Dear Dr. Archer,
Could you please explain the emotional aspect of going through a divorce? My friend seems to be on an emotional roller coaster which has been going on for almost a year. Sometimes there's sadness, other times it's confusion and still at other times he just wants to escape.
He says the divorce is what he needs to do and they have tried many times to save the marriage, including counseling, both together and separately. All attempts were unsuccessful.
He seems to have lost the person he used to be and cannot seem to move on. He has not yet moved forward with the divorce. His wife continues to call him daily for various reasons, such as repairs to the house, managing bills and giving information about family.
He says he's in love with someone else and cannot imagine not having this person in his life, yet at the same time he thinks he should stop seeing her because he cannot commit to another relationship at this time.
Because of this, he's not moving forward. He says he cannot bring himself to end the relationship with his girlfriend and he also can't move forward with it.
He's also in the same position with his job. He's very unhappy due to various, complicated reasons, and yet he can't move forward in this area, either.
I am at a loss as to how to help my friend. Does this sound like a normal situation, due to the emotional stress he’s dealing with, or should I be more concerned? How long should this continue before it becomes a serious problem that needs a doctor's attention? Thank you.
Let's discuss a few things. No matter if a divorce is wanted or not, most who go through one consider the process as one of the most painful experiences in their lives. This is even when both parties know it’s the right thing to do.
Losing a partner whom we looked to for comfort, companionship and the sharing of life's ups and downs is nothing short of devastating. Many stress scales rank it right next to the death of a loved one.
The process of divorce is extremely difficult, Donna, and should never be underestimated. The Kubler-Ross's 5 Stages of Grief facing a severe stress like a recent diagnosis of cancer or the death of a loved one can also apply to a divorce.
The stages are: denial, bargaining, anger, depression and finally acceptance. This is what is going on and he will need time to work through all the stages.
It sounds like your friend arrived at the conclusion that the best thing to do was divorce. It also sounds like he is being kind to his wife, making it more palatable and giving her time to accept it before he heads to the attorney. This is especially considerate of him if he has children.
I can't help but wonder if you're the other woman? If you are, then you should step back and give some space while he navigates through this process.
If you are not and you are simply a friend who is witnessing this tragedy, then you should urge him to follow his instincts. Once he is no longer torn between the wife and the other woman, then he can give his job the attention it deserves.
He doesn't need a doctor, Donna. Though perhaps a therapist would help things crystalize in his mind. He needs to slow down and deal this pressure step by step. When he can do that, then he will do what's right for him, and be able to continue forward with little regret. Take care.