When we think of the word “divorce,” we have an opinion right away, or at least I had one before we got divorced. The truth is, the truth is actually sad; We tend to feel sorry for “these people,” especially women.
However, according to the National Survey of Family Growth, the lifetime probability of getting divorced is 40 to 50% (2018). A survey of over 2,000 heterosexual couples found that nearly 70% of all divorces are initiated by women. If divorce rates are rising and the majority of divorces are initiated by women, why not celebrate our newfound freedom and feel proud instead of feeling judged by others, and most likely by ourselves. Why do many of us tend to feel shame rather than pride, as if we were irreparably broken, and how do we change that narrative?
In order to change something, it is important to realize, talk about it and explore why it is there in the first place. Talking about shame is the first step in breaking free of the dark cloak that covers it up and makes it worse.
The roots of shame and guilt of divorce
- Values of society. One of the breeding grounds for judgment lies in society itself. Society is “pro-relationship” and certainly not “pro-divorce”. If you are single, every married friend wants to “pair” you, at least if you are a woman. And when you are married, your vows reaffirm a belief that that connection exists until you part from death. Society doesn’t like divorce, it means brokenness, and it’s hard not to take it personally.
- Feel like a failure. Divorce is perceived as a failed marriage, although the truth is, at least according to comedian Lewis Black, “no good marriage ends in divorce”. And who says that every relationship is made to last? Well, apparently these vows do, and when broken we can feel like we have failed, not tried enough, not good enough, and these feelings, thoughts, beliefs can be devastating.
- We’re just not good enough, we should have recognized the problems earlier, stayed too long or not married the wrong guy. All these messages, contradicting one another and lacking any basis in reality, still fuel the fire of guilt and shame. Whether someone is pointing their finger at you or it is the voice of your own inner critic, judgment can be harsh and guilt based on perceived wrong decisions can be relentless.
So how can we rid ourselves of the shame and guilt of divorce and not allow those harmful feelings to take up more space than they deserve?
How to Get Rid of Shame and Guilt of Divorce
As women, we often take on much more responsibility in everything than we should. This burden, especially when mistakes are made, can be daunting. But the important thing to remember is that when you take the blame, you should also take the credit.
I don’t think I’m alone when I have to admit that I’m not particularly good at taking the honor, but taking the blame on myself, well, I tend to find that easier to hit. But neither the debt nor the credit is ours. There are two people in a marriage, two responsible adults who make decisions, and we are all responsible for our own choices. The burden of someone else’s choices is not designed to be borne by us. It is important to let go of the responsibility of others.
Start forgiving yourself for everything.
We tend to focus more easily on forgiving others than forgiving ourselves. We tend to take ourselves for granted while unknowingly remaining angry with ourselves.
Take care of yourself and treat yourself like you have worth for doing it.
Treat yourself and others with kindness, patience, and understanding. When you fall, when you make mistakes, pick yourself up, dust yourself off, hug and love each other unconditionally. Remind yourself that mistakes are a necessary part of growth, and the love you have for yourself does not depend on being perfect. In fact, we don’t really like these “perfect” people anyway, they are so irritating.
Talk to someone, anyone.
A friend, family member, or a professional, anyone. Talk about your feelings with a safe person who won’t judge you and with someone who will listen to you. Someone to whom you trust your feelings.
And above all, give yourself time to heal.
Healing takes time and patience, and feelings are just that, feelings. Just because you “feel” something doesn’t mean that it is reality, and it also means that it will pass. Unfortunately, the good feelings also go away at some point.
Remember the decisions you made and make, all are neither bad nor good, they are just decisions and we all make them. We may not like the result, but that doesn’t mean we made the wrong choice. Our choices don’t define who we are. Try to be your best ally, you need you by your side.
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