Wednesday, 31 May 2017

The Stigma of Divorce

I smile as I write this as past words and comments by well-meaning friends, colleagues and acquaintances flash around in my head.

The story goes way back, when I went through my first divorce. I was only 27/28 having married at 21 and people would wonder out loud, what would become of me as a young divorcee with a child. At first these comments didn’t mean a thing to me as all I wanted at the time was out no matter what.

But by the time I realised that my second marriage was not working and that I actually had to leave to be happy, those same words of a few years before came rushing back.

This time round I was afraid, I was embarrassed and left my marriage knowing that I was now “that woman that my parents used to talk about,” you know the one who has two children from two different marriages.

If you ask anyone who knows me, they will tell you that going through my second divorce was not a big deal, that I was strong and just got on with it. And on the surface that was very true but deep within me, I was damaged and ashamed, emotions I would cover by making fun of myself each time the topic of divorce and marriage came up.

I thought I was doing well covering my darkness until one day, after making yet another joke, a very dear friend of mine, Emma, simply looked at me and said, “You’re really going to have to get over that.”

Those few words were the ones that shook me back to myself. I began looking at why I was doing what I was doing to me and why I was carrying this whole baggage of shame and guilt around because I had two “failed” marriages.

I took it upon myself to see and understand why this had happened and accept that, no matter what my ex-husbands had done or not done, I was 100% responsible for finding myself where I was.

I began to realise that those comments made those many years ago had actually not washed over me at all but they had instead made their way deep down and taken refuge in my heart and mind.

I saw how people reacted when they got to know about my divorces and would ask, “so now what?” And the look of pity, horror and shock when after working through my pain and hurt, I would admit that yes, I would get married again.

The stigma of divorce is alive and well despite the fact that divorce is such a common occurrence that the question, “Are your parents still together,” has become as common as, 
“How are your parents?”

I don’t know why this is. I don’t know why divorce still ends up defining who you are while in reality it’s a journey, an experience you have been through - it’s not you, it’s something that happened. Just like being laid off is something that you once went through at some point in your life. It was painful, it was devastating but you moved on and got yourself another job, hopefully an even better one.

All I know is that this fear of being part of the “failed marriages” party has kept many a people in pretty terrible dyads. It has seen children grow up to ask their parents, “Why didn’t you just leave?” while others have shrunk to nothingness because they don’t want to be seen ticking the “divorced” box.

Speaking of which, I now find myself wondering why one of the options on some forms is “divorced”. If you’re divorced doesn’t that just make you single again?

Today, when someone says to me, “You’re twice divorced! WOW!” I smile and say, “Yes, I am and thank goodness for that!”


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