If you decide to bring your marriage to an end, you might feel a sense of guilt or shame. You are not alone. For many, divorce can be a shameful public admission of defeat – a failure to remain true to vows that were said when first getting married. However, if you choose to get a divorce, you should not feel shamed by society.
The Changing View of Marriage
Historically, marriage is seen as a binding contract from a religious, cultural, moral and evolutionary perspective. However, many would question whether marriage is still binding in the modern world. After all, the institution of marriage has changed and is viewed differently than it was even 50 years ago.
While divorce is still considered reprehensible among some faiths and cultures, it will perhaps surprise you to know that even non-religious people and people from non-strict cultures find divorce a highly shameful thing. Why? Because society as a whole has made marriage a sacred thing, attaching many irrational convictions and taboos in doing so.
Over the years, marriage and divorce have become increasingly disconnected from faith, cultural beliefs and morality. As a result, divorce rates have risen because people no longer feel forced to remain in an unhappy marriage. Meanwhile, the impending introduction of no fault divorce laws in the UK will make divorcing more straightforward in the future.
The Stigma of Divorce
Despite the detachment of marriage and divorce from religion and morality, plus the introduction of new laws, there is still a stigma attached to divorce. While public acceptance of divorce has been on the rise, those looking to divorce continue to experience shame.
The ‘shame game’ attached to divorce by society has been difficult to shake. It is odd that in a society that openly accepts divorce, it still shames those that get a divorce.
Public Opinion of Divorce
Some corners of society consider divorce to be ‘selfish’, holding a belief that if one person wants to make a marriage work, so too should the person wanting to divorce. Meanwhile, certain generations consider ending a marriage to be ‘lazy’, meaning that people settle on getting a divorce because it’s ‘too much effort’ to make a marriage work.
People have been known to make throw away comments associated with divorce like ‘people used to stay married in the past and they all were fine,’ or ‘you need to give more effort,’ or ‘it is just a phase,’ or ‘you want too much if you want it to be perfect.’
The idea of divorce being selfish is heightened when children are involved and tends to lead to more manipulative throw away comments like ‘have you even thought about your children?’
Unfortunately, divorce shaming has only intensified with the emergence of the internet, with people inadvertently or intentionally passing judgement on those who want a divorce.
The lives of those getting a divorce can very easily become a public spectacle on social media, with people subjected to comments like ‘such a gorgeous husband of hers. She’s a fool to let a man like that go.’ ‘Many wish they could have a wife like her! How could he be so stupid!’ ‘You were perfect together!’ ‘If you want to be happy in your marriage, work on it!’
Some people present an opinion trying to use humour to diffuse their comments, saying things like ‘try this therapist’ or ‘it’s better to spend your money on a joint holiday to work things out rather than hiring a divorce lawyer’ or ‘we went through tough times too. You’ll get over it.’
The reality of such comments is that the people making them are hiding their own insecurities.
Avoiding a Cloak of Shame
People will always hold their own personal beliefs about divorce. However, if you choose to end your marriage, you have no reason to feel ashamed. Those that make comments will always be on the outside looking in and have no idea of the facts and your reasons for ending your marriage.
Let us reassure you that divorce is not a sign of weakness, it takes strength to walk away from a marriage. It’s the right thing to do if the marriage is an unhappy one as staying together can do all kinds of damage, not only to couples, but children and the wider family. It’s better to have an amicable friendship than a toxic marriage.
However, it’s worth noting that most shame associated with ending a marriage is self-inflicted. Avoid revisiting the mistakes you made and harbouring regrets. Instead, surround yourself with people who you know will support you and cut yourself off from those who baulk at your decision to end your marriage.
You should seek therapy too, even if you think you’re doing ok. Speaking to a therapist keeps you grounded and will allow you to reflect on things and talk them through constructively. If you are struggling with feelings of shame and guilt, it’s all the more reason to see a therapist, as depression could set in.
Society attaches shame to divorce, but that’s not something you can control. Therefore, you shouldn’t feel shame or guilt about doing what’s right for you or your children. You have your reasons and no one can question your experience of marriage and your choice to divorce.
You have to refuse the emotional cost of divorce that other people try to put on you and focus on taking care of yourself, your children, and your future.
Get a Divorce with Holland Family Law