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Divorce causes tremendous stress in Life

Proper Emotional Management is Essential to Address its Long-term Impact

According to recent statistics, one out of every three marriages in Hong Kong, unfortunately, end up in divorce. Divorce is ranked as the second-highest life stressor by the Life Events Survey conducted by Dr. Richard Holmes and Dr. Thomas Rahe. Clearly, divorce causes a significant impact on both the husband and the wife.

I recently attended two wedding receptions and based on the delivered speeches, I could feel the love the couples have for one another.  Often, at the time of their matrimonial union, couples yearn and look forward to starting a blissful new life together till they are old. Regrettably, not many couples do grow old together. 

Whether it is due to a third-party involvement, a weak marriage foundation, incompatible personalities, or other various reasons that cause a marriage break down, couples are likely to try to save their relationship before a divorce; some may even seek help from marriage counsellors. Despite so, in view of various factors, divorce is still inevitable

Addressing multiple issues

When faced with divorce, couples have to resolve many key issues such as child custody, visitation rights, assets distribution, new living arrangements (which is particularly challenging in Hong Kong), breaking the bad news to the couple’s families (the author has witnessed a couple hiding the news of their divorce even long after they have separated), facing objections from the couple’s parents, and managing common friends, etc. Addressing these issues is not easy, fortunately, there are organisations providing divorce-related assistance such as mediation, legal advice, etc. which lighten the burden and pressures faced by these couples.

While some couples are capable of addressing their divorce-related issues on their own, they still cannot avoid feeling low after separating from their former spouses. 

For a single divorced parent, it is challenging to juggle between work and child-raising. Although some grandparents can provide support, these single parents inevitably continue to have a sense of guilt towards their children. Even for couples without children, their broken marriage may result in a sense of failure. Coupled with loneliness without a partner, this can bring them to another emotional low.

Frequent Occurrence of Negative Emotions

Younger to middle-aged men and women often face the dilemmas between hoping to find a new partner after divorce but worrying if they will be rejected by others because of their divorced status. This is felt more acutely by single parents. For some, it is hard for them to start a new relationship as they may have unresolved feelings for their former spouses, even though the chance of reconciliation is low.  

Couples who did not split amicably due to various reasons including broken relations before divorcing, not reaching agreements on child custody and alimony issues, etc., often become strangers after separation. Their emotional pain from the divorce prolongs as they exchange hostilities during child visitations or speak badly about each other to their children. The negative impact of divorce can also be extended in a situation where the former wife does not receive alimony on time thus affecting her financial status, and leading to anxiety. 

Confiding in one or two close friends is encouraged to alleviate the pain from the negative feelings and emotions (sadness, anger, shame, guilt, despair, fear, anxiety, loneliness, etc.) that arise from the divorce. Facing and addressing them is better than suppressing or avoiding. Throughout the process, one learns to let go and love oneself better, and gradually find a solution to the situation.

Some divorcees continue to experience constant struggles long after their divorce but choose to keep it to themselves. They are concerned that others may be frustrated by their frequent ventings, or they feel that others do not understand them well and fear being judged. If necessary, it is advisable to engage with a counsellor in such times to get support in overcoming this difficult phase in life.

Step out of darkness, tomorrow will be a better day.

Concerns and worries before and after a divorce

  1. Finances, assets allocation, and alimony issues
  2. Child custody and visitation arrangements
  3. How to face immediate families, and manage objections from parents
  4. Changes to daily life and living arrangements
  5. Changes in the circle of common friends
  6. Unresolved feelings for the former spouse, or concerns about starting a new relationship
  7. Facing loneliness and various complex emotions

The Companions
Edwina Cheung