Where to start, where to start... Unless you're a gold-digger who struck it rich or a child-of-the-90s who thinks divorce is the obvious thing to do when you get bored, there are so many sucky things about divorce even if you don't get into all the legal annoyances (if you're immature enough to go whining to court over who owns what and who owes who money):

Figuring out who gets what -- shallow, yes, but it's the classic. Even if you don't fight, you wouldn't believe how much stuff you were attached to until you realize that it belonged to them, not you. Say bye-bye to videos, music, books, appliances, and other things that you never thought you'd have to do without. Months later you'll be thinking "Say, I'm really in the mood for (fill in the blank music) -- oh hell, he/she got that CD!" On the bright side, though, you can probably unload some stuff you didn't want. ;)

Losing good inlaws -- if you were lucky enough to have 'em in the first place. More people get along with their spouse's family than you think, and it's like losing your friends (or worse). You know they have to side with their son/daughter; that's the way life goes, but you wish they'd hear you out too, except that it's none of their business and you don't want to sound like you're the evil ex badmouthing their darling kid, and oh damn, it's all messy. Speaking of which...

Losing his/her friends -- if you were lucky enough to have been good pals with 'em. Even if the divorce was amicable and the friends fairly intelligent, nothing freaks folks out more than hangin' with a friend's ex. There will always be a lingering desire to assign blame, and unless your spouse was a total monster it's likely that his/her loyal friends will feel compelled to blame YOU.

Throwing out the baby names -- okay, it's silly, but let's face it: who hasn't discussed what they're going to name the kids? If you're really unlucky, you'll have settled firmly on the "perfect" names...and now you have to dump them in the trash. Come on. Could you really give that name, a very personal decision for a couple unless one half of the team was a total control freak, to a child by another? That's just creepy.

Being treated like a child by the legal system -- the government doesn't want you to dissolve your marriage because it means more paperwork. So how do they solve it? By heaping paperwork on you until you collapse, and arguing every step of the way as if you're not old enough to make up your mind about such a serious decision. o.O I don't know about other states/countries, but in California you are legally forced to call yourselves "separated" for six months -- only then are you allowed to say you're divorced. As if you might suddenly change your mind or something.

Regaining your maiden name -- this one's just for the ladies. Trust me: it's a pain. Again, the state obviously does not like divorcees, as they make getting your own name back ten times harder than changing your name via marriage. It doesn't just spontaneously happen; you have to do more legwork than Sherlock Holmes and run in more frustrating circles than a champion greyhound. This one hurdle alone will make you never want to get married again.

Feeling like a failure -- again, unless you regard marriage as a disposable commodity (and, sadly, people do), you feel like a loser. When you got into the marriage you knew, absolutely knew This Is The One -- this is the person with whom you're going have kids and grow old. "Look at me, world! Look at me, family! I'm all grown-up! Yay!" Now you slink around unable to look anyone in the face, especially if they were at the wedding. You wonder what they see -- a child playing at being an adult? An irresponsible flake who was only in it for the gifts and attention? A typical example of "that generation"? Ugh.

Wondering about the next relationship -- IMHO, this is the worst, and what I intended to write in the first place, but everything else wanted to be said too. The worst thing about divorce is that it shakes your belief in love and in your own judgment. It's far worse than merely breaking up with a girl/boyfriend. Marriage is supposed to be IT...and it wasn't. The next time you fall for someone you remember how madly in love you thought you were with "the last one," and how wrong you were, and how long it took for you to find out how wrong you were.

Doubting your own emotional competance -- again, a pitfall of the next relationship, and probably the reason why divorcees are often stereotyped as flighty. You start to think in vicious little circles: is this really love? You thought it was last time -- you really did. Maybe you just think you're in love, or you're just in love with being loved. The person who's now in love with you, will they stay once they get to know the real you? The last person ran screaming, after all. Is it fair to him/her to put them through what you've just gone through, in the end? Is it real? In relationships, what's real? What lasts? How do you now this is The One? You thought the last one was The One and look how that went, you idiot... And so on. It's ugly and more than a bit pathetic.

I'll stop there before this becomes a whinefest -- that covers most of the basics, I believe. I know there's a whole other dimension of pain involved when there are children in the marriage. If someone else would like to cover that angle, I'd be much obliged.

I have a son by my first marriage, and both a daughter and son by my current marriage.

I have also had a vasectomy.

Losing contact with the children you formed and led and taught and laughed with... My god that hurts.
With the relationship, at least you can be pretty sure when that is over. The signs are usually pretty clear to everyone involved. You can't divorce your kids, though.

One of the only reasons my wife an I are still trying to "work things out" is because of the children. I don't want to hurt my daughter, who is four years old, by leaving. She wouldn't understand at all why Daddy isn't coming home anymore. My son, 18 months old right now, would just be confused. How could I explain the terror of never being able to hold him close to me in the mornings when I wake him in his crib? How could I describe the joy that a big, sloppy, open mouthed baby kiss gives me?

