Psychological Effects of Divorce on Women

Divorce is one of the most terrible things to happen to anyone. Though it affects both men and women, there are specific ways in which a divorce can psychologically impact people of different genders. For women, whose sense of self, from childhood, is tied into how they relate to other people, divorce can be painful, stressful and alienating. Here is a look at some of the ways that women are psychologically challenged by a divorce:

Loss of Identity
If you ask a man who or what they are, they will typically respond by telling you about their career. If you ask a woman the same question, they will often respond instead with their relationships. Even if both of these people are bankers, the man sees himself as a banker first. The woman sees herself as a wife, a daughter, a mother, a sister and a friend. It is part of the female psyche to view themselves as a piece of their relations, so any severing of relationships, especially one as important as a marriage, will cause a major shift in how a woman views herself. This is not always a bad thing. If the relationship was controlling, this can be an empowering shift. However, in other cases, it can be incredibly alienating.

Trouble Maintaining Social Relationships
Because women see themselves as their roles in many cases, the switch from a happily married woman to a divorced woman can make changes to some of her relationships. Though core friends will often stay the same, "couple friends" may not. Some women find that couples prefer to go out with other pairs, and single women may feel like a third wheel when going out with the couples who do continue their dinner dates. Some women may find that acquaintances who don't know how to sympathize with their divorce will avoid them as well. These social changes can feel lonely and isolating for many women, especially those who don't have a lot of close friends.

Unrealistic Expectations
Divorced women find themselves the target of a lot of unrealistic expectations from others as well as themselves. Women already are expected to do over twice as much of the unpaid domestic labor at home as men, and when there is no partner to share the work, they are expected to do all of the home labor, work full time, and care for the children the majority of the time. This expectation has not diminished by the realization that women need equal work for equal pay. Somehow equal work has never been attributed to labor at home, and it's forgotten as the stuff that women just do anyway. This can make it very burdensome to newly single parents, especially as they become the overworked mom and their exes become the fun dad who has time and money to play on weekends.

Cite this page: N., Pam M.S., "Psychological Effects of Divorce on Women," in PsychologyDictionary.org, March 6, 2016, https://psychologydictionary.org/article/psychological-effects-of-divorce-on-women/ (accessed December 13, 2019).
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