REVIEW ARTICLE | VOLUME 3, ISSUE 3 | OPEN ACCESS DOI: 10.23937/2469-5793/1510060

The Psychological and Emotional Stages of Divorce

Basem Abbas Al Ubaidi1,2

1Consultant Family Physician, Ministry of Health, Kingdom of Bahrain

2Assistant Professor, Arabian Gulf University, Kingdom of Bahrain

*Corresponding author: Basem Abbas Al Ubaidi, Assistant Professor, Arabian Gulf University (AGU), Kingdom of Bahrain, E-mail:

Received: April 03, 2017 | Accepted: August 04, 2017 | Published: August 07, 2017

Citation: Al Ubaidi BA (2017) The Psychological and Emotional Stages of Divorce. J Fam Med Dis Prev 3:060.

Copyright: © 2017 Al Ubaidi BA. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.


Divorce can have substantial effect on the life of every individual in the family; it has huge impact on socio-financial status of the families. Islamic religious consider the importance of marriage stability, but accept divorce as last solution for irreparable or unsustainable couple relationship [1].

It is more prevalent in families of lower socioeconomic statue in the Arab states of the Gulf Countries Collaboration (GCC), in families with high psychological distress and family dysfunction [2]. Divorce also, common in western countries, almost one half of marriage are ended with divorce [3].

Divorce is usually preceded by either emotional or psychological separation and then, ends by legal divorce, but majority of couple's relationship begins and persists in an emotional divorce [4].

Divorce is never a prepared procedure, it is a consequence of both partner suffering from imminent, painful five stages of emotional transitions with an average of three years duration to reach legal divorce. In each divorce, there is an "initiator", where spouse wants divorce, while "non-initiator" spouse wouldn't want divorce [4]. The marital problems are related to misperception and irrational beliefs of one partner in the couple. It is very important to keep in mind that marriage breakup is not the fault of one party, and it needs long term, couple relationship, breaking up process [5].

The characteristics of healthy couples are adapt to many challenges, such as adapts to transformation ability, fidelity to family bound, expression of high appreciation, high social connectedness, besides clear roles and boundaries between couples, and cooperation rather than competitive relationship [6,7].


To educate family physicians about early changes of psychological and emotional stages in marital divorce for early prevention and management.

The stages of the psychological and emotional divorce are categorized in five transitional zones such as: [4,8]

Stage one: Blaming the spouse and disillusionment of one party

The couple started to blame each other for past, present and even future problems in their life. The initiator developed negative self-image, vague feelings of dissatisfaction, stored angers, greater distance, lack of mutuality, anxiety, depressed mood, feel upset, guilty feeling and experiences a low energy level. Moreover he/she has masked feeling of blame, fear, anger, depression, stubborn behaviour While the receiver developed feeling of disbelief, denial, divorce opposed helplessness, lack of control, fear of the unknown and shock feelings.

The counsellor or mediator roles are many; the counsellor should fosters couple sense of control on their lives, neutralizes their fear from physical and emotional separation process, In addition, should support short - term decision- making concerning the physical separation. The counsellor should maintain structures information gathering for better parenting skills and to have good support system for roller coaster couple feelings.

Stage two: Mourning the loss and expressing dissatisfaction

It is the stage of profound painful feeling of grief, hopeless, meaningless torture life, overly sensitive to any comments, intense preoccupation, difficulty concentrating on tasks and loss of parenting role.

The counsellor or mediator roles are; continue on giving the couple a short-term tasks, allows the couple to go through grieving process, redirected the couple from "poor me" attitude, accept the grief process, and let couple realize of the divorce process, by given a structured information gathering. The counsellor tries to find a common foundation or constructive channelled for couple to work toward a fair settlement for their benefit.

Stage three: Anger and resentment

It is stage of rage, feeling of being betrayed, and anger from "all women" or "all men." The anger convince the initiator that the other partner, wronged couple and deserves to have suffering. Behind the anger, there are many fears and uncertainty about future, finance, and to find other understanding couple. One or both partner is expressing relationship dissatisfaction or uncertainty, tension and emotional roller-coaster feelings.

The counsellor or mediator roles are; neutralize couple anger rather than putting fuel to fire, direct energy of anger to constructive tasks, improve couple's decision-making abilities, provide couple with short and long term problem solving skills, and try to put the couple in reality testing.

Stage four: Being single and deciding to divorce

It is stage of felling freedom from couple constrains, creating more emotional distance and trying new affair, tries out new experience of independency, trying new activities, making their own decisions, increasing partner building trust and self-confidence, improved self-image, and to returning some of parental and work roles.

The roles of counsellor or mediator are many; improving direct couple communication skills, increasing co-parenting cooperation skills, recovering relationship interaction and help the couple in long-term planning. The counsellor should choose appropriate time for efficient and less painful mediation to ensure that the couple in a relatively good emotional phase.

Stage five: New beginnings and acting on decision

It is stage of the physical and emotional flare-ups separation, self-orientation and self-settle down, being in control, makes long-term plans and commitments, accepts the end of the marriage and creates a fair agreement (Figure 1).

Figure 1: Emotional and psychological stages of couple divorce. View Figure 1

The family physician's roles are; to concentrate on future of the family rather than on past, it is period of smooth transition, encourages couple for new life and to accept ending the marriage and to starts new bright life.

In general, the family physician should understand the divorce process and accept couple different reaction, and counsellor should help to provide common ground for constructive discussion and better environment for information gathering to assess for fair agreement.

