End of the Line for Divorce Shame

Reentry after a divorce can be a shock to the system as you learn to navigate life as a single person again. But one of the most difficult aspects of divorce can be an invisible, nagging interloper called “divorce shame”

“For the divorcing people, it is often not only sad, hurtful and scary, but the added element of shame can be debilitating,” writes therapist and author Susan Pease Gadoua, L.C.S.W in her blog for Psychology Today. “Although it can be subtle (or not), the attitudes and actions of friends, family and acquaintances in reaction to hearing of the split can leave ‘dissolutioners’ feeling isolated, marginalized and rejected.”

Actually, there are two types of divorce shame: self-imposed and societal. The self-imposed type is perhaps the most detrimental. (Nobody can make you feel as bad about you as you.)

“Everything we are taught about marriage is that it should be ‘’til death do you part.’ Period,” Gadoua says. “The response of many a divorcing man or woman to this credo is to feel that, not only have they done something wrong, but that they are deeply flawed. This is the very definition of shame.”

Before you ride the divorce shame train too far, consider these five “stops”:

  1. Stop Judging. Whether a marriage (or any endeavor) is a success or failure is subjective. Yes, there may be marriages that are a “complete disaster,” but chances are there was some good that came from the union. Even if the “good” was learning a little more of what you do and don’t need in a relationship. Try to find that good and focus on it whenever judgmental thoughts come to the fore.
  2. Stop Assuming. Maybe the members of your garden club think you’re the biggest loser in town, or maybe they don’t. Why torture yourself with the idea that people have cast you out with a scarlet letter? Yes, there are some people who may steer clear of you post-divorce. Most of them probably just don’t know what to say or how to offer help.
  1. Stop Comparing. Don’t judge your insides by someone else’s outsides. Comparing yourself to friends and family members who are “happily married” is not going to make you feel better. You may take inspiration from those around you who have a happy relationship, but chances are, if asked, you’d discover that these “perfect couples” have had their problems too.
  2. Stop Blaming: The cousin of shame is blame. And although it’s healthy to accept responsibility for your actions, shouldering all the blame becomes toxic. There were many causes and conditions that contributed to the demise of your relationship. You played but a part.
  3. Stop Going It Alone. If you are feeling depressed, isolated or anxious, seek help through a skilled therapist, support group, spiritual director or physician. Click here to find a list of licensed practitioners near you.