Coping with Divorce Stigma
It’s no secret that divorce is an overwhelming process. The choice to end a marriage is rarely easy. Throw in confusing legal jargon and heightened emotions, and it’s easy to feel like you’re swimming against the current.
Unfortunately, the stress of divorce isn’t limited to the courtroom. Many couples struggle to share the news with children, family, and loved ones. Explaining a broken marriage to friends, coworkers, and other social circles might feel like a revolving door of unwanted questions, pity, and judgement, but it’s important to know that you’re not alone.
Sadly, many Americans wrestle with feelings of shame and guilt during and after a divorce. This is largely due the unfair stigma around it, a formidable enemy that can worsen preexisting stress—especially after the divorce papers are signed.
While the conclusion of a divorce can offer relief, it can also result in anxiety. After all, the divorce stigma is a discouraging enemy for couples to face, especially as they adjust to a new “normal.” Even if you loathe your ex, it can still be overwhelming to transition to life without a partner. But if you feel apprehensive about officially becoming a divorcée, rest assured that there are ways you can protect yourself from harmful stigmatization.
5 Tips to Ditch the Divorce Stigma
Transitioning to post-divorce life can feel a lot like walking into a lion’s den. The dreaded divorce stigma is an outdated and unwarranted obstacle.
Considering the prevalence of divorce in modern society, it’s bizarre to think that adults choose to judge other adults after their marriage is over. It’s important to prioritize your wellbeing, reframe your perspective, and give yourself the self-compassion you deserve. Keep reading to learn 5 ways to accomplish this.
#1. Practice positive affirmations by using “and” instead of “but.”
It’s okay if you don’t understand every emotion you experience post-divorce. Many couples experience unexplained emotions when the dust settles, such as feeling grief when they expect to feel anger, or vice versa.
More than half of divorced Americans suffer from guilt and shame after the paperwork is finalized. An effective strategy to combat negative emotions is by implementing positive affirmations. Building yourself up instead of tearing yourself down can be a life-changing adjustment, as words and language often have a powerful impact on our mental health.
An effective technique to master positive self-talk is the use of “and-statements” instead of “but-statements.” The latter can have a negative impact on our self-image and self-worth, even on a subconscious level. For context, imagine hearing this from a loved one:
- “I love you, but I need some space right now.”
Now imagine your reaction to this modified version:
- “I love you and I need some space right now.”
One word can make a powerful difference in our interpersonal interactions and even our subconscious thoughts. Next time you catch yourself using a “but” statement, consider rephrasing it to “and.” Implementing positive self-talk can help you manage stress, anxiety, and shame after the hardship of divorce.
#2. Be fearless (even when you don’t feel like it).
We’ve all seen that climactic scene in the movies—the one where the underdog finally snaps, where the bullied teenager marches up to their bully to tell them what’s what, or where the introverted employee bravely stands up to a cruel boss.
There’s something about these memorable moments that resonate with our human hearts. Why? Because these scenes give us a character worth rooting for—and you should view your story in the same light.
You are the hero of this story. You’re the only one capable of standing up to the bully, facing the demon, or slaying the monster—even if that just means confronting the divorce stigma head-on, and confronting negative gossip or rumors.
There’s no rule that requires us to sit down and suffer in silence until the unpleasantness around your divorce fades away. Try speaking your mind even when it’s difficult. Next time you overhear a relative or friend misconstruing the details of your divorce or passing judgement, by all means: tell them so.
You have the right to own your story without being pigeonholed by the divorce stigma.
#3. Lean on the people you trust, and limit time around those you don’t.
If you run in various social circles, you know who you can and can’t trust with details about your personal life. At the end of the day, you’re in control of who you tell and how much you tell them about your divorce.
If you feel better telling your friends with limited details, great. If you feel better not telling your coworkers at all, great. If you’re not comfortable telling your parents or siblings yet, great. At the end of the day, every person is unique, and only you know what’s best for you. It’s crucial to exercise self-care by investing in the relationships that “fill up your cup” instead of draining it.
Remind yourself that it’s okay to ask for help, even if it’s just a shoulder to lean on or distraction from negative self-talk. Accepting support from those who love you unconditionally is a healthy practice to combat negative emotions and take back control of your life.
#4. Know that you don’t owe anyone an explanation or apology.
People adapt under pressure in different ways, which means that divorcées navigate the pitfalls of stigma in different ways.
Do you feel the need to fill silences when awkward or uncomfortable? Do you overexplain your decisions because you want others to like you? Do you get defensive because you feel cornered or judged? Give yourself permission to heal by learning this truth: you don’t owe anyone an explanation, apology, or reason for your divorce.
Like all aspects of family law, ending a marriage is a personal decision that is unique to each couple. No matter how judged or isolated you feel, you’re under no obligation to redeem yourself or prove your side of the story.
#5. Trust that things will get easier, because they will.
“Time heals everything.” You’ve probably heard this saying once or twice. While the concept may seem impossible or even laughable during the pains of divorce, it isn’t all fluff.
For most of us, life’s worst curveballs can feel like a sucker punch to the gut. We all remember the agony (yes, agony—pain doesn’t quite capture the devastation) of our first major breakup, losing a cherished pet, or saying goodbye to your childhood home.
Think back to some of the toughest milestones in your life. In the heat of the moment, did you optimistically believe that things would get better? Odds are, probably not. It’s difficult to see or even think about the light at the end of the tunnel when we’re still stumbling in the dark miles away from the exit. But what happened after those painful experiences?
You reached the end of the tunnel. You emerged from the darkness—even if you didn’t consciously notice it at the time.
Take heart in the fact that this journey will be similar: you fight; you survive; you arrive. Remind yourself that you fought to get here. In time, you’ll reflect on this moment and see that you evolved into a better, stronger self.
Slay the Stigma By Owning Your Story
After a life-changing event like divorce, there are many ups and downs to navigate. Thankfully, even our most difficult seasons can empower us to live happier, more fulfilling lives.
When you feel discouraged or judged, remember that you’re the hero worth rooting for. You’re on the big screen, and the audience is captivated by your growth, struggles, and resilience. Even better, they’re looking forward to seeing you grow even stronger for it. When the credits start to roll, you’ll discover that the journey was more than worth it.
Your Divorce, Your Choices
At Family Law San Diego, we’re on a mission to empower the choices of families. With over 200 years of combined legal experience, we’re dedicated to providing our clients with comprehensive care to resolve disputes as quickly and painlessly as possible.
Our divorce attorneys, many of whom are board certified, have earned a reputation for being approachable and understanding. We provide personalized care tailored to your family’s unique needs and will collaborate with you to achieve the results you desire.
Are you filing for divorce? Our knowledgeable divorce attorneys can help guide you through the process. Call (619) 577-4900 to schedule a free consultation.