Ask Beatty: Why Is My Divorce So Painful?

Beatty Cohan, MSW, LCSW, AASECT
Beatty Cohan, MSW, LCSW, AASECT

Dear Beatty,

I am going through a divorce after a 15-year emotionally and physically abusive marriage. Even though I am relieved (most days) to be out of my relationship, I am nonetheless having a hard time. I am not sleeping well and have been having nightmares. I have put on a lot of weight, have little energy, am finding it difficult to concentrate and most days I really don’t want to leave my apartment. Naturally, all of this is affecting my work. What’s wrong with me? And when am I going to start to feel better?


Dear Anna,

Going through a divorce (even though you say your marriage was an abusive one) is extremely painful and traumatic. It marks the end of your hopes and dreams of spending your life with someone who you once thought you loved. Most people during and after a divorce find themselves on an emotional roller coaster ride. And like a death, (divorce is a death of a relationship), people tend to go through a variety of stages including: depression, denial, anger, blame, self-blame, “why me” and finally acceptance. Expect there to be ebbs and flows.

Unfortunately, there is no magic way to fast-forward this process. The symptoms you are describing are normal reactions to your painful situation. However, it is very important that you do not let yourself plummet into the depths of despair. Initially, you may need to force yourself to take a walk, join a gym, plan an outing with friends and family, even though this may not be something that you really want to do. Reach out to supportive family and friends. No need to be stoic. This is a time for you to take care of yourself. I suggest that you try and do something nice for yourself every single day — something that you can look forward to. It may even be a decadent cookie. That’s one cookie, not a whole box.

Your body is stressed and needs extra sleep, regular exercise and good nutrition. If you continue to suffer from insomnia, why not try a natural remedy? And if this doesn’t help, speak to your doctor about other short-term remedies. Give yourself permission to express your feelings to others. It’s never a good idea to keep your emotions pent up — doing so takes its toll on our body and psyche. If you find that talking to friends and family is not sufficient, do yourself a favor and find yourself a good therapist, who can not only help you deal with your loss, but who can also support you in starting a new chapter in your life. Group therapy may also be an option that you may want to consider. Asking for help is always a sign of strength, not weakness. We don’t need to navigate life’s challenges on our own.

Eventually, you will need to understand what went wrong in your marriage. It is very easy to blame your partner. But those of us who have been through divorce need to take an honest look at the role that we played in why our marriage failed.

For example, did your own issues, including depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, substance abuse of various kinds, sexual problems, early childhood sexual abuse or problems stemming from your family of origin get in the way of your marriage? Or, like so many people, did you marry someone who you really didn’t know? What I would not do is drown your sorrows with alcohol, drugs, including over-the-counter medication,  or food. And realistically, expect to have some difficult days and nights. This is normal. There is no quick fix.

The good news is that there is life after divorce. You should not give up hope that someday you may very well meet a special person and fall in love again. However, this is not the time for a new relationship. Studies show that it takes a minimum of one year to go through the mourning process. Rebound relationships usually don’t end well. So take this time and focus on yourself. There will be plenty of time for dating and relationships in the future if you so choose. And finally, don’t make any major decisions until you feel that you are on an even keel. I promise you that each day will get better.

Good luck on your new journey. If I can help you in any way, just let me know.

All the best,

Beatty Cohan,

Beatty Cohan is a nationally recognized psychotherapist, sex therapist, author of For Better, for Worse, Forever: Discover the path to Lasting Love, columnist, national speaker, national radio and television expert guest and host of “Ask Beatty” every Monday afternoon from 3–4 p.m. on the Progressive Radio Network. Beatty is in private practice and has offices in New York City and East Hampton.

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