Why You Can't Compare Your Divorce to Other People’s Divorces

Just like no two relationships are alike, the same can be said for divorce. 

When you’re going through a divorce, it’s important to focus on your own needs. Comparing your situation to others can cause undue psychological distress when what you should really be doing is focusing on self-care.

Every divorce is different

Divorce is complicated. You might want to understand yours better by comparing it to the experiences of others, but this is an unhealthy practice. You really should take those observations with a grain of salt. Here’s why.

  • Each jurisdiction is different. The divorce process varies depending on where you live. Family laws can vary greatly from state to state. 
  • A no-fault divorce is far different than a grounds-based divorce. When one spouse is held at fault for a divorce, it immediately takes on an adversarial tone.
  • Courts differ in how they look at child support and custody arrangements, property division, and spousal support. All of these factors may contribute to whether a divorce can remain amicable or not.
  • Laws and social values change over time. A divorce case from 20 years ago may look nothing like a divorce today. 
  • Judges have their own inherent leanings. While one judge may be more sympathetic toward a wife who will become a single mother, another may be more sympathetic to a husband because of their increased financial burden. 
  • Relationships are different. Divorcing a cooperative spouse with the help of a mediator will look nothing like an acrimonious divorce where attorneys battle each other every step of the way through litigation.

While it’s helpful to understand the mechanics of the divorce process and what to expect in terms of emotions and healing, it’s difficult to get a good feeling for what your divorce will look like – or should look like – by comparing it to someone else’s experience. Speaking with a good divorce attorney will help you understand the mechanics of divorce in the context of your situation. 

You don’t know the whole story

We tend to compare our lives to others when we feel vulnerable and uncertain. But there are too many unknowns when you compare your divorce to a friend’s, parent’s, co-worker’s, or influencer’s divorce.

You can’t know everything that transpired throughout someone else’s marriage that led to their divorce. You won’t know how they interacted when they were angry or whether they tried to put their differences aside to cooperate with each other. You don’t know what their attorneys advised them to do or if they kept it adversarial to their own financial advantage. 

Like any relationship, there are always two sides. You’re only getting one side and just a small sliver at that. Comparison isn’t worth your time or energy, and it can be counterproductive and detrimental to your emotional health and physical health.

Like any other information you get secondhand, divorce stories will be limited, slanted, and colored by the person telling their side of it. 

Why do people compare divorces?

Comparison is human nature and a common part of living a social life. Especially now, with access to millions of people via social media, everyone is constantly trying to measure themselves against everyone else. Divorce is no exception. 

Divorce is a huge life event and a great unknown. Of course, you’re going to want to prepare yourself for the impact of divorce in any way you can. This is a human coping mechanism to help reduce feelings of uncertainty. You want to know if what you’re going through is normal. You want to get a sense of what to expect and how to protect yourself. That’s natural. 

Yes, the divorce rate is high with close to half of all married couples calling it quits. But the effects of divorce are different for everyone. Each divorce story has a unique couple behind it. The end of a marriage is the culmination of everything that came before it, and every relationship has its own history.

Comparing your relationship and divorce to that of another couple could set you up to expect things that just aren’t relevant to your experience.

Measure success your own way

It may be difficult to imagine divorce in terms of success, but it’s your best measurement of all. What does a “successful” divorce look like to you? 

We propose that it's a situation that makes you feel strong, capable, and supported. Maybe it's having the ability to maintain a positive co-parenting relationship with your ex post-divorce. Maybe you would be happy to cut ties completely. Maybe you simply want things to be fair so you can move forward unencumbered by the past and build a new, contented life.

Get social support from a support group aimed at helping people in your position. We recommend Circles, a leading online support group platform.

Measuring your success against someone else’s simply doesn’t work. Your version of success is yours alone. That includes how you end your marriage. While divorce isn’t ever a pleasant experience, it doesn’t have to be as unpleasant as you may expect from hearing others’ stories. 

At Hello Divorce, we believe that divorce doesn’t have to be contentious and adversarial. If you are navigating a divorce, have heard horror stories, and want things to be different, we can help. Schedule a free 15-minute phone call to discuss your divorce-related questions and to get answers.

Divorce Content Specialist
Mediation, Divorce Strategy, Divorce Process, Mental Health
Candice is a former paralegal and has spent the last 16 years in the digital landscape, writing website content, blog posts, and articles for the legal industry. Now, at Hello Divorce, she is helping demystify the complex legal and emotional world of divorce. Away from the keyboard, she’s a devoted wife, mom, and grandmother to two awesome granddaughters who are already forces to be reckoned with. Based in Florida, she’s an avid traveler, painter, ceramic artist, and self-avowed bookish nerd.