“You may not control all the events that happen to you, but you can decide not to be reduced by them.” ~ Maya Angelou
If anyone told you that your marriage would end with pain and hurt, you would have never gotten married in the first place. The truth is none of us marry expecting it will end someday. But divorce does happen. So instead of judging others for their divorce or harshly judging yourself, how do you give yourself grace and love through this challenging time of change?
Toxic Shame of Divorce
If you’ve been divorced for a while, you have begun to adapt to being single again and have developed new routines. But there is this nagging feeling in the back of your head that tells yourself, “you failed because you’re divorced.” It’s hard enough going through all the divorce stress without also adding self-criticism and shame.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m a big believer in taking responsibility for your part in problems and that includes taking responsibility for your actions and reactions. But that in no way means you have to rub your nose in your mistakes or shortcomings every moment of every day. Shame is toxic and tells you that you are your mistakes. While guilt invites you to reflect on what you’d like to different next time. Taking responsibility and/or feeling remorse can be useful to help you know what to work on in your current or future relationships.
If you feel like you are doing ok in your divorce recovery but are struggling with releasing the shame you feel about your divorce, then there’s a little more internal work to do. Because in the long run, there’s no place for shame or self-blame in your divorce recovery. But there is space for self-discovery and grace.
Reveal Mindsets that Get in Way of Healing from Divorce
In order to make space for grace and self-love, you must first know what mindsets are blocking your growth. Here are some questions for self-reflection to reveal where you may be stuck:
- Do you tend to take more than your share of the responsibility when something doesn’t work out?
- Do you worry about what others think of you? Do you only feel good about yourself when you have others’ approval?
- When you mess up, do you think you are a mistake/failure/etc? Do you tend to let your mistake define who you are as a person?
If you answered yes to any of these questions, you are experiencing a form of self-criticism, such as shame, self-blame, and/or people-pleasing.
4 Self-Love Antidotes for Divorce Shame
In order to release yourself from being overly self-critical that your marriage ended, here are a few ways to become more loving to yourself:
- Be Grateful for What Your Marriage Gave You: I don’t think any marriage is a waste. It’s ripe with learning and growing opportunities. Make a list of all the things you received from being married. Maybe you have great kids. Or you have great memories. Or you sustained a relationship for a decade or more. While your marriage ending may not have been in your complete control or what you wanted, there are some things that you can’t lose…your memories and your growth.
- Appreciate What Your Divorce Invites: When a relationship ends, it invites you to reflect and take stock. In time, you will be able to appreciate the growth opportunities that arise because your marriage didn’t last. Maybe you realize how much you can care for yourself. Or you realize you can become an even better parent on your own.
- Take Responsibility for Just Your Part: Your marriage environment was created by both you and your spouse. Your spouse is responsible for his/her part, whether they own it or not. And you are responsible for your part, not the whole relationship. Which means you aren’t completely responsible for what didn’t work in your relationship.
- Focus on Self-Love more than People Pleasing: If you’ve always focused more on getting others’ approval, it’s time to focus more on giving yourself the love you need. Instead of over-valuing others’ opinions of yourself, focus more on your own thinking. Only you know the whole story and the loving truth that you did the best you could with what you knew at the time.
Divorce recovery is more than regrouping and starting new routines, it is also about finding yourself. Finding the strength you didn’t know you had to care for yourself in ways you never have before. And to become more loving to yourself, because you deserve to cherish yourself as much as you have cherished others.
Marci Payne, MA, LPC is a therapist based in Lee’s Summit MO. She offers online divorce counseling in Missouri. One of her specialties is working with men and women who are starting over after a divorce and need a little help finding and loving themselves through this stressful time. Schedule a free 15-minute phone consult to determine if she is the best counselor for you.
(Note: I am currently based in the Kansas City MO area, but I am working with clients throughout Missouri via phone and video sessions).