Divorce | Let’s Erase The Stigma

Karen BigmanDivorce Process

divorce stigma


In my work as a Divorce Coach, I often hear a lot about the shame surrounding divorce.  Despite the fact that divorce has been a part of our culture for so many years, there is still stigma attached. Many people are afraid to tell those in the community for fear of being branded with a big Scarlett letter D. yet, all around us, divorce is happening.

There are many reasons for divorce, some obvious like domestic abuse, others, more subtle, like growing apart after many years of marriage. We are living longer and have more opportunities than ever before. It stands to reason that we may have more than one long-term relationship in our lifetimes.

As children, we are taught that getting married and having children is part of the fabric of adulthood. The first kiss or boyfriend has girls dreaming of romantic weddings. One of the  nursery rhymes we tease our peers with is about “Jane and Johnny, sitting in a tree…”. I can vividly remember the first friends I made whose parents were divorced. It was third grade, and they were new to the school. There was no one within the community that had divorced parents until that time. Now, many years later, divorce happens in over 40% of first marriages and even more in second marriages.

When I tell people I’m divorced I get two reactions: the usual one is an uncomfortable silence followed by an awkward question and a quick wrap up to the conversation, the other is ‘Congratulations.’ I’m not sure either is perfect.  While I definitely won’t minimize the impact of divorce on our lives, I look at divorce as an opportunity.

If there is any stigma in divorce, it is what we put on ourselves. Finding a way to navigate the ‘new normal’ is a sure fire way to erase the stigma. Stigma belongs to other people. Everyone sees the world through their own lens which reflects how they saw divorce growing up. If we embrace divorce as a fact of life in our times, we can start to erase the stigma and treat it less like an anomaly.

When we come off as a ‘victim of divorce’ then the perception is that divorce is the worst thing in the world. If we can come across as someone who went through a life change and is now finding a whole new existence, then the world can start to think of your divorce as part of life evolving.

I encourage my clients to see the possibilities for their growth in divorce.  Although the process is fraught with pain and overwhelm, balancing the overwhelm with hope and clarity helps lessen the impact afterwards.

The more we can change our perspectives, the more we can release ourselves from the stigma.

  1. Ask yourself where the opportunities might be in your divorce:
    • What are the good things that are happening today that would never have happened had you still been in your marriage?
    • Are you learning?
    • Who have you met?
    • What challenges have your overcome?
    • Who do you want to be now that you’re no longer a wife or husband?
  2. Start writing them down and revisiting them.
  3. Use those opportunities as a foundation for telling your version of your divorce.
  4. Practice responding with how life has changed for the better.
  5. Own it!!

Before you know it, divorce will be just another seven letter word!