The divorce rate is quiet high in the GCC, which considered as very serious problem effects on many families causing pain, and destroys beautiful relationship. It could change all family life radically [9].

The prevalence of divorce in 2009 have reached 20% in Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA), 24% in Bahrain, 25.62% in the UAE, 34.76% in Qatar and 37.13% in Kuwait (Figure 2) [9].

Figure 2: The Prevalence of divorce rate in GCC countries. View Figure 2

Divorce rate is expressed as a percentage rate, the numerator is the number of marriages each year, while the dominator is the number of divorce for that year [9].

The Main Causes of Divorce in Gulf Countries are Many


Extramarital affair is the main cause of divorce in GCC. Unfaithful relationships are more common in males (19%) than in females (6%) [4,8,9].

Poor communication

Poor social communication skills especially in different sociocultural backgrounds that leads to arguments and difficult to solve solving conflicts, and accumulated emotional scars sufferings.

Religious and cultural differences

It is common in GCC countries to have marriages between couples of even different religions/cultures and different which encourages to more marriage breakdown.

Lack of support system

Every couple need support system from family and friends, while foreigner are vulnerable couples of suffering the relocation or feeling disappointment loneliness, heartbreak and depressed mood.

Unrealistic expectations

False, high, and unrealistic expectations from life or from partner roles are also reasons for failed marriages among GCC couples.

Social networking

Recent studies showed that couple addiction to social network (Facebook and Twitter) was an important reason for destroying their relationships. More than 80% of population is registered with social networking, and more couples are blaming network addiction.

Sexual incompatibility

Long travels to work, work stress, sedentary life style, may effects on sex drive and erectile dysfunction which cause stress in relationships.

Financial negligence

In the GCC, by tradition; it has put all family financial responsibilities on men, rather than women, who has the option to support the husband financially or not. The couples may not accept the cooperation responsibility-sharing the couples may have one partner income is more than other but the partner refuse the sharing-responsibilities roles.

Child rearing issues

In the absence of a family support structure, many new working partners are confused to share children responsibilities, strain often causing that in marriage, resulting in separation.

While other studies, showed that the causes of the divorce were related to many factors, such as maladjustment, addiction, psychological conflicts and unemployment [10,11].

While, the psychological effect of the divorce on couples and families are different, such as: [8,12-14].

Psychological impact on initiator

The initiator will experience fear, distance, impatience, resentment, doubt, and guilt, creates distance, blaming and fault finding.

Psychological impact on receiver

The receiver will experience shock, disloyalty, loss of control, ill-treatment, decreased self-esteem, insecurity, anger, a desire to "get revenge", and wishes to settle down.

Psychological impact on women

Women take divorce decision more seriously? Usually in 90% of the cases, the children custody will ends to the mother. Both the mother and the children mostly needs financial and family support to raise children by a single parent. In 75% of the cases, the mother receives court ordered child- support. Hopefully, women have better self- adjustment system than men. The reasons for this are that; women sensor is high for marital disharmony, feel relief after divorce, she depends on social support systems, she experience high self-esteem for her new role but the divorced women feels social stigma more than the male.

Psychological impact on men

Men will have better substitute- system men get married again more quickly if they have sufficient time, greater compliance with new couple relationship to rescue the new marriage.

Psychological impact on children

The psychological impact on children depends on three factors: the quality of family relationship, intensity and duration of family conflict, and covering children needs after divorce. Children who succeed after divorce, have strong personalities with enough wisdom experience.

Boys will have greater social and academic mal-adjustment; boys are more act out their anger externally and lastly, more frustration and hurt themselves. Boys easily get trouble in school, fight peers and parents.

While, girls tend to internalize their distress, but develops more depression, headaches or stomach aches, and have changes in their eating and sleeping patterns.

A constrain in financial income lead to decrease proper nutrition, drop in having designer cloths and fancy shoes, increase time for supervised child care. The important factor is the quality and quantity of the involvement of a father in a child's life which depend on mother's attitude and acceptance father's role.

Last Word

Justice and Islamic Affairs in Bahrain announced that there is temporary drops by one third in divorce rate from 15% in 2008 to 5% in 2012, but there is considerable increase in divorce rates on consecutive years to reach 23-24% in 2013-2014, in spite of raising public awareness about the negative impact of divorce on family and even though the good effort from family guidance offices and places of worship.

Bahraini women feel more secure, more independent, more empowered and supported and refuse marital disharmony sufferings [15,16].

Kingdom of Bahrain needs premarital/marital counseling preparation by social workers to solve conflict, to improve their communication and to except couple differences.

More separation and divorce could be prevented if we have family counselors or family therapist.

The main cause of separation in Bahrain is bad communication and bad conflict management, emotional/physical abuse, unresolved hidden agenda, different in couple mentality. Other causes are drugs/alcohol abuse or having an emotional disorder, lack of financial support and infidelity, while the main common reasons for GCC divorces are couples are coming from diverse background, the families make many couples arranged marriage and early marriage for young age group, modernization of society in GCC. The age group of couples divorce is more in younger age group (20-30 years); more likely to separate during the initial years of marriage [6]. The number of men and women under the age of 18 who got married in the last five years ranged from 6% to 7%.

Nowadays women knows their right and not be accepted to be victim of bad marriage. Despite growing divorce rates, most married women remain suffers silently from mental, physical and emotional abuse because of financial constraints, stigma of divorce, future of her children. They accept emotional and physical divorce but not the legal part.

Potential Conflicts of Interest


Competing Interest






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