“Have a nice life.” That is the last thing I remember a relative saying to me at my grandmother’s funeral. Apparently, she believed that I would go to hell since I had an invisible scarlet letter “D” tattooed on my body. No, I didn’t commit adultery; it was even worse, I was soon to be a divorcee. This was one of my first introductions to the misconceptions of being divorced. Don’t get me wrong, I didn’t believe that I was going to hell, but that experience was a sneak peek into a world of judgment I was previously unaware of.
Although the stigma of divorce has come a long way since my great grandmother went through her own decades ago, it still feels like an outward branding when you first step foot in your new reality. None of my friends or close family members had been through a divorce, so I felt trapped in the middle of the ocean with no life jacket. The feelings of shame and failure are real, even if you were the one to instigate the separation. I don’t know about you, but I haven’t met anyone who commits to a marriage thinking, “let’s see if this works.” Most people enter into their happily ever after as a promise, filled with hope.
No one could see my scarlet letter, but I felt it. It didn’t help that I had moved during my divorce. Most conversations began with, “What brought you to town?”
Inside my head: Oh no, how do I answer this without sounding incredibly desperate, lonely, sad, and awkward? I don’t want to make him or her feel uncomfortable with my answer…
What I actually said evolved over the next five years. At first, it took everything for me to hold it together and give a concise answer. I tended to ramble, sharing details that no one really cared about. Eventually, I became more comfortable with my new authentic story and worked to express my new truth. Here is a warning; as you start down this path and have to answer anything that brings up your divorce, people will often look at you blankly. Unless they have gone through this experience, they are often uncomfortable, anxious, and generally don’t know what to say. I give you permission to ignore their discomfort and work on learning how to express your new truth. Be patient, it takes time.
Yes, the stigma of divorce is evolving, but it still exists. Learning the misconceptions and facing some of the negative self-talk you may face during this process will help you move forward. I want you to have someone to turn to and a resource. I don’t want you to feel like you don’t have a life jacket. My intention is to have you transform and rebuild the life of your dreams.
Depending on your situation, you may identify with one or many of these misconceptions. You may allude to them in your journaling, conversations, or in your head.
- You failed
- You are broken
- It was your fault
- You are damaged
- You are not the “marrying type.”
- You could have repaired the relationship, but you were too lazy to put the effort in
- You weren’t enough
- You weren’t ________ enough (Fill in with descriptive word)
- You didn’t try hard enough
- You are desperate
- You are a mess
- You are a victim
- You are a cheater
- You are to blame
No matter what happened in your divorce, rebuilding your image and self-worth will be the ONLY way to remove any of these misconceptions and move forward. To do this takes practice and time; there is no quick solution. So how do you start?
There are many different approaches, but I will share a few exercises that helped me. Mix and match methods, and don’t be afraid to try something that speaks to you. As you may have guessed from past blog posts, my truth comes out in writing, so journaling is usually my answer. Yours may be conversations. Here are a few things to try.
- Pick one misconception and journal about how it relates to you. Why did you pick this misconception? How is it affecting you?
- Say your misconception aloud several times. Then replace “I am” with “I am not.”
- If you go to therapy, discuss your misconceptions with your therapist and do a deep dive to figure out why you feel this way.
- Sit down and chat with a close friend. Let them know about the misconception(s) you relate to the most and share why. Sometimes saying it out loud to someone you trust can move the misconception out of the way. Make sure to do this exercise with someone who is encouraging you to rebuild your life.
- Write a letter to yourself or your ex. List your misconception(s) and the why behind it. Keep this letter for yourself and re-read it in a few months.
- Write a list of the whys behind your misconception. For example. “I am a failure because I never cleaned the kitchen the way my spouse wanted it.” After writing them, revisit them in a few days and say if you still relate to the whys. Continue this exercise until you can see past them.
- Write each misconception on a piece of paper and then shred it, burn it (be careful), or throw it away. This may sound woo-woo, but the simple act of releasing it will help. Create a new list of transformed views on your life and keep them close to you.
Did any of these misconceptions relate to you? If so, we would love to hear how you overcame them.