How can I tell another woman, if I ever meet one, that I will never be able to give her a child, a child that I know I will love and cherish more than my own life?

Kielle's points are all TRUE.
But the worst part about divorce is losing those smiles...

pimephalis is right, and I did leave out that part. My parents divorced when I was five, and it is very difficult for the children in that situation as well.

This node is missing a critical perspective: that of the child of divorced parents. The child who goes through a divorce has to deal with the emotional burden not only during the period during and immediately following the separation of parents, but has the unenviable opportunity to carry around the emotional baggage well into adulthood.

The reaction of a child to divorce can vary with the age of the child and the level of acrimony between the parents. Here is a breakdown of what I believe to be more or less typical reactions based on the child's age.

0-2 years old: The child is not sufficiently aware of his or her immediate surroundings to understand anything more than the fact that one parent goes missing. Being trafficked from one home to another will likely stunt early social development, especially given that there will be inconsistencies in the rules in the two homes.

2-6 years old: The child is aware that one parent is gone, and that that parent now lives in another place. Extreme bouts of anger and frustration are normal, given the massive upheaval in the child's environment and the fact that the child probably cannot place a cause to this change.

6-12 years old: The child has now sufficient maturity to understand that some cause was responsible for the fact that mommy and daddy don't live together any more. Unfortunately, most children of this age believe that the cause is them.

12-adult: The child can now begin to understand that the cause of the divorce is likely not them, but is instead due to the sometimes fickle nature of love and the difficulty inherent in having two adults living together. This will often result in an intense fear of intimacy which can affect early romantic development.

The longer term effects of divorce on a child are most widely recognized as a fear of commitment when establishing serious relationships with a romantic partner, and once a serious commitment has been made, a nearly paralyzing fear that this relationship will end suddenly without any warning or apparant cause.

Now, I would like to state that I have painted with a very broad brush here. Human beings are complex, and no two will react to a stimulus in the same way. What I have tried to list above is simply what I believe to be the most common reactions.

I should also note that I am neither a psychologist nor a psychiatrist. What I have written above comes from personal experience and my observations of dozens of close friends who are also children of divorce.
Man, I just reread what I wrote a year and a half ago, and while it might be correct, it certainly is dry. I just thought I'd add a little context for those wondering how I came to the ideas presented above, and why I bothered to write anything at all in this node.

My parents separated when I was eleven, and my brother was three. I did not react well, as can be expected. I don't have a lot of direct memories of the years following their separation, but my mother tells me that I lost around ten pounds in less than a month, which is particularly worrisome given that I can't afford to lose ten pounds now, let alone then. I spent all of my middle school years unable to speak to other people, especially those of the opposite sex. I spent my school hours desperately hoping that no one would talk to me, let alone tease or humiliate me. I broke down into tears regularly, for no apparent reason. I still thank both God and my genes, to this day, that I grew to be six feet tall at the age of 13, so the fucking morons at school would leave me alone.

But that wasn't the worst. Not even close. It wasn't even in the fucking ballpark. The worst thing, by far, was having to hear my brother cry and scream and bash the walls with his feet and hands, to the point of bruising. To this day, I can still hear his little voice asking "Where's Daddy? Why isn't Daddy here? Why!?" The worst thing was that my mother was so distraught that she could barely take care of herself, let alone the two of us. The worst thing was that I was so paralyzed, so numb, so cowardly that I couldn't give my brother the comfort and explanations he needed so badly. The worst thing was that that poor, innocent 3 year old didn't get the answers to his questions.

The worst thing about divorce is that there were no answers to give.

this was in response to Kielle's writeup

You forgot one:


Even though are in the age of disposable marriages, divorce ain't that common yet, and so chances are there are children involved. Do us all a favour -- if you you think there is even a sligh possibility you'd separate before your children are dead, don't have kids. It's easier for eveyone.

No matter how much you think you're cushioning the blow, or trying to take their feelings into account or sugar-coating it, parents getting a divorce is going to be a guaranteed mind-fuck on any young'uns involved. Sure, they can get over it, but they will never get over it.

You think it's hard loosing a spouse? Imagine having your entire life completely destroyed; the only solid thing you've ever know no longer existing. It puts you in limbo. It destroys self-esteem, self-worth and will forever make then (at least a little bit more) cynical towards the whole prospect of marriage.

Ok, here's the thing, please don't fucking do this.

At the risk of diluting an excellent node, I'd like to offer an alternative, more dire, view of the breakdown of effects by age. Until the age of 6 or so, when pimephalis points out that kids can begin to understand external causes, they internalize everything. If Daddy's gone, it's my fault. If Mommy and Daddy are shouting, it's because they're angry at me.

It's very important to minimize very young kids' exposure to anger, grief, violence and loss because they don't know it's not about them. I am not a psychologist, but I believe this period of uncertainty runs from birth to about 6 years rather than from 6 onward.

