Five Damaging Divorce Stereotypes

Those that have not personally experienced divorce have no shortage of judgements and opinions. These are some of the more common damaging divorce stereotypes that you may encounter –

 

The Spouse That Initiated the Divorce is a Quitter

At some point, you have to make a decision – do you continue to endure a miserable situation or do you extricate yourself from the situation?

The reality is that you only have dominion over yourself. And when you’re married to someone who refuses to admit that there are problems within the marriage, you have limited influence to change the environment. If you’re with an addict who routinely denies their disease, sometimes leaving is the only tenable option. And if your partner is abusive, getting out can become a matter of life or death.

Quitting is giving up when something becomes too difficult or uncomfortable. Sometimes, a decision to divorce has nothing to do with quitting and everything to do with acceptance and self-respect – accepting that you alone cannot alter the trajectory of your marriage and the self-respect to demand better.

 

The Woman Always Gets the Money

I almost shoved her off the bike. It was a mid-morning spin class that I was able to attend because of a school holiday. The other women in the class were apparently regulars and they immediately started questioning me as the newcomer to their group. When discovering that I was recently divorced, the woman next to me stated, “Isn’t it nice to have your husband’s money without having to deal with your husband?”

The previous afternoon I had just received another notification about an yet another unpaid debt left behind by my ex husband. Yet another debt that I would have to pay.

Sometimes, the woman does come out ahead financially. Yet often, she doesn’t, especially if she neglected a career in order to raise children. The reality is that divorce often has a lasting negative financial impact for both men and women. Additionally, the automatic application of spousal support for the woman is (thankfully) coming to an end. The family court system is still a money-making mess, but they are trying to do a better job of considering each case individually.

 

The Man Doesn’t Take Responsibility for His Children

Ever heard the one about the man babysitting his own offspring?

The assumption after divorce is often that the woman will have primary custody and the man will do anything he can to have limited responsibility for the kids. And yes, there are certainly deadbeat dads out there. And there are also amazing fathers who do everything they can to be there for their children even though they are no longer married to their mother.

There are also the heartbreaking cases where good fathers are kept from their children in an attempt to punish or control them. These men can be labeled as “deadbeats” when the reality is that they are in great pain and want nothing more than to be able to be present for their kids.

 

The Partner That Wanted a Divorce Isn’t Hurting

Just because something is the right call, doesn’t make it easy. The one who decided to leave may be grieving the end of the relationship. They may feel guilty for hurting their partner. If they’ve been pulling all of the emotional weight, they may be angry that their spouse didn’t put forth any effort.

No matter the circumstances, divorce is hard. It’s a major loss and a massive transition. The nature of the pain may differ when you are the one who wanted divorce, but it doesn’t mean the pain is absent.

 

The Spouse Who is Left Must Have Deserved It

One of the most painful aspects of deciding to go public with my story were the cruel assumptions that I faced about why my ex must have left. Strangers decided that I must be a terrible person and an even worse wife. After all, I must have done something to deserve that kind of treatment.

The reality is that both people are responsible for the marriage, but one person can decide how – or if – it will end. And oftentimes, that decision is influenced by their own internal struggle.

Furthermore, we rarely know the truth behind the public facade of any marriage. And without knowing the whole story, it’s impossible to reach any meaningful conclusions.

 

 

As with any stereotypes, these can have a kernel of truth to them. However, my conclusion is that many of these are anchored in fear – people don’t want to believe that divorce can happen to them, so they create a narrative around divorce that gives them the illusion of control.

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12 thoughts on “Five Damaging Divorce Stereotypes

  1. My ex left me for a friend. I knew things were not great between us. She became a bit distant. But she never said anything. I would have done anything to help change the station or even change myself. I never got the chance. She grew cool then out of the blue told me. We have two young children. My heart breaks for them. I. miss my family and doing Family things. What’s strange is I thought overall we had enough joy and fun to outweigh any bad moments. I have terrible anxiety now and live alone.

  2. All but the false deadbeat dad stereotype have been misconceptions and judgments I have faced. It deeply layers and complicates my healing process. It’s like a solvent for the glue on the bandaids I’ve finally managed to place over my wounds so that I can begin to heal even though it still hurts. When people say these things, well-meaning or not, it makes those bandaids fall off, exposing the wound and sometimes, any scabbing over comes off with it. I fear that exposed wound is seen as an open invitation for other narcissists or users to swoop in and prey on me. Daily I face situations where I’m running them over and over again in my head. Did hat just happen? Am I paranoid? Did I hear that right? That has been my greatest struggle. Shutting down and not letting many people inside. Letting people write their own stories as to why they think I am divorced and what type of wife I was, and accepting that I can’t control what others think of me or say about me. Believing in myself and trusting my gut is so difficult.
    Thank you for sharing and shining light on this topic.

  3. This was very insightful and spot on. I was (quietly) one of those judgemental people (sometimes you don’t have to actually SAY something for your thoughts to be crystal clear) UNTIL I went through it myself. Financially, it was difficult for a great many years. Nonetheless, about three years after my ex left, I thanked him for making the decision I would never have made. That was over 2 decades ago and I am a much better and much happier person because of it. Excellent post…

    1. I used to silently judge too (especially when it came to those that stayed despite abuse). And then I learned through experience. Sometimes, that’s the only way we really get it.

  4. This was one of your most thought provoking blogs, touched a lot of what I have thought about and am thinking about. I was an honorable father and husband who seemingly did not get credit for it. The divorce was initiated by me after years of dealing with the pain of a broken relationship, the break up necessary to heal and made with that realization in mind. The struggle to remain honorable after the divorce is daily.

    1. Glad it made you think:) Hopefully the kids recognize (or will) the kind of dad you are. That’s the important part.

  5. I have begun to wonder if I will ever get over my husband throwing me away after 29 years of marriage. It’s been a year and I am still crying, can’t get motivated, sit in a depressed heap. I go to therapy every week, which is a big help. This was a great blog. My husband got our lovely house, and I am living in poverty, seems so unfair when he ruined our relationship. Having a pity party today, thanks for your wonderful blog, I loved the book. Bonnie

    1. Sending you hugs❤️

      Pity parties are okay (goodness knows I had my share) – just make sure you don’t let them go on too long:)

      It’s NOT fair. I know that was one of my biggest hang ups. I wanted fairness. Consequences. I finally realized that there were two ways to restore some balance- he could be doing worse (which I couldn’t control) or I could do better. I made that one my goal.

      I have faith in you that you will be able to use this to make you better.

      And by the way, at one year out, I never thought that I’d be able to move on from the pain either.

      Tenacious baby steps towards your goal. Just keep going:)

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