A Desperado Asks:
Please discuss the shame people often feel about break-ups/divorces.
Shame, shame, shame. Such a useless but pervasive emotion with which we torture ourselves. But also an action. Ever been shamed? I was shamed all the time in a previous relationship. It was exhausting! And it led me to question my own judgment and motives which is incredibly damaging to self-esteem. Shame serves to make someone else’s opinion of you more important than your own. This is a very slippery slope. Really, what function does shame have except to keep us all toeing some line, and often an arbitrary one at that?
Shame sucks. We need less shame in our society. Which means we need to stop automatically judging others, and ourselves, so harshly when they don’t do things the same way “everybody” else does. Except those that are mean to kids, animals or waiters. Those people need shaming and lots more of it!
But seriously, it is normal to feel a whole gamut of emotions related to big transitions in life such as a break-up of a significant relationship or a divorce. You may feel sad, disappointed, relieved, regret, despair, lonely, happy, whatever. But shame has no place here. Shame says this thing that happened wasn’t supposed to happen and you are naughty for letting it happen. Shame takes no account of context, intention or the why something happened the way it did. It just says, you broke the rules so you are bad. Religions are particularly expert at shaming people as a means of keeping them in line. I say this here because I suspect a lot of shame related to divorce has its seeds in religion. There is a tendency to put the value of the marriage over the value of the individuals and their happiness. Kinda fucked up, right? I realize I am sort of shaming people here for feeling ashamed, but gaining a healthier outlook on your life requires some tough love now and again!
I think using terms like “failed marriage” or “failed relationship” invite feelings of shame and are horribly inaccurate characterizations of life transitions. I think it is more helpful to view relationships that have ended as chapters in the book of your life. Some are longer, some shorter, they may have different emotions associated with them, but all relationships end. Think about it: at some point, every relationship ends. By choice or by, well, death. There may be things to learn from past relationships, but there is no shame in a relationship ending. It just is.
kc is me