The Divorce Stigma
Divorce is such a downer. Divorced people are usually depressed and therefore, depressing. At least I think that’s the stereotype. I hate to judge but that's how I felt about divorced people before I got divorced.
I have empathy for people going through a divorce. It’s not easy that one minute you’re a couple and the next you’re a single. Alone. By yourself.
Once I announced I was getting divorced, I started to feel like a leper (a person who is avoided or rejected by others for moral or social reasons). Does every divorced person feel this way?
It’s tough because divorce is kind of like someone close to you died…except there’s no funeral or official, socially-acceptable “mourning period”. I felt like people struggled with what to say or how to act. Should they bring you a month’s worth of casseroles and baked goods? Should they take you out, get you drunk, and encourage you to make bad choices? Should they offer help and support…and if so, in what form…a shoulder to cry on or a voodoo doll to stab? The gamut of emotions can make 'all of the above' potential remedies.
Divorce is different from a death in that many relationships you worked hard at building over the last ?? years are now firmly in your ex’s camp as you quickly find out they never really liked you to begin with. That’s fine because the feeling is mutual…so there!
My divorce “process” took 15 months. During that time, I didn’t notice an outpouring of help from family members and friends. I really didn't know what I was expecting but I felt like I was on my own, most of the time.
Most people awkwardly ignored the topic of my divorce and instead, felt it would help to inform me about the latest thing their idiot spouse did – proving again that divorce can be a good thing.
The majority of my married friends couldn’t relate to my situation and, even though I have no way of proving it, I think their husbands wanted them to keep a safe distance from me in case it was contagious. Which was actually helpful because my valued relationships rose to the top and remain intact today.
I called my mother almost every day during that time and she was my most reliable sounding board. Bless her heart, she didn’t know how to help me because she had never been through a divorce, but she just let me talk and cry and rant and cry some more. By the way, I wasn’t crying because I was getting divorced. I was actually happy about that. Well not “happy” per se, but content with the decision because I knew it was for the best. I was crying mainly because my daughter’s life was about to change drastically and that hurt me more than anything I was going through.
I know of too many people who get stuck in a “poor me, I’m divorced and everyone should feel sorry for me” rut, long after the divorce is final. I think this perpetuates the stigma of divorce and causes non-divorced people to recoil. It’s the people who never get over it that give divorcees a ‘bad rap’.
I’m not saying divorced people should shout it from the rooftops (but they can if they want) or encourage other people to divorce, but I also don’t think people who choose to divorce, should be put in a category shrouded with the shame of failure.
Change How We Look At Divorce
I recommend we change the stigma associated with divorce. I'm hoping people will find it easier to move on if they can look at it through different lenses.
Instead of feeling sorry for ourselves and approaching it with “I’m so depressed because he/she is leaving me, and now I’m all alone, and sad, and pathetic”, let's look at it as an awakening to a better future.
There are a number of alternative ways we can choose to view divorce:
1. Divorce sucks sometimes yes but on the bright side, I have an opportunity to make some well- needed changes in my life and now is the perfect time!
2. Obviously I (or my partner) wasn’t happy so this is probably for the best. I hope he/she finds happiness.
3. Now that I’m divorced I have a great opportunity to focus on myself and my own needs as I move into this next chapter of my life.
4. I will hold my head up high and rise above, be strong, and move on.
5. Wow divorce shows you a different side of a person and my ex is a real douche-bag. He/she is someone else’s problem now…good riddance!
6. All those years I wasn't “gettin’ any” (sex), I can now get by the truckload…if I want – that is. Caution: see my post below on dating after divorce.
See, there are many different ways you can look at the situation. You can be pitiful or you can come out of it like a champ! It’s all how you approach it.
I’m not saying we shouldn’t take time to mourn the end of our marriage because I thoroughly believe we should – just like a death should be mourned. It's critical actually and you are going to need some help so as you mourn, find resources that can help you to move forward.
