Why Divorce Doesn’t Define You
In the United States, getting a divorce used to come with an incredible social stigma, which often included alienation from acquaintances, judgment and feelings of guilt that are almost unimaginable by today’s standards.
While remnants of that stigma still linger in some circles, our collective attitude about divorce and divorcees are, thankfully, much more sympathetic. It is still a stressful and difficult process, one that is usually done only when there are truly irreconcilable differences between two people.
Divorce is by no means easy, nor is it the desired outcome for two partners, but it is a necessary part of life for so many couples who have decided that life will be better if there is a separation. It is important for those who are going through or are fresh off of a divorce to come to a critical realization: Your divorce does NOT define you.
Divorce is No Longer an Outlier
We all hear the statistic that half of all marriages end in divorce, and while that statistic may or may not be accurate depending on the source, it is certainly the case that divorce is relatively common. The CDC puts the rate of marriage at 6.8 per 1,000 of the population and divorce at a rate of 3.6 out of 1,000. That means that divorces do occur at a little over half the rate of new marriages, though the statistic doesn’t provide quite enough context to allow us to make any sweeping statements about how many marriages actually end in a divorce.
When two people join into the union of a marriage, it is never done with the intention of someday getting a divorce. Yet, people change and relationships change, forcing many people to make the tough decision to separate from their spouse.
Is it a good thing that so many marriages end of divorce? No, if only for the fact that divorce represents the end of a relationship that is an important part of someone’s life. However, anyone going through a divorce should realize that they are not alone in the challenges that come during or after a divorce. It is a process that many of us have endured, and people can and do move on with their lives.
Divorce Can Be a New Beginning
When a marriage becomes untenable, it is often the case that either or both spouses feel isolated, limited and restrained in their personal lives. After a person recovers from their divorce, there can be an opportunity to start fresh, rediscover one’s identity and pursue things that were not an option beforehand.
For those who were in an abusive relationship, a divorce can be liberating and constitute a new lease on life. Abused spouses are safer and happier when not confined by the destructive impulses of an abusive partner.
For many people, one of the most challenging things after a divorce is recalibrating financial decisions based on changes in income, expenditures and overall living expenses. Though this process can be difficult, it can also be rewarding.
Whether starting a new business venture, finding a new hobby or simply making decisions that are in the best interests of you and your children, the control over important financial decisions can bing a surprising level of satisfaction and accomplishment.
Divorce Can Actually Improve Your Relationship with Your Former Spouse
In the throes of a tumultuous relationship, it becomes difficult for spouses to empathize and feel a connection to their partner. For both of the partners and for the children of an unhappy marriage, this dynamic can be very destructive.
Depending on how deep these divides are, the relationship between two people can actually be improved after a divorce. A mutual attitude of respect, along with the passage of time, can heal some of these wounds, mending a relationship to a point where the anxiety and animosity can be replaced with a tolerable, if not amicable,relationship.
Becoming a Better Parent
Divorce can have major consequences for the children involved, but so can being part of a destructive or abusive relationship. For many parents, the separation from their spouse allows them the opportunity to be a better parent and spend more quality time with their child. Parents who can remove their children from an abusive household know all too well that, while painful, a divorce is the best and, in some cases, only option.
Not Compromising When It Isn’t in Your Best Interests
Marriage requires many compromises and sacrifices, many of which are in the best interest of both partners. However, some of the compromises you make in a marriage are not necessarily in your best interest as an individual, and a divorce can offer the chance to be uncompromising in the areas of your life you wish to pursue. This could mean a hobby, business or passion project that used to be off-limits.
Rediscovering your individuality following a divorce can be the happy result of an unhappy process. Though it is not the most desirable outcome of a relationship, a divorce can offer the promise of re-establishing yourself and finding happiness where it once seemed lost for good.
If you are going through a divorce, remember that you are not alone. Some relationships have truly irreconcilable differences, and separation is the only outcome that benefits everyone involved.
Though it might not be of great comfort in the middle of or immediately following a divorce, it is important to realize that while divorce is the ending of a marriage, it is not your end. In many ways, it is the opportunity for a fresh start, giving a person a greater sense of happiness and sense of self.
Natalie M. Stec is an Illinois marital and family law attorney and partner at Wolfe& Stec, Ltd. Find out more about Wolfe& Stec, Ltd., by visiting their website or calling 630-305-0222 or 312-388-7882.