How to handle a marital breakup without breaking down

February 22, 2018 | by Charles Ritli Jr, LCSW
Categories: Healthy Driven Minds

Nobody enters marriage thinking it will end in divorce. But it happens. Unfortunately, an estimated 40-50 percent of marriages end in divorce. The divorce rate for subsequent marriages is even higher.

While each person experiences divorce in their own way, most agree that it is a very difficult, painful experience.

Stress levels are unavoidably high during a divorce. The life you had once imagined is no more. There’s a lot of uncertainty and insecurity involved. Depending on what led to the breakdown in your marriage, you may feel like a failure. Some say a divorce can even feel like a death.

All of this stress, anxiety and grief can take a serious toll on your health. For one, divorce can damage your physical health. A University of Chicago study revealed that divorced individuals are 20 percent more likely than married people to have chronic health conditions, such as heart disease, diabetes or cancer.

Then there's the damage divorce can do to your mental health. Divorced individuals score significantly lower than married individuals on several measures of well-being, including emotional health. People going through a divorce may have a higher risk of depression.

How can you make it through a marital breakup without breaking down?

First, you need to draw on every support you can. Social isolation can worsen depression and anxiety during a divorce. Your friends and family are essential, but don’t stop there. Seek out support groups, religious organizations and community resources. You will need them all. If you can’t rely on your old social networks, find new ones.

Many people also seek help from professional counselors during a divorce. There’s something healing about being able to confide in someone who is there to listen to you, objectively and without judgment. If you have a history of depression, anxiety or another mental health condition, it is even more important to seek professional help during this time.

Remember these do's and don’ts for a healthier transition:


  • Isolate yourself
  • Skip meals
  • Resort to unhealthy habits, like smoking, drinking or drugs
  • Get into power struggles with your ex
  • Rush into another relationship right away
  • Make major changes in life plans
  • Put children, or mutual friends, in the middle of disagreements with your ex


  • Take care of yourself. Eat right, get good sleep, meditate.
  • Tap into your support network
  • Keep moving. Grab a workout buddy and go for a walk each day or take a class at the gym.
  • Stick to a regular routine
  • Be kind to yourself. You won’t be functioning at 100 percent, and that’s OK.
  • Get a massage, manicure/pedicure, etc.
  • Take up a new hobby or activity (painting, yoga, swimming, dance, cooking, volunteer work) —anything you enjoy
  • Find ways to laugh, it’s good medicine

If you have children, regardless of age, you may worry about how they will handle the divorce. The most important thing to remember is not to involve your kids in the conflict. Try these tips:

  • Come up with a plan to present the news together with your ex.
  • Talk about the changes they can expect (e.g., one parent is moving out).
  • Reassure them that the divorce is not their fault.
  • Maintain stability and routines.
  • Don’t make your kids take sides; don’t make them a messenger; don’t quiz them about time with your ex; and don’t talk negatively about your ex in front of them.
  • Tell them you love them and you’re here for them.
  • Find a professional counselor if needed to help your kids adjust.

Just remember, life will get back to a “new normal” after your divorce. It takes time, but eventually you’ll start to feel better. There is life after divorce, and it will be whatever you make of it … so make it good!

Are you at risk for depression? Take our free, online Depression Aware test.

If anxiety or depression is interfering with your everyday life, consider seeing a professional therapist to help you get your life back on track.

Get support from Linden Oaks Behavioral Health


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