There is no shame in divorce

Posted on: October 1st, 2021

Shame.

A word so loaded that it doesn’t sit nicely, does it? How does it make you feel? Timid? Humiliated? Angry? Anxious? My guess is that your mind had wandered to your last experience of shame and already your heartbeat is rising.

It’s a word I have been thinking a lot about recently, in the context of family dynamics.

I often act in divorce matters for clients who have been married for decades. On the face of it, they have it all. Children, a comfortable family home, cash in the bank, a substantial pension. Yet they may have tolerated many unhappy years in an emotionally abusive, controlling and toxic relationship.

Why don’t they leave their partner sooner? Life is short, move on. What is holding them back?

I would hazard a guess that ‘s-word’ has made an appearance at some point on their journey.

Imagine this. You have a furious row with your partner. You are at breaking point. You confide in a family member or friend. Their first reaction is support, but then you notice that they are urging you to keep the peace. Go back to normal. For the kids. For your partner.

‘Don’t over-react’. ‘Don’t question things’. ‘Stay quiet’. ‘Stay in the safe zone’.  

When you talk to a family member or friend about your own life, just remember that they may have their own agenda. Perhaps they are in a bad relationship and are scared of letting people down. Perhaps they want you to keep up societal norms so they don’t have to think too much about their own fears and prejudices. Rather than address their own issues, they might project their shame onto you.

‘Don’t be a bad parent’. ‘Don’t let your family down’. ‘Don’t ruin everything – you are just being silly’.

Sound familiar? It’s all to easy to fall into the trap of seeking other people’s opinion and approval, but human beings are nuanced and complex and I guarantee that regardless of how close they might be, your (possibly) well-meaning and concerned family member/friend won’t have the full picture and just cannot know how it is to live your life.

I am here to tell you not to be ashamed anymore. No-one is perfect. Everyone is just trying to get by. Sometimes relationships work and sometimes they don’t. There is no shame in that. It’s life.

If you have lost your confidence due to shame, it’s best to arm yourself with knowledge and options. You need to take control of your future.

When you are going through a divorce or separation, you need someone on your side, looking after your best interests. Whilst it goes without saying that strong legal knowledge is imperative, you also need to choose a lawyer who understands human behaviour, displays emotional intelligence and can respond firmly and appropriately to your ex-spouse when they become angry at their loss of control over you. As Resolution members, the family lawyers at Coffin Mew are trained in dealing with conflict in a way which doesn’t exacerbate existing tensions within your relationship.

You owe it to yourself to break the cycle of shame. Don’t be afraid to take the leap.