How to Cope with an Unwanted Divorce

Let’s face it: many of the millions of divorces that take place in the United States are unwanted by one spouse in the relationship. Some can see the divorce coming, whereas others are completely blindsided. In one study, a total of 62% of people surveyed (42% men and 20% women) wanted their marriage to work despite its problems. Of those 62%, 37% had experiences involving infidelity, leading the other party to file for divorce based on those reasons — not because they didn’t want to stay in the marriage. Some couples go through a divorce because one party simply wants out of the relationship for their identified reason and is unwilling to participate in marriage counseling or pursue other ways to save the marriage.

Regardless, millions of Americans, including divorcing couples in Massachusetts who are dealing with an unwanted divorce have an enormously difficult time coping with this form of rejection from a spouse. It’s common to experience emotional distress after facing rejection. Almost anyone, no matter how self-confident, feels distressed when rejected under these conditions — but some people are particularly crushed. Below we discuss some advice on how to best cope with an unwanted divorce.

Identify and Accepting What Is Out of Your Control

Like death, no one can single-handedly control the outcome of a marriage. A successful marriage requires both parties to be willing participants. There are certain things in this world that we simply cannot control, regardless of how hard we try, how much we want it, and the efforts we put in. Even though couples make sacred vows and commit to one another in their marriages, some spouses ultimately change their minds. Even when you have given 250% to a relationship, it takes two to make it work. Sometimes, giving your all is simply not enough to keep a marriage from falling apart. That’s not a reflection on your competency, strength, or resolve. It just takes two.

It's important to prevent “what if” scenarios from running through your mind. Refrain from asking yourself, “What could I have done differently?” or “Where did I go wrong?” There are probably things that each of you could have done differently. There are likely things you would go back and change if given the chance. However, dwelling in the past at this point is not productive, because you cannot change the past, and doing so will prevent you from moving forward. If you insist on indulging in “what if” scenarios, only do so to put that wisdom towards learning and growing, with the intention of doing things differently in your next relationship.

Addressing and Coping with Your Feelings

As you are going through an unwanted divorce, you may be experiencing feelings of rejection, abandonment, betrayal and loss — particularly if you have been married for a long period of time and have invested years of effort and energy into your marriage, only to watch it end against your wishes. These are normal feelings that often accompany an unwanted divorce. The most painful thing about going through an unwanted divorce is that many people feel embarrassed and ashamed.

If someone outside of the marriage has contributed to your divorce, you may also be experiencing feelings of jealousy, anger, and rage. However, the way you react—what it is you do with your feelings in response to having them—plays an important role in determining how quickly and effectively you will recover. The best way to address these emotions with others is to express your feelings of anger when you are calm. As soon as you are thinking clearly, express your frustration in a non-confrontational way. State your needs and concerns in an assertive and clear fashion that avoids hurting or trying to control others. You might also consider writing your feelings down.

When people go through a divorce they are, in a sense, going through a death: the death of their marriage. Divorce brings about a wide array of insecurities relating to the loss of housing and financial security in conjunction with the loss of pride and validation. Even though divorce does not usually result in the death of either party, the process of mourning the loss of the marriage includes the same steps as mourning the loss of a loved one. To complicate matters further, the people we count on for support tend to be more sensitive and sympathetic following the death of a spouse, but less so much after a divorce.

Because of the emotional trauma and complications that come with an unwanted divorce, learning healthy coping skills should be a top priority as you begin to move forward with your life. After an unwanted divorce, a blindsided spouse is likely to struggle in areas of trust and betrayal. Failure to address these areas can prevent you from moving forward. It can also contribute to bitterness and callousness of heart. Studies suggest that it takes 4 to 5 years to adjust to an unwanted divorce. In the meantime, keep yourself surrounded by people who understand your unique situation and who can offer authentic support and care. Engaging the help of a licensed therapist can be very valuable during this time.

