Society has come a long way in accepting divorce, but still has more to do. Growing up in the late 1960’s meant that I was different because I had a divorced mother. I was mortified when my first grade teacher, Sister Julie Clare, said that she would pray that my parents would get back together.
I was sure that nuns had more clout with God, so was afraid that this tragedy might occur. My mother assured me that there was no way in hell that this would happen, so I became my happy self again.
There was only one other girl in the school with a divorced mother and none in my neighborhood. No one overtly teased me, but I still felt judged by my situation.
Fast forward four decades and it almost seems like the norm to be divorced. Kids discuss their half-siblings and step-relatives with ease, as if it is to be expected. It has been more elderly people who have attempted to give me condolences, instead of the high five. My happily married friends share divorce stories of other friends and relatives to reaffirm my normalness. They joke that being in long-term marriages seems to be the new anomaly.
I went to India which has a 1.1% divorce rate, so expected to be looked down upon in my divorced state. What a surprise to be so wrong. A leading Indian women’s magazine had an article on how to get through your divorce `. Our guide was reading the section in the paper where parents were looking for good mates for their offspring. There was even a part for parents seeking new spouses for their previously divorced sons and daughters. No one batted an eye that my sons only lived with me.
I just returned from England last week and they have a similar divorce rate as America. It did not matter if I was in a store, talking in a pub or other places, people expressed how sorry they felt for the divorced. When I said that I was connected to a divorce publication in London, they said how depressing that must be. They could not imagine writing for anything related to divorce. I was totally shocked. I started asking professionals in the divorce field if this was usual, and was assured that it was. The mediators and lawyers at a Family Law Conference said that their clients were encountering negativity regarding their divorces too. I did not expect that there was such a stigma surrounding divorce in the UK. London is my favorite city and I like the British. When I got to talking to people one on one about divorce, they could see the positives with divorce.
The key to smashing a stigma is education. Enlighten others that correcting a bad situation (marriage) can have a positive outcome for all. Pretending to be the happy family is not healthy, but rather stressful. Talking to individuals allows for questions to be answered and to discuss happiness post-divorce. It can be unsettling to find a stigma to divorce in an unexpected place. I would invite women to talk to the media and reassure people that divorce can be beneficial. Therapists can allay fears that divorce is only detrimental to children. My sons thrived post-divorce and were like flowers who bloomed.
Americans are open and forthright and this may be part of the reason that divorce does not have the stigma that it has in other countries. I have done radio interviews on this subject, as have many others here in the States. Divorce occurs in South America, but was not discussed in public as much as here. Other cultures are more private, as I also found in Asia. When women can speak up comfortably about divorce, then that lessens any stigma attached to it. When societies realize that divorce is just another life transition, then the stigma can vanish.