When deciding to divorce, people mostly believe that the relationship has come to a logical conclusion and the two of them need to move on separately. Nevertheless, a third of divorced couples regret their choice at a certain point, even if it was the right one. Moreover, this feeling is common for both the one who leaves and the one they leave.
But why do people regret divorce? What prevents them from enjoying a new life? Who suffers more? And how do you go about such a situation? We will try to explore and discuss these issues in our article.
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Why Do People Regret Divorce?
On the stress scale, divorce is considered the second biggest shock after the death of a close person. Normally, a great loss entails enormous mental anguish and a storm of emotions since the usual way of life is disrupted. People feel fear of loneliness, a sense of guilt, and a desire to get everything back. In other words, they want to live their usual life, which explains their regrets.
While resentment is equally typical for the initiator and non-initiator, its reasons differ depending on the situation, divorce grounds, individual characteristics, etc. And, of course, gender peculiarities are a significant influencing factor since men and women, while not always, often tend to perceive the same things differently. But do women regret divorce more than men?
Who Suffers More?
Despite a widespread assumption that if men don’t cry, they feel no pain, scientists strongly disagree with this point of view.
American sociologists Anne Barrett and Robin Simon have made an interesting discovery in an interview with more than a thousand young men and women. They established that men are more worried about love problems, but they do not demonstrate this publicly. Moreover, the researchers claim that the main reason for their deep suffering is that only after a breakup do they suddenly realize that their former partner was the only person they had such close contact with.
Indeed, while it’s easier for women to satisfy their need for close relationships by communicating with friends and family, many men find this closeness challenging since they are afraid of excessive intimacy. Due to stereotypical societal standards for men, openness is often considered a sign of weakness, which jeopardizes their masculinity.
Besides, Barrett and Simon argue that it is easier for men to break up with a partner since they put more emphasis on the relationship quality, while women are more concerned with the fact of the relationship as such. Still, it does not mean that men take it easy. When a breakup occurs, they do not yet realize the actual value of their relationship and start experiencing the aftermath only some time later. A sudden and totally surprising feeling of complete emptiness explains their belated reaction.
So, regrets after divorce are typical for all and can be quite explicable. Nevertheless, their reasons are purely personal.
How Many Ex-Spouses Regret the Divorce Decision?
Although the regretting divorce statistics is quite outdated, surveys and scientific observations conducted and published in different years present almost similar indicators:
- From one-third to half of the divorcees are inclined to regret ending their marriage.
- In his 2003 paper, University of Florida’s Brent A. Barlow estimated that about a third of couples experienced regrets concerning their decision.
- A 2014 Daily Mail article on the issue reports about 50% of people having second thoughts about the end of their marriage.
- According to the 2016 Avvo report, 32% of the surveyed respondents confessed their regrets.
So, almost 8 years after the latest estimations, the pressing questions are still pending: “How many people regret divorce?”, “Does the leaver regret divorce more than their spouse?”, “Does the age or marriage duration influence regrets about divorce?”
For the time being, Terry Gaspard, a divorce therapist, writer, journalist, and relationship blogger, is more likely to offer the most recent and relevant data. According to her research, 50% of people regret divorcing a few years later, while 68% think they had to try harder.
Unfortunately, regret statistics concerning the spouse who leaves versus the one who is left is mostly unavailable or nonexistent. From this perspective, it would probably be more logical to talk about guilt and remorse experienced by the initiator against rejection and the hurt the non-initiator is left with. However, all these feelings, although correlate with, do not equal regret.
Gray Divorce Regret
Interestingly, so-called “gray divorce” regrets tend to be less common. Such a tendency can be explained by the fact that when people end their marriage later in life (50 years and older), after some 30+ years of living together, they have already gone through a myriad of long-term issues in their relationships, weighed the idea of splitting in all its details, matured enough for making this decision final and prepared for living happily ever after.
Generally, post-divorce regret is a subjective and deeply individual issue that cannot be defined in some limited-sample survey that cannot be generalized and representative of the entire divorced population.
