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.