5 Ways To Reduce The Stigma Of Divorce

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Stigma Of Divorce: Ways To Normalize Divorce

One of the worst parts of getting divorced is the stigma that comes with it; the social stigma of divorce is sometimes more painful than the actual divorce. That’s why it’s important to normalize divorce and reduce this stigma of divorce. This article is going to explore the best ways to cut back on the stigma of divorce.

KEY POINTS

  • The language in Western cultures around divorce reinforces the stigma of divorce.
  • Normalizing divorce can reduce the stigma and foster a more supportive environment for those going through it.
  • Divorce is often a difficult and emotional process, and offering support can make a significant difference.

Laura Wasser is known as the celebrity divorce lawyer. Her clients include Angelina Jolie, Heidi Klum, Kim Kardashian, Kris Jenner, Johnny Depp, Ryan Reynolds, Christina Aguilera, Hilary Duff, Stevie Wonder, Patricia Arquette, Kate Walsh, and Maria Shriver.

Recently, she appealed to People magazine to stop using the term “failed marriage.” She would like to see divorce de-stigmatized and normalized.

The language in Western cultures around divorce reinforces the stigma of divorce. Using terms such as “broken home” or “custody” adds to the stigma. In California, the petition to divorce includes the phrase “You are being sued.”

Some religions and cultures forbid divorce or make it very difficult to obtain a divorce. And, yet, the divorce rate remains very high.

How can we foster a culture of understanding and support for people navigating this challenging life transition? The shift has begun, as I remember in the 1950s when my mother encountered landlords who refused to rent apartments to divorced women or mothers.

But the change has been slow, and we need to continue to destigmatize this very common life event. So how can we reduce the stigma of divorce?

Related: 4 Reasons Why Staying In A Bad Marriage Is Worse for Kids Than Divorce

5 Ways To Reduce The Stigma Of Divorce

1. Be aware of the words you use when discussing divorce.

Use respectful and empathetic language. I use terms like “one family under two roofs” and “sharing parenting time.” By using neutral, non-blaming, and compassionate language, you help to create a more supportive and inclusive discourse around divorce.

Encourage your friends to share their experiences of divorce without fear of shame, blame, or criticism. Phrases such as “I’m here to support you” or “I can only imagine how challenging this must be for you” convey empathy and solidarity.

Share your understanding that divorce is sometimes the healthiest option for individuals and families.

Reducing the stigma of divorce
Normalise divorce

2. Normalizing divorce can reduce the stigma associated with it and foster a more supportive environment for those going through it.

Given that nearly half of marriages end in divorce, divorce is a common life transition. Share stories of personal growth, resilience, successful co-parenting, and post-divorce success.

Many thrive after divorce, and highlighting these stories can help encourage people during divorce and counteract stigma and negative stereotypes. Speak to the positive outcomes and opportunities. For instance, instead of describing divorce as a “traumatic event,” reframe it as a “challenging but transformative experience.”

3. If you are divorcing, talk about your own experience.

Leading by example can help reduce stigma and encourage others to feel more comfortable discussing their own situations.

Related: 8 Lessons To Learn From A Divorce

4. Stay present and involved with friends going through divorce.

Recognize that divorce is often a difficult and emotional process, and offering support can make a significant difference. Every divorce is different, but most divorces are painful because no one plans to divorce when they marry.

Clients have shared that they feel abandoned by friends and wonder if friends are judging them or think divorce is contagious.

Amy (not her real name) tells me that her friends James and Diane call and invite her every time they go out to dinner or a movie. Having a supportive community can help reduce feelings of isolation and stigma.

Reducing the stigma of divorce
Normalise divorce

5. Share the importance of working through difficulties in relationships before pursuing divorce.

I was once asked if I am “pro-divorce.” My response is that I am pro-healthy relationships. If effective communication skills can prevent divorce, I encourage this.

However, I also recognize that divorce can sometimes be the best option for clients and families in unhealthy, unsafe, or abusive situations.

Related: A Perfect Divorce: 12 Tips For Having A Healthy Divorce

By being conscious of our own beliefs about divorce and changing how we talk about it, we can create a more supportive and understanding environment for people going through it. Eventually, as more of us do this, we will reduce the stigma associated with divorce.

© Ann Gold Buscho, Ph.D. 2024

Check out more of Ann Gold Buscho’s works on her blog here.

References:

Gillian Telling. Celebrity Divorce Lawyer Laura Wasser Wants to Retire the Term 'Failed Marriage' (Exclusive). People. January 31, 2024.

Written By Ann Gold Buscho Ph.D.
Originally Appeared On Psychology Today
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