The Emotional Impact of Marital Separation


Laboratory of Community Psychiatry, Harvard Medical School, 58 Fenwood Road, Boston, Mass. 02115.


The disruption of marriage regularly produces emotional distress, almost irrespective of the quality of the marriage or of desire for its dissolution. The distress is similar to that described as occurring in children who have lost attachment figures and suggests that similar feelings are present in the separating adults. It also suggests that, although other components of love fade in troubled marriages, attachment persists. Separated individuals, however, not only want to rejoin their spouses but also to express anger with them. They may manage the resulting ambivalence by partial suppression, by compartmentalization, or by alternating expression of positive and negative feelings.