Do Ex-Spouses Regret Getting a Divorce After Infidelity?
Some media sources suggest that about 80% of couples regret divorce after infidelity. Unfortunately, no more or less official data concerning this aspect is available.
An interesting research involving 810 participants was conducted by John Hopkins University’s Department of Psychological & Brain Sciences professor and colleagues to study married people’s infidelity experiences. Surprisingly, the researchers have found out that spouses who engage in extramarital affairs are mostly satisfied with both their marriages and affairs and express little moral regret. Yet, there’s no guarantee the remorse would not come to them later, after their partners reveal their cheating and file for divorce.
At this point, women would ask, “Do cheating husbands regret divorce?” while men’s question would sound like, “Does my wife regret cheating and divorce?” Obviously, the answers are still to be found since the mentioned research does not make any gender-specific conclusions, and such data has not yet been presented.
Why Do Some Couples Wish They Hadn’t Got Divorced?
While each case is deeply personal, the most common reasons people may regret divorce are:
- Financial and responsibility issues;
- Emotional bond with the ex;
- Disappointment in new relationship.
Let’s look at them in more detail.
Financial & Responsibility Issues
Couples seldom share the same financial and household responsibilities in marriage. Therefore, divorce creates a new reality for both, when one of them needs to get accustomed to a reduced budget while the other one suddenly gets loaded with additional duties and chores they had no relation to previously.
In our often stereotypical and still mostly patriarchal society, women are more likely to appear at a disadvantage than men. They often have to sacrifice educational and career opportunities to ensure healthy motherhood and household, relying on their husbands in financial aspects of their lives.
Therefore, a woman, especially if she got married at an early age, is solely responsible for household duties, and has no or only a part-time job, may find it hard to:
- Make certain decisions;
- Resolve crucial issues;
- Live independently;
- Provide for herself and the children
Specifically, if all of these were previously her husband’s responsibilities. They may be afraid of becoming poor after divorce or even appear in a noticeably lower financial status.
Men who were sole financial providers with low involvement in household duties and parenting may also find the transition difficult. While they are more likely to be financially stable, they may often find it hardly possible to juggle work and newly added responsibilities their partner has previously taken care of. Some have to give up certain work hours and job opportunities in order to be a more involved parent or sacrifice time spent with kids.
Even in dual-income households, responsibilities are often not distributed equally. Besides, the overall arrangement may vary for both heterosexual and homosexual couples, so either or both ex-partners may face issues taking care of things that their ex has been taking care of previously, regardless of responsibility distribution. The necessity to be in charge of such duties may also be a reason to regret the loss of dependable support.
People should understand that changes are never easy, and it takes time to get used to them and straighten out the situation. This transitional period may be long for some or end rather quickly for others. You may be willing to find support and help in a new relationship or arm yourself with perseverance and learn to live on your own in these new circumstances. Just know that these hardships are temporary, caused mainly by the uncertainty of a transition and the need to leave your comfort zone.
Some couples try to prevent their children from constant conflicts and fights. The decision to divorce is justified by the assumption that minors will grow up in a much healthier environment if they see both parents calm and happy though living separately.
Unfortunately, circumstances are not always favorable and mostly unpredictable. With time, people may realize that children have not survived the divorce as easily as they had hoped.
Here are some of the reasons the effect of divorce on children may be negative, worsening your relations with them and making you regret your decision:
- Children may lose their home if parents are forced to sell or divide their shared house;
- They may not forgive the parent who left the family;
- Some kids tend to think that the parent they are left with is to blame for the ruined family.
However, this does not mean that the decision to divorce was wrong. In fact, many children get to understand their parents only when they are grown-ups and often ask, “Why didn’t you divorce much earlier?”, which brings the realization that the regrets were in vain. When you end your marriage, what tends to matter for children more is how they are treated and how they see you treat yourself and your ex.
Emotional Bond with the Ex
Long life together creates a sturdy family unity, which makes separation especially difficult regardless of the reason. Therefore, a strong feeling of loneliness sets in, making you feel like you have lost an essential part of something big and important.
