Hi, I'm Nicole Myers, Licensed Professional Counselor. If you would like to know more about me or my colleagues, please check out our introductions available in video, audio or text.
Today's question is: How do I deal with the shame and stigma of divorce?
This can be a very difficult question for many people. Particularly as, when you first got married, like most people, when you said, "I do" on your wedding day, your intentions were to spend the rest of your life with this person. Now you're facing marriage failure and failure in itself is very difficult for many people. We also have certain beliefs about marriage that are now not coming true as you are entering into a divorce.
Divorce is a challenge and needs to be met with quite a lot of energy, work and alterations in how your life is lived. So, if your experiencing shame and stigma from divorce, you may want to write out some of the things that are upsetting you as you go through your day because as you write them out you can then begin to write out challenges to them. As in, if it's shameful to get divorced, does that mean it is better to stay married to somebody that you're miserable with for the next 20, 30 or 40 years of your life? What happens if you choose to stay with someone who makes you miserable, or worse, if you two are abusive to each other? If he/she is harmful to you, how is that going to be helpful to you? Is that better than going through the shame of divorce? Generally speaking, when we speak of having shame about something or a stigma related to it, we're looking at what other people are judging us about. So, you may want to ask yourself how important are these other people's judgement to you?
Also, look for people who can support you who may have gone through a divorce themselves or are more understanding. Spend more time with the people who support you, rather than those who challenge you on your need for this divorce. If you spend more time with those who support you, you will not have as many attacks on your self-esteem related to the divorce. You'll have actual support for your self-esteem and your desire to change your life. So, how to find some ways for people to be supportive is spending more time around family and friends who have shown themselves to be supportive, join a divorce recovery group or seek a therapist who can help you to find other ways to interact. Make some new friends who don't consider you as part of a couple but consider you as an individual. It will be harder for them to judge you on your divorce when they don't know you as a married person but know you as a single person.
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