence and support after a hard day at the office. Men tend to have a narrower support system, which can mostly be business-related. This makes sharing the emotional turmoil of divorce more difficult. Men find themselves more adrift and lost after a divorce than women.

That is one of the reasons men turn action-oriented when handling post-divorce trauma. Without a strong social support system, they can be found on Tinder, depending on alcohols and drugs, and indulging in one-night stands in an effort to numb the pain. This is one reason men remarry at a quicker rate than women.

While married, fathers are involved in their children’s day-to-day activities, from sharing meals, hearing about their day, and meeting their friends. Divorce can diminish this bond drastically. This is especially the case if the child blames the father for “abandoning” him or her. Many fathers see their children only on weekends, overcompensating with “let’s have fun” time rather than strengthening the connection between father and child. While fathers can stay in touch through phone calls, emails, and Skype, their role as fathers can take on a peripheral status. This easily leads to frustration and a sense of “what’s the use.”

It’s important for divorced fathers to keep their focus on the children instead of any anger and bitterness toward their ex-spouse. It’s not the children’s fault that their world has been turned upside down, so it will take special effort to remain connected to the children. Talking and communicating is more important than entertaining the kids for a few days or hours. They already have friends. They need a father.

Effects of Divorce on Children

Children react differently to their parents’ divorce. Younger children may blame themselves for the split, and are likely to fantasize about their parents reuniting. Older ones all too often exhibit anger at the parent who left the family home. Teenagers can become more independent in their decision-making since they feel they cannot rely on Mom and Dad. Their behavior may become more aggressive at school and at home. They can become extremely difficult to manage.

Children, however, are extremely self-oriented. They will be specifically concerned about how the divorce affects them. Will Daddy still love me? Where will we live? Will I make new friends? Parents should make every effort to explain any new situation to the child and introduce them to their new home or school prior to the move to reassure the child.

If both parents work together, they can lessen the emotional effects of the divorce by reassuring the children that they are, indeed, still loved and safe. It’s the unknown that scares children the most.

Perhaps the most serious effects of divorce emerge when the children are grown and in romantic relationships. They have difficulty with trust and expect to be abandoned and rejected, just as they were when they were younger. This can lead to commitment issues and clingy behavior. The better the parents communicate during and after the divorce, the fewer issues a grown child of divorce will exhibit.

When parents work together, there can be positive effects from a divorce. The children are no longer subjected to the fighting and angry behavior that led up to the divorce, providing for a more peaceful environment. After a divorce, single parents may also make a greater effort to be there for their children.

Effects of Divorce on Extended Family

The effects of divorce can have a ripple effect to the larger, extended family that includes grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins. It is not unusual for family members to take sides in a divorce as loyalties become divided. This can be especially difficult if everyone got along great before the divorce. The divorcing couple not only has to deal with the loss of each other, but possibly the loss of in-laws who’ve become friends. Familial lines can be drawn which include the children, who may see less of their beloved cousins or not see them at all. Holiday gatherings can boil down to, “If he’s coming, I won’t be there.” Everyone is affected by the loss. In-laws may no longer be there for special occasions, such as birthdays or graduations. Grandparents see less of their grandchildren, who may easily suffer as a result.

When an ex-spouse remains friends with the in-laws and attends family gatherings, this may be seen as intrusive by the former spouse and/or his or her new companion. He or she may demand that the family no longer associate with the ex. Sometimes, ties are severed by default.

When this happens, children invariably lose adults and companions who could love them at a time they need love and attention the most. This is a loss parents frequently forget to consider. Regardless of how they feel toward each other, parents need to make every effort to keep extended family relations intact. If necessary, create a schedule of visits with the children when the ex is not there. Discuss the situation with the former in-laws to determine if they are willing to cooperate. It’s important to accept their decision and not force a relationship on them that they no longer want.

Effect of Divorce on Finances

Divorce inevitably splits the income of one household into two. Assets from the marriage are divided between the divorcing parties. As a result, both exes will experience a lower standard of living. Women, who are most frequently left with the care of the children, can be driven into poverty and the welfare system as many fail to receive any financial support from their former spouse.

If a woman was already a part of the workforce prior to and during the marriage, the financial effect will be less, as she already has the means and skills to support herself. During the divorce process, it is crucial for both parties to establish a new budget for two households. The majority of households these days are dual-income. That means the men, too, suffer financial loss. The more the wife contributed to the finances, the greater the loss will be. If there are children, he will be required to make support payments and establish a second home for them.

Divorce settlements frequently involve future funds, such as pensions and IRAs. When those are divided between the spouses, each ends up with less than he or she would have had if the marriage had remained intact. This can necessitate new savings strategies for both parties, who now have diminished funds to set aside.

Divorce can be a fast-track to downward mobility. Children of divorced parents need to make do with less and usually may have less of an opportunity to attend college.


The effects of divorce can be long-term and can spread beyond the divorcing couple. It can take years to recover both emotionally and financially. All too often, extended families take sides, and important relationships are ended. This means the loss of people who were once an intimate part of the couple’s lives. The loss of grandparents and cousins is especially difficult for children.

While each divorce is different, every divorce has one effect in common. Divorce always entails an irredeemable loss, but can present new opportunities to grow and learn.

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