Time and distance allow you to look at the ex-partner in a new light. You begin to miss them and the things you had together. You meet other people, suddenly realize how many wonderful traits you didn’t appreciate in your spouse, overlooking those you found hard to handle, and regret that you took them for granted.
Unfortunately, all these positive memories and warm feelings, in most cases, can be explained by nothing else but a mere habit. With time, more pressing issues come to the forefront, overshadowing the connection created by the years of living together. Moving on, a lot of people start to realize that the same emotional bond can be formed with others and forget about their regrets.
Disappointment in New Relationship
On average, it takes about three years to recover and move on after divorce. Nevertheless, most people seek a new partner and even marry only two years after a breakup. The reason for this rush may be the feeling of loneliness and emptiness or financial necessity.
Unfortunately, it often turns out to be a big mistake. In fact, 2 out of 3 second marriages end in divorce, which is a much higher indicator in comparison with the first marriages.
People often blame their ex for the divorce and think they will not repeat the same mistakes. However, previous problems are aggravated because we have not taken enough time to work on and process them. Therefore, we step into a new relationship, being psychologically unprepared, and face the same problems we had in the previous marriage, finding ourselves even unhappier with the new partner than we were before.
In such a situation, people may compare their new partner with their ex, who usually wins this competition, as memories of previous heartbreak may already be lost, with mostly warm memories remaining. They can start blaming themselves for not making efforts to preserve the marriage and deeply regret the ruined relationship.
Eventually, these feelings also fade as people mature, reevaluate their values, and start seeing their own needs in a new light. They realize that comparisons are unfair and unrewarding and there is always something better waiting for them ahead.
So, What Do You Do If You Have Regrets?
If you also experience post-divorce regrets, you should do your best to get rid of them as soon as possible. Any pressing resentment or other negative feelings that tie you to the past will obscure your future, preventing you from a healthy and happy life.
Trying to learn how to get over divorce regret, check our list of coping mechanisms and strategies that may be of help:
Firstly, try to understand that what’s done is done. If you can’t change the situation, change your attitude and dispose of all the negative feelings since harboring them can cause adverse psychological and emotional consequences. Therefore, forgiving after divorce is the first step to recovery.
Forgive your ex for everything they have done, including their decision to divorce or actions that have led to such an outcome, and let them go. At the same time, self-forgiveness may become the key tool to your recovery from guilt and shame, facilitating a new beginning.
Seek Professional Help
Of course, it may be difficult to let go of resentment against your ex and your own guilt. In this case, a qualified therapist may be very handy in sorting out your feelings and explaining how to forgive your partner and yourself.
Surround Yourself with Support
Do not self-isolate. The more time you spend on your own, the more you may contemplate the situation, repeatedly replaying the scenario in your head and trying to figure out how it would be if you acted differently. It does not mean that you should not reflect on your relationship – it means you can talk about it with someone you trust or take your mind off it from time to time.
Socialize with people around you and find support in them:
- Devote time to your children, who may need your support even more;
- Reach out to your parents or siblings;
- Go out with your friends;
- Do not hesitate to ask for help from people who are ready to provide it;
- Try support groups if you do not have any close people you can turn to.
Focus on Personal Growth
Transform your regrets and guilt into the motivation for acquiring new skills and knowledge. Now that you have stepped into your new life, it’s time to invest all your resources in your self-improvement. You can create a better self by learning new coping, communication, relation-building, and other skills.
Set Goals for the Future
Make a detailed plan for moving on in your new life. This bitter experience has taught you a lot, and by learning from it, you can define for yourself what you should and should not do in the future. Make a list of reasonable goals and set the right path forward.
While divorce is definitely one of the most unpleasant events you may experience, it’s not the end. Life goes on, and you should live it to the full. Try to perceive it as a serious but curable illness. Undoubtedly, the treatment may be long and tiresome, but it will only make your recovery even sweeter.