Divorce — 10 March 2014
Married to Single

Transitioning from married to single

Most people are aware of the physical, emotional, social, financial and survival benefits afforded committed partners. Being married facilitates one’s physical, emotional and psychological wellbeing. Thus, those who find themselves volitionally, or non-volitionally single again have to contend with the distressing process of transitioning to single life again with little or no support.

Since society heavily promotes marriage, clergy, family, friends and professionals help engaged couples through every step of the process of forming their new marital union.

Conversely, when couples choose to part, no rituals or supportive processes are available for them. Though the transition from “married” to “single” status is often traumatic, devastating and confusing, it is usually left to the former partners to cope with it on their own. Some spouses, who are left by their mates, do receive temporary, short-term support from friends and family. Yet, it is often given with the expectation that the grieving period will be short-lived.

When a married spouse loses a partner to death, the social support is much greater and lasts longer. People understand the devastating impact of becoming a widow/widower much more empathically than they appreciate the profound effect of being left through divorce and maybe even less sympathetic about the trauma experienced by some departing spouses.

Though during their separation mates do not think about the health consequences their parting may have on their wellbeing and longevity, they do become victims of some risks in both areas. In “The impact of the family on health: A decade in review” researchers Catherine Ross and John Mirowsky reported, “married people have fewer physical problems and a lower risk of death from various causes, especially those with a behavioral component; the health benefits are generally larger for men.”

In “The Case for Marriage: Why Married People Are Happier, Healthier, and Better” Linda Waite and Maggie Gallagher state, “Nine out of ten married women alive at age 48 would still be alive at age 65. For men – nine out of ten for the married group versus only six out of ten for those who were never married.”

Psychologically, both divorced individuals undergo a major life-crisis. They feel deep loss about the major derailment from their life course and are plagued by grief, guilt and bewilderment about the reasons for their new state in life. Self-introspection often renders them profoundly sad.

Being single again requires major mental and emotional re-orientation and practical re-organization. Sharing the children is psychologically traumatizing and emotionally depleting for both parents. Their former dream of the “Happily-ever-after” family has been shattered. Even a mate, who is already enamored by a new individual, is painfully aware of the losses caused to all members of the family and the lifelong scars that may ensue. Regrettably, society fails to assist divorcing couples during this traumatic transition.


For the divorced mate:

  • Regard your emotional pain as symptomatic of a profound grief experience.
  • Seek support for your loss and mourning.
  • Trust that you will be coupled again.







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About Author

Offra Gerstein, Ph.D. is a licensed psychologist in clinical practice in Santa Cruz, California for over 25 years, and specializes in relationship issues for couples and individuals for improved quality of life. Her work includes: mate selection, marriage, long term relationships, gay and lesbian couples, work relationships, parenting issues, family interactions, friendships, and conflict resolutions. Offra has lectured extensively to various groups, conducted support groups for several organizations, and has been writing a weekly column "Relationship Matters" for the Santa Cruz Sentinel since 2001.

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