Proactive Steps to More Effective Coping

If you or someone you know is harboring negative emotions towards a former spouse, it can slow down the recovery process. There are proactive steps to be taken to better adjust to the divorce:

Speak to Someone Trustworthy

Open up and speak to a trusted friend. This will help you avoid keeping your feelings bottled up inside. A parent, sibling, or other trusted family member or friend will make great listeners and pseudo-counselors. This step is instrumental in finding ways to cope with an unwanted divorce and moving forward with your life. Furthermore, when we treat our feelings with secrecy we reinforce the idea that they are shameful, bad, or wrong.

Get Proper Support from friends and family, and a professional

Sometimes the support of more than one person is needed to assist in coping with a divorce. There are support groups, counselors, and divorce therapists available to whom you can reach out for help in managing your pain, addressing your emotions, and getting feelings off your chest that may not be appropriate to share with people close to your family. Experts from this category can provide professional assistance if further help is needed (in addition to support from friends and family).

Find Ways to Respond Effectively to Difficult Feelings

Difficult, unwanted, and unpleasant feelings result naturally from emotional upset, despite our best efforts to repress or ignore them. They can affect you from the inside out and in multiple facets. Speaking with a professional for help coping with an unwanted divorce is an excellent, therapeutic option. A trained therapist or counselor can provide detailed, expert information that is tailored to your unique situation and can guide you on the road to recovery. This way you can begin rebuilding your life.

Avoid Feeding Thoughts of Negativity

Spending time around people who encourage ill feelings or the harboring of ill feelings will prolong the recovery process and feed unhealthy feelings of anger, bitterness, and callousness. Steer clear of these types of people as you learn to move forward. It’s perfectly fine to have less than sanguine sentiments . . . but be aware that while misery may love company initially, it is counterproductive in the long haul to be encouraged to wallow. While divorcing you may reconnect with old friends you have gone through a divorce themselves. Although it can be helpful to speak with friends who can relate to what you are going through, you should avoid trading war stories. Every divorce is different, just like every marriage is different. Similar to the idea that you never really know what is going on in someone’s marriage, the same holds true for a divorce – you’ll never really know what happened unless you were part of it.


Learning how to forgive an ex-spouse for a divorce — regardless of fault — aids the healing and recovery process. Forgiveness heals deep emotional wounds and allows you to move on with your own life. You must also forgive yourself and let go of any thoughts about you being anything less than perfect during your marriage, throughout your divorce, and now. This isn’t something that should be expected immediately; the thoughts may continue to crop up from time to time. Your task is to notice when it’s happening, and not stay stuck on those thoughts. Forgiveness takes time, as does healing. A professional therapist can help you get to this point.

Create New Social Circles and Participate in New Activities

It may be too painful to continue running in the same social circles you once shared with a former spouse. Certain familiar reminders can trigger additional, unnecessary pain and possibly even prolong the recovery process. Meeting new friends and joining new groups is a great way to start moving on with your independent life. It may seem unfair, as if you are losing more relationships in addition to your primary romantic relationship. Give yourself time. You may find that you can form new relationships with the same people you previously shared with your spouse, as a single person.

Conquer Feelings of Distrust and Abandonment

After going through an unwanted divorce, you may struggle with issues of trust and betrayal moreso than other emotions. Make it a mission to conquer these insecurities in the recovery process, while staying aware that these are natural feelings given the circumstances and some days they will seem more manageable than others. That’s just fine. Giving yourself the grace and room to rebuild your confidence in a slow and steady manner, you can be more emotionally whole and ready to move forward with a relationship when you meet someone new.

Taking steps towards recovery will help you embark on new beginnings immersed in hope, opportunities, and promise. If you or someone you know would like some professional assistance in the recovery process, there are countless trained experts available to help at the click of a button.

If you are looking for information on the divorce process, or how to proceed with a Massachusetts divorce, contact Julia Rodgers, Esq. at Mavrides Law in Boston, MA for more information. Mavrides Law can be reached at or 617-723-9900

By: Julia Rodgers, Esq.

Julia Rodgers is an attorney with Mavrides Law, in Boston, Massachusetts.

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