How to Deal With Divorce Regret

Published June 17, 2020
Sad woman on blue couch

If you're regretting your divorce, know that you are not alone. Understanding the reasons behind your regret can help you find appropriate tools for processing your experience.

Advice for Those With Divorce Regret

You may hear advice from friends, family members, and coworkers that, while it may be said out of love and concern, may not feel helpful to you in this moment. Digging into your unique emotional process is one of the best ways you can understand the divorce regret you are feeling.

How Do I Stop Feeling Guilty About Divorce?

Guilt is a complex and socially initiated emotion that can pop up if someone feels bad about something that comes across as offensive or hurtful to others. Often times, individuals feel guilt in reaction to others' reactions, while shame is an inherently personal feeling that can come up without the social component. Think about your unique feelings of guilt, when it first came up, and who may have had a hand in triggering this feeling. Think about:

  • Do you feel guilty because you wish you could give your marriage another try?
  • Do you feel guilty for hurting your partner?
  • Do you feel guilty because of your ex-partner's reaction to the divorce?
  • Do you feel guilty because friends and family members have made remarks that made you feel bad about your behavior?
  • Where does my guilt come from? What factors are fueling my guilt?

While you can't just stop feeling something, understanding why you feel guilty can help you process this feeling in a healthy way. Typically when emotions are explored freely without judgment, they tend to peak and then slowly decrease in intensity.

How Do I Get Over Feelings of Regret?

Some individuals who are in the process of divorcing their partner or have already done so wonder when divorce regret will set in. For some, the regret may creep in immediately, while it can take years for others to realize they regret their decision to get divorced. It's important to understand if you regret your divorce because you miss your partner versus the divorce process has taken longer and has been more emotionally draining than expected. In other words, do you miss your partner, or is the divorce process itself sparking feelings of regret? Regret can be tricky to get over and often takes some time to fully understand. Consider:

  • Journal about what regret means to you.
  • Think about what specific aspects of the divorce you regret.
  • Think about if your feelings of regret are more about loss of your marriage, or the actual divorce process.
  • Note if your feelings of regret tend to peak when you feel high levels of emotional charge versus calm and centered.
  • Create a mantra for yourself that focuses on what you can do now. For example, "I am going to allow myself to work through my feelings of regret." Another option is, "While I can't change my feelings of regret, I can eventually explore if my ex-partner is open to discussing reconciliation (or friendship)."
  • Think about the reasons why the divorce was initiated from an objective perspective, and just state the facts, without including your emotional response. Note if your friend experienced something similar, what would you think?
  • Make a plan for yourself going forward that can include trying to reconnect with your ex partner if it's a healthy choice and they are onboard, and/or taking this as a learning opportunity for your other relationships in the future.
Woman writing in a notebook

Will You Regret Your Divorce?

You are the only one you can truthfully answer if you'll regret your divorce, and you probably won't know the answer until after you've gone through the divorce process, and fully adjusted to this huge life shift. While you can certainly guess if you'll regret your divorce down the line, the factors that heavily influence divorce regret include children, blaming partner for your own issues, and not making enough effort in the marriage.

Divorce Regret Stories

Common stories and themes of those who regret initiating their divorce include:

  • Feeling regret that they put their child or children through the divorce process.
  • Feeling like they initiated the divorce for selfish reasons.
  • Feeling regret that they blamed their partner for other issues in their life such as work and family.
  • Feeling regret for not working hard enough in their marriage and especially feeling the weight of that if remarried.
Daughter looking at parents fighting in house

What Are the Five Stages of Divorce?

Understanding where you are in terms of processing your divorce can give you helpful information about the regret you're feeling. The five stages of divorce are:

  • Denial: Feeling like the divorce is not impending or didn't happen.
  • Anger: Feeling large jolts of anger when you think about the divorce process, your own behaviors, your ex-partner's behavior, and/or that you had to go through this.
  • Bargaining: This is often the time when regret begins to set in. You may wish that you and/or your ex-partner tried harder to make the relationship work. You may start to miss aspects of the relationship.
  • Depression: You may feel low mood and energy wise and begin to regret the decision to divorce even more.
  • Acceptance: You have processed this loss, given yourself time to adjust, and feel comfortable with what has happened. You may still have some regrets about moving forward with the divorce, but these thoughts no longer trigger high levels of emotional charge.

Keep in mind that everyone processes divorce differently and you may or may not go through all of these stages, and they may be in a different order if you do experience some of them. You may find an initial spike in your feelings of regret as the divorce sinks in, but that doesn't necessarily mean you will always regret your decision. The further away you get from your divorce, the more time you have to fully process and reflect on your relationship's overall health, not just the pain and possibly shock associated with the divorce.

Divorced man taking off wedding ring

Divorce Regret Statistics

While there has not been a huge amount of studies covering divorce regret, research conducted in the United States and London shows that:

Common Divorce Regrets and Worries

Divorce is not only the end of a relationship. Many other factors can bring up intense feelings of worry and regret. In a study of Londoners:

  • 57 percent worried about where they would live post-divorce.
  • 73 percent worried about their financial situation post-divorce.
  • 62 percent worried about implications for children.
  • 43 percent wished someone else made the decision for them.

What to Do When You Regret Divorce?

For anyone who regrets their divorce, it's important to understand the root of the regret and whether that has to do more with your ex-partner or the divorce process in general. Once you connect to the core of your emotional process, you can begin taking steps towards working through your divorce experience.

How to Deal With Divorce Regret