Maybe your spouse asking for a divorce took you by surprise. Maybe it was like the rug was pulled out from under you – or is that the story you tell yourself in order to hover around perpetual sadness and anger? Maybe your marriage wasn’t really all that healthy and you full-on ignored the signs? Maybe you were busy doing your own thing and just plain weren’t paying attention?
We typically want to blame the other person without looking at ourselves and how we may have contributed to the implosion.
If you are still feeling sorry for yourself after a year, and you just can’t pull out of your depression, maybe it’s time to take a good hard look at your entire marriage and break it down; piece by piece. Besides being honest with yourself, I recommend seeking professional help also.
Ask yourself tough questions like:
Was I attentive to my husband/wife?
Did I fulfill my spouse’s love needs?
Was I doing everything I could to nurture the relationship?
Were we even all that compatible?
Did I get married for the right reasons?
Was I a whole person when I got married?
Did my spouse and I have the same life goals?
Did I support my spouses goals even if they weren’t the same as mine?
Did I even like/love my spouse?
Unless you’re a narcissist and believe you can do nothing wrong…ever; this exercise will probably uncover many “mysteries” surrounding the demise of your relationship. Hopefully you will gain some clarity which will affect personal growth and, in turn, help you in future relationships.
I make these statements because I too had to look at myself and realize that as much as I wanted to blame my ex, I contributed to the problems in my marriage. I had to hold a mirror up and speak the truth so I could move on. See my post "Fake It Til You Make It" where I describe my process for getting back on my feet.
I think many people consider divorce to be worse than a death because this person chose to leave you and now you have to watch them move on, start dating, and possibly be happy again with someone who is not you - or best case, they remain alone which means we can gloat because we found someone and they didn’t.
Here's another way to look at it if you are still pining over your ex - sorry to be blunt but here goes - why would you want to be with someone that doesn’t want to be with you? Forgive me, I know that’s a little "soap-boxie" but seriously, (and now I’m being a cliché) there are plenty of other fish in the sea. I’m sure there are at least ten people that would gladly jump on your lure! I'm happy to say, I caught me a Great White! Yes, this is me gloating. See my post below on how I met My Person.
Seriously though if you truly ever loved this person then you should want them to find happiness, right? And if want to watch them get hit by a bus, then maybe you don't love them any way so it's time to stop fighting it…just sayin’.
We don't have to be sad, depressed, bitter divorced people. Why can’t we look at divorce as second chance, a new lease on life, and not the end of our existence? As someone once told me “It’s not cancer.”
Consider a Hobby
Maybe there were things you couldn’t do because you were married and you had to be selfless. Maybe there was a hobby you wanted to start but couldn’t because there were other “married people” things that took precedence. Maybe you're a wee bit (or a lot) out of shape? Start a weight-loss program. During and after my divorce, nothing helped me more than 60 minutes in the gym five days a week! Plus I met some fellow divorced people which helped me feel I wasn't alone.
Depending on your status as parent, use this time to be selfish. When you don’t have the responsibilities of parenting, take this time to do whatever the hell you want!
Simply put, divorce is change. Nobody likes change. We just need to find a new normal and find a way to cope without burdening others with our anger, sadness, or regret. Take ownership of your part in the implosion of your relationship, mourn the death of it, and then move on with a happier soul.
All of the above is just my recommendation and my opinion having been through it, and having seen many people go through it. Some of whom I want to slap because they continually wallow, place blame, and frankly, are depressing.
There is life after divorce…you just have to choose to live it.
Final thoughts for those of us that have children. They are truly the ones that should be thought of before ourselves. They are affected the most and have the most difficulty understanding that their world has been turned upside down. It will have a lasting effect.
“Love your children more than you hate your ex” – Edifymeblog.com
Do you have a story of recovery you would like to share?
Please click CONTACT FORM
I’d love to hear your thoughts about this (or any) post so please leave your comments below.
Subscribe to my blog and I’ll send you updates on new posts.
Thanks and have a fabulous day! And remember …YOU ARE AWESOME!!