When people tell me they are going through a divorce, I always tell them one thing:
The American Psychological Association estimates that 40-50% of marriages in the United States end in divorce. It is often associated with sadness, destruction and devastation. Many people are afraid to talk about their divorce, feeling shameful or not wanting to burden others. Some people might feel badly that they failed or gave up.
While ending a relationship with someone you love can be very painful, the idea of embracing the freedom we have to leave bad relationships behind is a positive idea. Isn’t it wonderful that we are no longer bound to a promise that may no longer be the right path for us? That we have self-determination for our own futures?
In a study by Naomi Gerstel, people who go through divorce feel devalued in their social lives, and most people see being married as the social norm. This norm is self-perpetuating: People think divorce is bad, so it becomes bad.
What if it wasn’t? What if we could go through life without worrying about being ostracized from our communities? Would we be more productive, happier, stronger individuals?
A common concern is how divorce impacts children. If stability is lost in a divorce, children absolutely can be negatively affected. However, some research suggests that children in homes with parents who fight are much more likely to suffer negative impacts. If couples are staying together for the sake of their children, perhaps the fear of stigma is keeping parents from seeing how their emotional state is hurting their children.
If marital status was not viewed as good or bad, but simply a point in life, relationships can be examined on a case-by-case basis. What is best for the children could be evaluated more objectively. And more tools could be made available to help couples navigate separation.
When I say, “congratulations” to people who are divorcing or separating, it is my offering to society to fight against the stigma. Pursuing happy, healthy home environments regardless of family structure just makes sense, and is a goal fitting for modern society. We move, we change and we have more say in who we want to be. It is time to embrace the freedom and happiness that can often come with divorce, and stop seeing it as a tragedy.
Are you a parent in the process of separating or divorcing? Two Families Now is an online court-approved parenting class that helps parents protect their children during the transition and start to rebuild their lives in a way that works for their families.