5 Warning Signs that a Divorce is Becoming Emotionally Dangerous

EVERY day is an opportunity to consider mental health: An opportunity to consider someone else’s mental health and our own. However, it’s always in the wake of tragedy that these issues see a resurgence and a universal need to speak to them.  Today we consider Kate Spade, under the duress of depression from the feelings of rejection.

Mental and emotional health cannot be reduced to a ribbon, a month, or a “Facebook frame” designed for awareness. Mental health issues are every day occurrences among the most fully functioning contributors of our society. This is a “you, me, and those we love” issue, EVERY DAY.

We’ve all suffered from mental health issues, at one time or another. For instance, we suffer immediate depression when we lose a loved one. It’s expected. We suffer instant anxiety when we feel threatened or confused. Also expected.  We’ve all had times of rage where we feel we MUST act, but opt to scream into a pillow to release our anger instead.  We are all on a scale of mental health and if we should happen to go through something that affects us emotionally, it changes our disposition for a period of time. The real problem comes when we get so deep into an emotional hole that we cannot climb out of it.

So let’s talk about one of the most difficult life changes that can be a catalyst to a mental or emotional episode or breakdown:


While seeing through eyes of compassion, we will need to still see some levels of truths. The truth being that divorce can be a dangerous environment for all involved and it’s important for “onlookers” to not ignore signs of distress.

Divorce is perhaps the ultimate form of rejection that a person can endure, and comes with emotional spikes that immediately places a person on the most dangerous end of the mental health scale. Rejection can cause depression, anxiety, feelings of loss of control, and a sudden onset of destructive behavior.  So when a person who is iconic in their profession, winning, and has a marriage that has lasted more than 24 years, is faced with rejection, it will ROCK their world.

While Kate Spade is the most recent casualty of rejection, she is not the first or last. There are so many different faces of rejection and we need to be aware of just how dangerous they can be. So here are

5 Warning Signs that a Divorce is Becoming Emotionally or Psychologically Dangerous:

1. When Perception is Misguided – Being or feeling rejected isn’t the enemy. The enemy is their perception of the rejection, and what it means for the person experiencing it.   

  • When divorce is perceived as a personal attack, it’s easy to believe that someone is doing something TO them, and it could be a catalyst for a dangerous response.  This is especially true when divorce is a necessary consequence of an unhealthy or toxic relationship.
  • When divorce is received as a blemish on public perception or branding: When a person is trying to uphold an image, divorce is seen as something that takes away from that image and, as a result takes away from who they are.
  • When divorce is perceived as a statement about them as an individual:  Divorce can come across as a statement that they are unlovable. When that idea becomes part of a person’s conversation, no matter how minor, there could be some danger-especially to themselves.

2. When Their Disposition and Conversation Becomes Retaliatory – The threat of personal violence before or during the process of divorce.

  • When there is real talk about what a person will do to someone else or themselves, if they are left, then that is a flag of danger.
  • When there are outcries of ‘I can’t take this anymore…I want to end it!”
  • When there is a presence of wrathful anger and vengeance.
  • When there are obvious threats on lives, others and their own.
  • Even when there is a subtle undertone of, “You will pay for this.”

We are living in an era where these types of behaviors should NOT go unchecked.

3. When Divorce is Combined with a History of Illness– The rejection felt from divorce can be a catalyst to an emotional or psychological break-down, especially if there is a history of mental illness.  Keep in mind that many may not have been formally diagnosed with a mental illness, however, some symptoms are identifiable even to laymen. This is a limited list:

  • Depression – A person with a past of depression may find divorce a hole they can’t get out of.
  • Narcissism – Interestingly enough, a Narcissist can become vengeful and violent to themselves or others because they are predisposed to taking divorce and rejection as a personal attack. They will be ultra-sensitive in this area.
  • Anti-Social Behavior – This is behavior that has already been demonstrably violent, lacking empathy and destructive. Sociopathic and psychopathic behavior lives here and, because of this, there should be immediate red flags.

4. When The Person Becomes Uncontrollably Obsessed with Control (Demanding)– When a person starts to make forceful demands or statements about the marriage, this could be the beginning of a major problem. They become increasingly aggressive because they are not used to not being able to control the other person. Statements like, “You will NOT leave me!” Or, “This marriage isn’t over unless I SAY it’s over!” Or, “Just try to leave me and see what happens!”

Many will ignore these behaviors because the person has never been violent in the past but that’s also because you’ve never experienced them losing control of you before…All of these are statements of a person that is becoming more and more unhinged, and attention should be paid.

5. When Children are Used as a Pawn In the Divorce- A divorce will be hard enough on children. From the amount sadness and confusion they experience, to the pressure they already feel to not choose sides and make both mommy and daddy happy. When children become a bargaining chip or a source of punishment to the other parent, this could be extremely dangerous for everyone involved, especially the child for years to come. Children are to be shielded and protected from monsters and, when they are unnecessarily exposed to all of the ugliness of divorce, the monsters become those closest to them.

The challenge to every bystander sitting on the outside of someone else’s emotional or mental health episode, is to care enough to  watch. Care enough to be there.  Our job is to look and see and know that there is something not right with our loved ones, and then be there to do something. Our job is not to discount words or minor actions. Our job is to have an interest in the safety of all involved. Our job is to not be the bystander.

Then there is the place of being on the inside of the episode. How do we know if we ourselves are suffering in a dark and hurtful place? How do we know when we are flying the flags of danger?  We monitor our inner talk-Are we taking our divorce as an attack or personal rejection?  We monitor our emotions-Are they uncontrolled? Can we feel anger or hurt without the desperate need to physically respond?  We monitor the truths of who we are-Do we understand that their choices belong to them and are not a statement of our personal worth and value?  And finally, are we willing to get help?

It’s O.K. to admit that something hurts or is devastating you. Admitting that doesn’t mean that you’re worthless or beyond repair.  It means you are admitting that you are worthy enough to be cared for, so you ask for it. It means becoming vulnerable enough to say “I don’t know if I can take this…anymore” and letting someone in to strengthen you.

And if you ever need to talk, we’re here!

Article By Kenyon & Taccara Martin – June 2018