Divorce Adjustment

Post divorce adjustment is affected by the interplay between the person’s risk factors as well as protective factors. These ingredients are not static as the preponderance of one or the other changes over time. Some due to elements that are out of one’s control and some due to experiences and happenings well within a person’s control.

Planfulness is a factor that serves to enhance the likelihood of a positive outcome years later. Having some concrete goals for rebuilding their lives as well as specific actions to be taken is beneficial i.e. specific retraining or education.

Having the ability to self regulate themselves through the storm of emotions that is particularly tumultuous the first year after divorce is conducive to a better overall adjustment. Not letting their emotions rule them and allow them to act in self defeating ways.

The person’s degree of adaptability/flexibility is another factor. Real life situations require making some adjustments as things cannot always be within our control. A sense of social responsibility is conducive to a positive adjustment. People that are involved in assisting others/reaching out are involved in a network that is often available to assist them also. Additionally going through a severe loss makes people feel vulnerable. Having the opportunity to give and assist others allows them to utilize their strengths as well as feel validated that they have something of value to offer people. The person’s comfort level with being autonomous affects their adjustment. The transition from married to single is quite painful but the more comfortable someone is in making decisions on their own, as this is integral to becoming single, the easier the adjustment.

Having an "Internal Locus of Control" is beneficial to having a positive outcome. An “Internal” or “External Locus of Control” refers to one’s perception of self-efficacy or control over what happens to them. Those with an “External Locus of Control” tend to believe that their lives are controlled by fate and therefore they cannot affect their life circumstances/experiences. One's degree of internal or external locus can be influenced by their life experiences/relationships throughout life.

Support from relationships with family and friends, work life, and involvement in a religious community can serve to buffer the emotional pain and stress of divorce.

The above protective factors interplay with the risk factors at various stages in the post divorce process. Having an actual antisocial personality; violent, irresponsible, and amoral or even engaging in antisocial behaviors with friends, coworkers, family, such as being unreliable, insensitive, explosive etc. can contribute to a negative post divorce adjustment. Being impulsive also contributes to a less positive outcome. There are many raw emotions and if the person is inclined to act without considering consequences this can be destructive to them as well as to relationships. Having a mix of anxious, obsessive, and depressed behaviors for an extended period of time can interfere with establishing a healthy post divorce life. Continuing to be emotionally attached to the former spouse beyond a normal grieving period can interfere with making new attachments.

A prolonged period of casual sex can have a destructive effect on eventual adjustment. Women with low self esteem /substance abuse issues are vulnerable to engaging in one night stands and hence the feelings of worthlessness, helplessness, and depression due to the lack of caring in these sexual relationships. The majority however do become dissatisfied with a lifestyle of ongoing casual encounters and desire a stable relationship. The change in socioeconomic status affects the post divorce adjustment. Depression is associated with an inability to afford things and services that were previously a part of one’s life. Naturally more education is associated with more opportunity for employment. Relocating to lower income surroundings increases concerns about physical safety for oneself and their children.

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© Patricia McKee M.A.

Patricia McKee M.A.

University Village Area, Seattle, WA