Historically, divorce was rare across all cultures and classes but became increasingly common in the mid to late 20th century beginning with the sexual revolution and more women entering the workplace. Recent statistics reveal the nationwide divorce rate at about 45%. Although divorce is now common and no longer has the deeply shameful, near-taboo stigma it did in earlier centuries, many divorcing spouses report feeling a sense of shame, embarrassment, and regret once they’ve acknowledged that their marriage has failed. So, despite the change in societal norms surrounding divorce in the U.S., it hasn’t completely changed our perception of divorce as a failure or something for which we should feel shame. How do we navigate a divorce without feeling stigmatized as we move forward?
Why Do Some Divorced Spouses Feel Stigmatized?
For some couples, religious and cultural beliefs may add to their feelings of shame and embarrassment. Societal norms in the U.S. have come a long way toward acceptance of divorced and non-traditional families, but divorce stigma can still feel deeply personal due to a divorced spouse’s sense of failure or regret at breaking up their family. After divorce, many people report feeling a sense of shame or stigma due to one or more of the following reasons:
- Their marriage ended because their spouse cheated or left them for someone else
- They lost friendships because some friends sided with the other spouse
- They feel ashamed of breaking their family apart
- They feel like a failure because they couldn’t make their marriage work or make their spouse happy
- They believe they’ll never attract a new relationship because they are a single parent, have baggage, or have had more than one divorce
- They worry that people will think there’s something wrong with them or they’re something unlovable
In some cases, family members and friends may contribute to a divorcee’s feelings of shame by careless remarks or intentional criticism.
How to De-Stigmatize Divorce For Yourself
The most important aspect of divorce to keep in mind throughout the process and while moving forward later is that divorce doesn’t define you, it’s something that you’ve experienced but it’s not who you are or what you’re about. Acknowledging when something is over or bad for you and taking steps to remove yourself from a bad situation isn’t a failure, it is often a matter of emotional self-preservation.
Surround Yourself With Supportive Friends and Family Members
While getting your bearings after the divorce, it’s important to step back from anyone who criticizes or belittles you. Instead, focus your time and attention only on those who support your choices and don’t judge you. You’ll find that many people admire your decisiveness and the fact that you took action to improve your quality of life and your happiness. Developing a support group of trusted friends and family and finding a Denver divorce lawyer that you trust helps to alleviate the stress and any lingering feelings of shame or isolation after the divorce.
Spend Time on Activities You Enjoy
After the divorce, remind yourself that it’s okay to prioritize self-care now more than ever. Spend time doing activities you enjoy whether it’s physical activities to improve your fitness level, taking up an old interest like art, gardening, woodworking, baking, or simply reading in bed at night to relax. Building self-confidence and returning to a new normal is the best way to move forward.
Finally, “Time heals all wounds” may be an old expression but it fits here. Once the divorce becomes something in your past rather than your present, you’ll find yourself compartmentalizing it as only a single facet of what makes you who you are rather than the defining moment of your life. If you or a loved one is going through a divorce, a Denver family law lawyer can help you navigate the process and relieve some of the stress.