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Changing the stigma of divorce

11 Feb

To change the impact of divorce on families today ad for future generations, we need to change the stigma.

Flowers from bud to bloom

Divorce is on the rise, in 2020 alone there were over 100,000 divorces with unreasonable behaviour often cited as the cause. And the statistics for same-sex couples are on the rise  too. Couples are supposedly becoming increasingly bitter - divorce videos have become a trend on TikTok, Divorce day has been determined as January 6th (a day when the most amount of divorces start up), and everyone knows the impact of Nora's monologue from Marriage Story on young couples. And when it comes to the reasons for divorce - everything is referenced from alcohol to domestic abuse to not making time for your partner, no wonder there is so much social stigma around this. And have you tried looking for any good news stories on divorce? There are none. There is a plethora of information about the pain, the battle, the shame, the social discrimination. But no positive stats, nothing to inspire or confront the stigma. And what about the impact on your children, this argument has  been used against divorce for years. But it doesn't need to be like this. 

We don't all need to get shown War of the Roses to put the fear of God into us. Divorce needs to be presented as a beginning,  a route forward to change. The truth is an amicable divorce is less damaging for your and your children than an unhappy marriage. However, as emotionally intelligent, social creatures we are hardwired to believe this isn’t the case. Social acceptance is key to most human beings.. Years ago, divorce was a taboo - women had to give up everything, the church condemned you and a divorced woman was seen as fallen with a divorced man being someone we pity. Nowadays this isn’t the case, but divorce still has a huge impact on our mental health, how we feel about ourselves, the decisions we make and as a result what we achieve in our lives.

Therefore, the only way to change the impact of divorce on families today (and for future generations) is to change the stigma. We all need to rewrite the narrative, so that people who are suffering can have the courage to change their personal circumstances, empower their family and secure the help to succeed. Because, like it or not, exes are not going anywhere, and potential divorcees owe it to themselves and their children to take a leap. Interestingly, Gwyneth Paltrow and Chris Martin have tried to do this with their ‘consciously uncoupling’ approach, but have been bitterly mocked on social media and within the press. And for what reason? Is it because it is different, unconventional, does not meet the narrative that marriage is good and divorce is bad? Or is it because we prefer to see the nasty side to divorce where two people’s lives are played out in public?Whatever it is, these adults have managed to remain friends for the sake of each other and their children and divorced well. It’s something we should admire. The damage done to children through an unhappy marriage can be felt for generations. 

The truth is modern-day marriages are evolving. There are more social opportunities than there once were and traditional roles have changed, as a result expectations on relationships have been thrown up in the air.  And for those who think by avoiding marriage they avoid divorce, this also applies to them - once you have children you face the same eternal stigmas as married couples. 

So, society needs to step up but how do we make this happen? 

  1. By educating young people – to give them more information and choices to help when choosing a partner. 
  2. By sharing and celebrating positive divorce stories –  commending those who divorce well and inspire others to do the same. In this way divorcing well becomes the norm, not some mythical fable to mock.
  3. By reminding people everything you do in and out of your marriage shapes the person your children become - which includes staying married when you really shouldn’t be or divorcing in the wrong way. There is a choice in this, you can change the link in the chain. 
  4. By getting people to open their minds to collaborative methods, that focus on future outcomes i.e a collaborative divorce which allows both legal teams to work together to avoid court (moving away from the bitter approach of ‘getting even means getting everything’). It is so important that people do not allow their future to be dictated by their past or society's archaic views. 
  5. By getting the right support to help people through this, be it a divorce coach or something else to aid divorcees’ communication, recovery and future success.
  6. By working on TV, books and films so that the positive depictions of divorce and blended families don’t just come about because of a death or a bitter victory - we can show there is a life for a family after all this, be they blended, nuclear or somewhere in between.
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