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Why I don’t feel divorce shame

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By Jodi Gibson

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No one goes into marriage expecting it to end in divorce.

When you marry, you vow to love and cherish the other person till death do you part. The unfortunate truth is that sometimes things don’t work out that way.

I married my childhood sweet heart.

We were young – so very young that it breaks my heart to think how naive we were. At 21 we had been together for five years and we were in love. Marriage seemed like the natural progression, the next step. Our family expected it, we did too and we didn’t think too far beyond that.

Did we sit down and talk about the future? No. Did we discuss any of the important issues? No. Did we talk about any obstacles that we might have to face? No.

We were young and completely wide-eyed with innocence. ‘The future’ with its potential for problems and questions were put in the same box as superannuation; something to be thought of later. It wasn’t until four years into our marriage when we sat down to talk about children that the magnitude of our situation hit.

By this time I was 25. My brain had fully matured and I now had the cognitive ability to think laterally. And I had changed. What I wanted at 25 was different to what I wanted at 21. We all change but sometimes couples don’t change together.

The hardest part was that the feeling wasn’t mutual. My then husband wanted children and he wanted to grow old together in our perfect little house and white picket fence. I wasn’t ready, and the reason I wasn’t ready became apparent to me in a crash of reality. I was no longer in love and wasn’t really sure if I had ever been.

To our family and friends, we had the perfect relationship, and up until that point I suppose it had been. We had our problems, we argued as all couples do but all of the sudden it just all felt so wrong.

Once my feelings made themselves clear, they were like a waterfall crashing down on me. The pressure felt insurmountable and the only thing I wanted to do was leave.

The next day I did and within two weeks it was final. I had no second thoughts and not once did I question my gut feeling.

For a long time I have carried the shame of how fast it all happened and how it must have looked to all those who knew us. There were accusations that I was selfish and that I gave up. It was only months after leaving that I met my now husband and this too brought its own innuendo and small town rumour to deal with.

For years I have said little about my divorce, but deep down, I knew I made the right decision.

The moment I let go of my marriage I became a stronger person. I became aware of the strength of my intuition and learned that some things just aren’t meant for a lifetime. And this is okay.

Divorce is not a dirty word. It is not failure. It is an experience. Never a good experience, and sometimes much worse for some, but it is an experience. I try not to regret marrying so young and I often wonder how my life would have turned out differently if I hadn’t. But without that experience I would not have gained the clarity that I have now.

So when my younger children are old enough to ask me about the photograph on the mantel piece picturing my father and I taken on my first wedding day, I will not be ashamed. I will explain to them that sometimes in life, the path you take is not the one you will end up on, but it may well be the most important life lesson you ever learn.

Have you experienced the shame of failure associated with divorce? Or was it a moment of clarity?

 

Why not share this?

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Jodi Gibson - to view all of Jodi's blog post click here

Jodi Gibson, a.k.a. Lipgloss Mumma, is a freelance writer, blogger, self-published non-fiction author and aspiring fiction author. In her spare time she, usually unsuccessfully, juggles being a wife, mothering four girls and running two businesses. Jodi is a constant dreamer, chaser of wisdom and lover of music trivia and cycling.

Website: http://www.jfgibson.com.au

  • My situation was very similar, although in my case I was the only naive one marrying a man 12 years older than me when I was 21. I carried guilt for years after I left him when I was 24, I felt like I had failed everybody. I don’t really talk about it as its been over 10 years since we divorced, it feels like a completely different lifetime. I think going through a divorce makes you realize how much we are judged for our choices and I was made to feel incredibly bad about myself because of it. It’s like any judgement of another though, you really don’t know what it’s like until you walk a mile in their shoes. I feel blessed that everything worked out for me in the end and I am now married again with a beautiful little girl. It was all worth it in the end.

    • Hi Shelley,
      The judgement is tough to deal with especially from those you are supposed to love you.
      Things usually do work out for the best and look at you now re-married with a gorgeous daughter! Sometimes we have to endure the tough times to make it to the good times.

      Jodi xx

  • Well done Jodi, for writing this so calmly and clearly, I bet it will help comfort many other people who find themselves in this situation. I felt quite teary reading it, I think because your maturity and the awareness of the pain you caused is so clear and yet you calmly say your truth.

    I didn’t marry young, quite the reverse, I partnered late and we’re yet to get round to that wedding business. I was very not-keen on marriage (thanks Mum and Dad!!) but I am SO glad that I never did marry young as, unlike you, I was very emotionally immature/desperate until I was about 30. And still maturing!!

    • Thank you Seana.

      I don’t think we ever stop maturing do we? I know how much I have grown since my twenties and even since turning 30. But pleased for the journey along the way.

      Jodi xx

  • I was in a meeting the other week and a woman likened the shame of mental health to the shame of divorce. She explained that she felt that when her husband had left her she felt ostracised and alone and that there wasnt a space to talk openly about what had happened to her. It was an odd place for such an outburst but I thought about it a lot afterwards, when my husband left me I found that my friends were so supportive, they embraced me, they held me up while I got used to my new situation as a single mum. I never felt any shame, I felt lost for a long time but no shame (which was probably a sign that I had checked out of the marriage long before it ended anyways). Nice article.

    • Hi Sarah,
      The experience of divorce is different for everyone. Emotions ranging from shame, guilt, embarrassment are very common. For others it may be a sense of relief or a weight being lifted.
      It is wonderful that you had such supportive friends and family surrounding you, that must have helped you a lot.
      Thanks for your comment.

      Jodi xx

  • Great article Jodi. I’m so happy things turned out well for you. Thanks for sharing your story as I didn’t realise divorce guilt was such a big issue for so many – most likely because it isn’t discussed. I’m sure many readers will be comforted by your story and be encouraged to hopefully let it go of the guilt.

    • Thanks Jane. You are right, it isn’t discussed. I recently took part in a survey for a psychologist who is writing a book to help with the shame and humiliation that some women feel after going through a divorce. Some of the stories she told me were so sad.
      So yes, we need to talk about it and make it a topic that is spoken of more easily.

  • melbo

    I agree with you – some things are not forever and there is no shame in admitting to that. It takes so much courage to walk from a situation that doesn’t work.

    It is not realistic to expect every marriage to last a lifetime – not when there are so many variables.

    • Thanks for your comment Melbo.
      You hit the nail on the head, there are so many variables in life aren’t they and the thing is, although we all change, sometimes we don’t change together.
      Jodi x

  • At lest you followed your heart to both marry and divorce. The mistake would be to lose that kind of passion. x

  • georgie

    THANK YOU Jodi.
    I am currently separated from my partner of 12 years – not sure whether or not it will be permanent but in this article you have captured so much of what I am feeling right now. We got together at 18 and are now 30 with three children. “We all change but sometimes couples don’t change together.” That’s us in a nutshell.
    I am struggling with the guilt and shame for being the one to call a time-out but we were both unhappy.

    • Oh Georgie, I’m so sorry for what you are going through. Just know that deep down you know what you want. You just need to dig deep enough to find it. It is far from easy but I promise one day you will look back and know which ever path you ended up taking, it was the right one.
      Stay strong x

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