I don't have any experience with divorce in my parents' relationship, or in my own. My wife, however, does -- she's been through two divorces from abusive men and has a child from the first, sexually abusive relationship. She and her daughter have weathered their trials remarkably well, but there are the consequences, and they naturally spill over into my life as well.

The most immediate difficulty is visitation rights. My stepdaughter's biological father is entitled by court order to have custody of her every other weekend, plus every other Christmas and Thanksgiving and a ten-day vacation during each summer. I and/or my wife need to drive two hours across Illinois on these occasions, drop her off quietly in a Burger King parking lot, and drive two hours back. It's disruptive to our weekends and makes it very difficult to plan anything for the three of us, not to mention that we're legally prevented from moving out of the state if her mother wants to retain custody.

Then there's the stories I hear about her father secondhand. That he and his second wife don't spend the money to heat their whole house in winter and cool it in summer, just their own bedroom. That they won't buy enough clothes for her in the winter, and they take the clothes we send with her and give them to their other children. That he may or may not have sexually abused another child at the school where he teaches. That they go shopping together every weekend that they get custody, and buy little gifts for every child except my stepdaughter. I can't verify any of these events firsthand, of course, and that makes it somehow worse. Because deep inside, I want to believe that this is a good man, but from everything I've heard so far I'd be better off trusting Beelzebub.

Perhaps the most awkward is hearing all the nasty things my wife says about her ex-husband to me and to her daughter. Because I know, without a doubt, that her father is saying the same sorts of things to her about my wife. This eleven-year-old girl has been struggling with hearing her two biological parents cut each other down her entire life, each with the total and unquestioning support of their own families. And every time it starts again I want to ask my wife, how do you think this little girl handles these comments? I know she agrees with you out loud about what a terrible person her father is, I hear her doing it with enthusiasm. But do you ever wonder if she shares the same passive agreement with her father when he says unkind things about you?

Eleven years down, seven more to go. That's how long my stepdaughter has before she can legally say "no more", that she can refuse to spend any time with her biological father that she herself doesn't want to spend. Or, vice versa.

Divorce sucks, no question about it. But then again, I know for a certainty that not divorcing this man would have led to far, far greater harm. For both of them.

I'm just glad I can promise my wife that our own marriage will never end that way.

I make my parents seem very selfish in the following piece. They aren't - they just don't see me very often and understandably want to whenever I am in my home town. Am not being selfish. I promise.

A seasonal addition to this node...

My parents finally called it quits when I was eighteen. Utterly bizarre childhoods, once the thing that brought them together, their common bond, proved too much for them as they reached their mid-forties.

They didn't argue over the kids, they argued over the house - it was taken as read that we would stay in the family home. Dad won - didn't bother me, after all, mum was only two miles down the road and I could see her whenever I wanted, and at least I could sleep the whole night through now, without being woken by my sister crawling into my bed at three in the morning to the accompaniment of crashing plates and yelling. Everyday there would be a small tug inside with each new realisation, that I had to pick up the phone to talk to my mum, instead of yelling down the stairs, that I couldn't borrow her clothes because they were in binliners on the floor of a new flat two miles away, that my main guardian was my dad, a man with no knowledge of period pains, the need for moisturising scrub instead of soap, and that ten pounds for new underwear just wasn't enough.

But as the months got by, we all got used to it - neither of us kids wanted to see our parents unhappy after all, and unhappy is what they were, for three years...they had tried over and above the call of duty, we felt.

They made that choice, and although it was undoubtedly heartbreakingly difficult for them, it brought happiness. And it was only one choice.

That one choice has made my life full of them.

On special occasions, who do I see first, therefore for longer? Does it mean I love them more if I choose to see them and not the other? If I come home, technically my father's house, I must see my mother too. Even if I've only come home for a friend's birthday and will be there for two days, the balance must be kept.

My twenty-first birthday was spent with neither because of the stress - they both wanted the coveted position of me as the birthday dinner guest at their house. I would have loved, dearly loved, to have seen them both, but it just couldn't happen.

And now...here comes Christmas. For the last two years it has been home for the actual big day, and then mum's flat for Boxing Day. Even that choice was horrible. While I was at home, eating my turkey, opening my presents, being a family, I knew my mum was on her own. Horrible.

Again, understandably, my parents want to see my sister and I for most of the day, as we, the kids, also understandably want to see SO's and friends in the evenings. So there is no chance to see them both on Christmas Day - neither of the parents want that anyway.

This year, my mum wants us for Christmas Day. I want to go. I don't want her to be on her own three years in a row. But I don't want my dad to be on his own.

That is the worst thing about divorce. The choices involved. The choice to leave your partner, the choice to leave your kids, the choice to start seeing someone else that your children hate (and who hates your children), choice, choice, choice.

Who do I choose?

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