Divorce has by now become an undeniable fact of our modern lives. Less than half of all married couples reach their 20th wedding anniversary. More marriages end with divorce compared to those that are cut short by the passing of one of the partners, putting a different spin on the infamous ‘til-death-do-us-part‘. Prenuptial agreements are widely encouraged. A no-fault divorce is the new norm. With such a growing popularity and increasing awareness, one might expect the stigma of divorce to be a thing of the past.
Nevertheless, recent research suggests otherwise. A study carried out for Slater and Gordon concluded that almost half of all divorcees who took part in the study felt stigmatised and ashamed of the outcome of their marriage. 46% said that they encountered daily judgement from others. 10% admitted to having tried to save their marriage exclusively because of their fear of the stigma, and more than a third saw their divorce as a personal failure.
It seems like the laws have been changed and public representations have been adjusted, but our own mentality still has some serious catching up to do. Here at Leeds Divorce Solicitors, we do not believe in the divorcee stigma and neither should our clients. There are a couple of considerations that might help new divorcees get over the initial feeling of shame and we are happy to share them with you.
- If you have children, you can aid their emotional recovery. As it is now a well-known fact that divorce might pose some serious risks to the mental health and stability of the children of the divorcing parents, a lot of the latter feel judged for the very reason of potentially putting their kids in harm‘s way. A decision to get divorced even though there are children involved is still seen as selfish by some of the people out there. However, you should try and look at it from a different perspective: we are aware of the risks because the effects of divorce have been studied extensively over the last couple of decades. This means that, along with potential problems, we are also presented with various ways to solve them. There are strategies out there that can help the kids of divorce successfully cope with the process. The importance of the involvement of both parents and an amicable relationship between them is now common knowledge. Armed with the necessary information and skills, divorced couples are able to prevent psychological damage that might very well be inflicted on the child by an unhappy, troublesome marriage.
- There are people out there who know exactly what you have gone through. It is hard to feel stigmatised when you are surrounded by people who have experienced the very same struggles that you are currently facing. Because divorce is such a common occurrence nowadays, finding other divorcees within your community is rarely difficult. Visit a divorced neighbour, talk to an old acquaintance whose marriage has not worked out, join a support group (there are plenty of wonderful divorce support groups in Leeds!) or, if all else fails, look for an online community of people who can offer support and advice. The feeling of shame usually arises from the feeling of being alone. You are NOT alone. All you have to do is go out there and find the people who can relate to your struggles.
- You should never stigmatise yourself. A lot of the stigma that many divorcees feel comes from themselves rather than the outside world. ‘I am a failure.‘ ‘My marriage is ruined.‘ ‘I did not try hard enough.‘ These are all thoughts that are very much familiar to a number of our clients. The best thing that you can possibly do for yourself is avoid internalising the stigma. A divorce does not have to be a ‘failed marriage‘. In fact, our divorce solicitors do not use the latter term and always try to encourage their clients to discard it as well. Your marriage did not fail – it simply ran its course. Not all unions last forever and it is not something to be ashamed of.
As long as you take good care of your children, surround yourself with the right people and, perhaps most importantly, accept yourself and your current situation, there is no reason for any kind of a divorcee stigma to occupy your mind. Your biggest post-divorce concern should always be getting on with your life and making the very best of it, regardless of what anybody else might secretly think.