What's In This Article
A divorce is a tragic event in life, leading to an array of complex and confusing emotions.
Divorcees commonly feel immense regret following the finalization of a divorce. Regret doesn’t mean the divorce was a mistake, but consider the following causes of post-divorce regret before anything is final.
One of the most common reasons people regret their divorce occurs when their financial situation suffers. Both long-term and short-term marriages often combine the two individuals’ finances, which can become extremely messy when they separate.
Unfortunately, it seems that women are disproportionately affected by financial ruin after a divorce. Many people think the opposite, as men usually pay alimony and give up property.
Some divorcees have to re-enter the workforce after years or decades without working, which is incredibly challenging considering how quickly the job market changes.
Some people even have to pick up second jobs to make ends meet, causing them to second guess their divorce.
Aside from supporting yourself independently after a divorce, the divorce itself is often a costly process. Divorce can cost tens of thousands of dollars, depending on the situation.
If you follow through with a divorce, expend this money, and then feel regret, you may feel foolish for wasting money to separate from someone you may still have feelings for.
Many divorced parents feel immense guilt about putting their children through such a devastating and traumatic life event.
This is why many unhappy married couples stay together “for the kids”, so they don’t have to experience such hardship during their formative years.
On the flip side, if someone watches their kids struggle severely with the divorce, both during and after, it can cause regret and emotional turmoil in one or both parents.
People say children are resilient, but many children of divorce experience emotional struggles and relationship problems in their adult lives due to an unhealthy divorce.
Guilt in the parents also intensifies if their children must switch schools or move somewhere new because of the divorce.
Kids are adaptable, but having their home foundation warped and split up can be difficult to adjust and may take years. Some adverse effects that divorce has on children include:
- Poor understanding of a healthy relationship
- Communication issues
- Loss of friendships
- Declining school performance
While these side effects can make you regret the divorce, it doesn't mean that divorce was the wrong choice. A household with unhappy and resentful parents can also lead to a child who struggles to communicate effectively or develop complete emotional intelligence.
Many divorced parents feel guilty that they couldn’t make it work with their child’s natural parent. Society emphasizes keeping a family unit whole and together, but a family where both biological parents are present but unhappy is not the best environment to raise a child in.
3. Lack of Effort
Many regret their divorce once they have time to reflect on what they could’ve done differently. The most common reason for this regret is if the couple never attended marriage counseling or tried to work through problems.
For example, partners who divorce immediately after infidelity often regret not trying to work past the incident or affair.
The person who initiated the divorce often feels this type of regret more often and strongly, as they were the ones to begin the ending of the relationship. But those who were left, typically don’t feel they demonstrated a lack of effort, especially if they were against the divorce.
Sometimes it isn’t just about physically attending marriage counseling. If you look back on your counseling experience and feel you didn’t put as much effort into the counseling as you could have, you may feel responsible for the divorce.
And responsibility is a large part of regret. Most people view divorce as a failure, an inability to be a successful wife or husband. In turn, they feel like a failure, causing them to regret the decision to call it quits with their partner.
People often feel this regret most intensely when struggling in a new relationship or facing related issues, like financial problems or distraught children. You can expect to feel this regret at times of heightened emotions, which is normal but doesn’t mean the divorce was necessarily wrong.
4. Missed Communication
The first thing to consider when asking, “Will I regret divorce?” is that one of the top regrets people have is that they never said how they feel. Whether before or after the divorce many people regret not communicating their emotions.
For example, a partner may hint they need more attention and become frustrated they never receive it. If they file for divorce without ever having an open conversation about their needs with their partner, it can feel like they didn’t give their partner a chance to fix the marriage.
Marriages involve powerful feelings for one another, in most cases, so saying goodbye can be painful, and many divorcees bite their tongues so they don’t feel foolish for confessing their raw feelings.
But as time passes following the divorce, these feelings and words they didn’t articulate fester in their minds, building regret.
Many divorcees question their decision, wondering if it was simply a rough patch or miscommunication that could be solved with a productive and honest conversation. But once the divorce process begins, it can be scary and difficult to confess feelings of love or regret.
Unfortunately, confessing these feelings after the divorce doesn’t usually have a happy ending, as most people feel it’s too little too late at that point. It’s always best to tell your partner how you feel before things reach a point of no return.
Bottling up emotions is a recipe for divorce, so open and honest conversations are crucial in a successful marriage.
5. Rose-Colored Memories
If you’re not content in your marriage, it’s easy to fall into a “the grass is always greener” mentality, making you believe there is something better waiting for you. But if a divorcee struggles to find a new relationship better than their marriage, they may regret taking their husband or wife for granted.
When this happens people begin to reflect on their marriage memories with rose-colored glasses. Rather than thinking about the bad times that lead to the divorce, their mind only brings up happy memories, usually toward the beginning of the marriage.
They say that absence makes the heart grow fonder, so divorcees may remember their partners in the best light possible, fueling their regret. It’s hard to avoid this regret, especially if the marriage lasted many years.
Even the nastiest of divorces can lead to one or both partners looking back on the marriage with fondness, ignoring the painful parts that lead to the finalized divorce.
This regret is about perspective, and most divorcees will feel this at one point or another. And while it sounds depressing, remembering and acknowledging the bad parts can help this regret fade away.
Divorcees who can look back at their marriage and recognize there was good and bad, and the bad ended up outweighing the good, may have fewer regrets about their decision.
6. Loss of Foundation
Lastly, people will regret their divorce because they’ve lost the person who was supposed to be by their side for the rest of their life. This is especially painful for people who married young, never experiencing an independent life.
People often feel they have lost their best friend and romantic partner, and the parent of their children if applicable. This can lead to depression and regret.
This regret is likely the most common among people who divorced amicably. In tumultuous divorces, people must mourn the relationship they once wanted and accept that person will not be in their life anymore, or at least not in the same capacity.
This feeling of regret applies to any finality of a valuable relationship, but it’s particularly potent when a romantic relationship ends. Even if you remember the reason for the divorce and the bad times, you will likely still mourn the relationship you thought you had.
In marriage, partners face the world together and share almost every memory and milestone. But after a divorce, people can feel untethered and alone. They may not necessarily miss their ex, but they miss having someone to rely on.
It’s important to have a solid support system when going through a divorce to dampen these lonely feelings. However, mourning the relationship and the loss of a strong foundation is natural and a necessary part of the healing process.
7. Bottom Line
So if you’re still asking, “Will I regret divorce?”, the unfortunate bottom line is you will likely feel some of it afterward. This regret is a natural reaction to losing a cornerstone relationship in your life and feeling like you have to start your life over.
While all of these reasons for regret are valid and common, they do not indicate the divorce was the wrong decision. To avoid regret as much as possible, express all your feelings before the divorce is final. Leave nothing unsaid.
The narrative around divorce is often shameful, but there is nothing better than making the right decision for you to live a happy life.
Lauren Cook-McKay is the Vice President of Marketing at DivorceAnswers.com. She holds a Master’s Degree in Marriage and Family Therapy (MFT) from the University of San Diego and applies her training in private practice to helping couples struggling in their marriage. She believes there is hope in all marriages and strives to provide therapy to couples that will lead them back towards a loving marriage, or an amicable divorce that brings peace and closure.