Emotional Divorce is a psychological mechanism some spouses use when they feel the marriage has become a threat to their well-being.

When you divorce yourself emotionally from your spouse, you have separated your emotions from the marriage. For some spouses, this happens before the divorce. For others, it doesn’t happen until after the divorce process. Most divorces are one-sided. Very rarely, will a couple sit down and come to the decision to divorce, together.

Some spouses struggle for years with feelings of emotional distance before they come to the conclusion that divorce is the solution to the

marital problems or the way they are feeling emotionally. These spouses are commonly referred to as a “walk-away spouse.”

The spouse who is left to deal with her/his emotions after the legal divorce is commonly referred to as the “left behind spouse.” No matter which role you find yourself playing, you have to come to grips with the end of your marriage and begin to view yourself as a separate individual, no longer a husband/wife. The basic instinct of a left behind spouse is to control the situation. They failed to see the warning signs, signs that the marriage was in trouble and don’t know how to respond effectively. As a result, they respond in ways that pushed the walk-away spouse further away emotionally.

It is important to understand that a spouse who has already divorced himself/herself from the marriage is not an evil person. They are not carrying around an agenda of hurt and pain. They are looking for an escape from a situation that is causing them hurt and pain. And, this may cause them to respond to their spouse’s shock and pain in what appears to be a cold and calculating manner. Their desires and needs can’t be controlled by irrational, bizarre behavior. The best thing a left behind spouse can do is come to terms with the fact that, they only have control over their own emotions.

When does an Emotional Divorce happen?

Unresolved sustained conflicts and disagreements that stack up over time can become magnified and toxic, infecting the spousal relationship which effective communication, trust, and respect can be lost.

There is no predictable timeline for how long a marriage can remain in this breakdown crisis, but many couples eventually arrive at a crossroad where they feel pressured to choose a path of resolution or disengagement.

If the option of separation is chosen, one or both parties have given up trying to work on the relationship and have resigned themselves to the fact that the marriage is over.

Types of Separation

Legal Divorce, which involves the court system, housing and financial changes, and custody arrangements if children are involved… OR

Emotional Divorce, which is a separate phenomenon where one or both partners have suspended in most interactions that involve any discussion of marital resolution, expectations or core topics of disagreements.

The Factors of the Emotional Divorce

Individual variables such as; nervousness, hypocrisy, lying, aggression, stubbornness, niggardliness and other individual factors that have been effective to create a sense of intolerance and emotional divorce or separation. (Abbey;2010)

A. Spiritual intelligence;

One of the variables used in the monitoring is the role of spiritual intelligence and religious attitudes of individuals as the causes of emotional divorce. Studies show an emotional divorce rate among couples with low levels of spiritual intelligence or lack of spiritual intelligence, has more than others (Hann;2007).

B. Theory cognitive factor;

There are Increasing evidence that the ways of perception, interpretation, and evaluation of the couple together, and events in their relationships unfolding significant puts impact on the quality of their relationship (Bavcom, Epstein, Sayerz& Sher (1989, quoted by the Turks 2006). Albert Ellis states “irrational beliefs” or the unrealistic standards lead to the negative impact on people who are involved in the interaction patterns about their intimate relationships and consent of the partners (1976, cited in Epstein et al., 2005)

C. Personality Characteristics Theory;

Although many individual differences are normal and does not lead to large differences in satisfaction of relationship, but there are two cases which have been found to have a significant impact on communication

problems and divorce; one is inability to regulate negative emotions (tension)and the other with insecure attachment styles (Halford3112) Attari & et al research (2006). AS studies, personality neuroticism factors and marital satisfaction negatively associated and the personality factors, including extraversion, agreeableness, and conscientiousness are positively associated with marital satisfaction (Hunler, O. S., & Gencoz, T).

Restoring the emotional intimacy as the most important tool

The first thing you must do to avoidant of emotional divorce is to restore intimacy between the couples, partners or most important relationships, which is practicable through the increase of the amount of time that they spend together. Partners often come into counseling complaining that they have grown apart, that they are not feeling loved, or that they do not feel important to the other partner.

Of course, many couples are in chronic conflict with each other. Chronic conflict makes it difficult to enjoy the moment with your partner when you are primed and ready to see everything they say or do as negative and motivated by a desire to hurt you in some way. Ongoing conflict and negative feelings about the partner and the relationship play a role in avoiding spending time with each other. This couple has to work through the conflict to restore a desire to spend time together.

Quality Time

Not only is spending time together essential for restoring intimacy and marital happiness, but the way you spend time together is also important. For one partner, spending time in the same room watching the same television program may count as quality time together. For the other spouse, this activity does not count at all and may serve as a source of hurt and anger. You do not have to be doing anything “special” like taking a vacation or going on a “date night” to be engaged in establishing closeness in your relationship. Quality time equals time engaged meaningfully with each other. Do you have to be talking to spend quality time? No. If you are both together, connected in some meaningful way, where you both believe it is meaningful, you have quality time. Couples share meaningful exchanges throughout the day, that may not add up to very little actual time together, but that account for feeling close and connected.

Quantity Time

Partners also enter relationships with their own emotional baggage, which may include insecurities and a higher need for closeness than the other partner. Conversely, one partner may have a much lower need for closeness than the other partner, based on his/her own emotional baggage. A couple will rarely have the same level of need for closeness vs. distance at the same time. In the beginning, couples share that same desire for closeness as they are establishing the relationship. It is often described as the process of “falling in love”, when each is excited about seeing the other, pays a lot of attention to what the other is thinking/feeling, and is very conscious of relationship dynamics.

When couples come into counseling, one will often say that s/he just wants to feel like s/he did when they first got together. S/he wants to re-experience that sense of falling in love or being in love. Couples can regain a sense of falling in love or being in love, but desire to have that experience does not magically make it happen. It takes much time and effort.

In conclusion, couples that desire a return of closeness or emotional intimacy, can make that happen by slowing down and dedicating the time and energy that it will take to accomplish it. If they don’t have anything to talk about, or are having awkward silence in your time together, try some couple communication exercises, a couple’s retreat, or a joint activity. they can take a dance class or learn a foreign language. Break out of the rut and do something different. By restoring the emotional closeness and intimacy, many couples will notice an improvement in their sex life. Emotional intimacy and sexual intimacy are usually interwoven.

Gathering and Compilation by:

Marzieh Ahankoob, (Clinical psychologist, PHD)

Leave a reply