Families Change Guide to Separation & Divorce

3.3 - Emotions of Separation

3.3 - Emotions of Separation

Separation involves a lot of emotions. Compare the emotions you have experienced with the ones that you see on the screen.  You may have gone through some or all of these emotions at some point in your separation. 

Let’s look at some of them more closely.


Anger is the core emotion of divorce. It’s painful, it’s confusing, and it can turn a person’s world upside down. The pain, anger, resentment, depression or emotional confusion seems to go on forever.

When anger not faced, it doesn’t go away. It is redirected. A divorce hangover begins when anger becomes directed toward whatever or whomever a person considers responsible for the divorce. Anger that is redirected can show up as revenge, blame, sabotage, and inappropriate control.

For example:

  • “I don’t have enough money to pay child support, so I won’t pay any. Let her try to get money out of me – it’ll be like trying to get water out of a rock!”

Or, another example:

  • “He’s got plenty of money, and after the way he’s treated me and the kids, I’m going to make him pay for my suffering.”

Anger often leads to prolonged and expensive litigation.


Depression is severe sadness and dejection that is felt over an extended period of time. When anger is turned inward, it can lead to depression. Parents suffering from depression may withdraw or run away.

A person in despair over a relationship breakup may not want anything to change and may refuse to discuss changes. The person may even refuse to separate.

When someone is depressed it may be difficult to engage in a constructive conversation.  It may not be possible to talk about finances.


Betrayal is the act of hurting someone who trusts you.  It is the feeling of broken loyalty.  Often when a  person feels betrayed, they try to get back at the other person financially.  Revenge or punishment often translates into a desire for dollars and cents.

Here are a couple of examples:

  • “You fooled around and now I’m supposed to live in a basement suite and support you, the kids, and your boyfriend?!”
  • “You left us and now you expect us to live on a few dollars a month while you drive around in a new SUV. I’m going after everything I can.”


Guilt is the feeling of having done something wrong. Guilt can have a powerful effect on financial decision-making. It can cause a person to fall into the trap of giving away more than they should.  When parents separate children tend to feel guilty – as if it was their fault.

For example, a parent who moves to another city with the children may agree to give up child support out of guilt of moving.

From a financial perspective you should never negotiate until you are ready to take emotion out of the bargaining process.  Taking a break in negotiations may make better sense than acting emotionally.