4 Reasons Why So Many People Feel Such DEEP Shame About Divorce

According to the American Psychological Association, 40 to 50 percent of marriages end in divorce.

With so many getting divorced, why does it seem to inspire such feelings of guilt and shame?

It’s become such a common occurrence in modern society that it seems strange that a marriage breaking up still holds such a social stigma… yet, oddly enough, it does.


Comedian Louis C.K. hilariously noted this disparity when he pointed out that:

“Divorce is always good news. I know that sounds weird, but it’s true because no good marriage has ever ended in divorce. That would be sad. If two people were married and ... they just had a great thing and then they got divorced, that would be really sad. But that has happened zero times.”

In our latest Expert video (which you can see at the top of the page), Senior VP of YourTango Experts Melanie Gorman asked a panel of professional divorce coaches the big question — “Why are we so ashamed of getting divorced?

Our divorce Experts Laura Bonarrigo, Sonja Stribling, Cherie Morris, and Pegotty Cooper discussed the root causes of our societal divorce guilt and debated whether or not they’re actually valid reasons for inspiring such self-critical emotions. (Some are, some aren’t.)

You can watch their full comments in the video, but here are 4 of the experts’ top reasons why, despite everything we know, divorce still fills us with such feelings of shame.

1. Divorce goes against our values.


This doesn’t mean that divorce is a bad thing (at all). But it’s fair to say that most cultural and religious institutions are NOT big advocators for the benefits of divorce. No religion endorses divorce (though some are softening their attitudes towards it) and most governments incentivize people to get and stay married (through tax breaks and other means).

So, even though nearly half of married couples get divorced, our societal institutions have yet to adopt more open-minded and empathetic attitudes towards divorce. This means that when we make the decision to get divorce, it feels like we’re not being supported by society.

2. Divorce feels like failure.


And we don’t deal with failure well, do we? Even if it’s done for the best reasons, divorce does, in many ways, represent a broken promise. “We said we’d be together forever and… we’re not.”

In reality, divorce is more like just moving on from an unsatisfying relationship. Things have come to an end, we’re heartbroken, and it’s the healthy choice to try something new. But, because you stood in front of your friends and said “I do,” the whole break-up can feel more like a step backwards than a step forward (even if the opposite is true).

3. Divorce impacts our children.


This is sometimes the most potent source of divorce-shame — the feeling that, by getting a divorce, you’ve somehow let down your children or deprived them of a loving family.

Often, in these situations, we feel like we didn’t do enough to keep the family together, even though, in reality, it can be much more detrimental for the family in the long run to keep the parents in a dysfunctional relationship.

The key to dealing with this kind of divorce guilt is just showing your children, through your words and actions, that divorce doesn’t have to tear a family apart. Even if you really don’t like your partner anymore, if you keep your divorce civil and professional for your children, you’ll be able to leave the proceedings with your head held high.

4. Divorce isn’t supported by our communities.


You’d think that people would be used to divorce by now, but, more often than not, our friends and family struggle when it comes to supporting people going through a rough break-up. Divorces makes people uneasy. They don’t know how to offer help.

But how great would it be if our community didn’t automatically have such a negative reaction to divorce? What if their response to hearing that you’re getting a divorce was “Congratulations!” or “How can I help?”

If we can all stop seeing divorce as a cause for embarrassment and instead just start viewing it as a normal transition point in life, we would (hopefully) start supporting each other more and stop treating divorce as shameful thing.

Divorce can be an isolating, confidence-shattering act, but it doesn’t have to be.

More than anything, we should see divorce as an opportunity, as an act of hope.

Getting divorced opens doors to new relationships and possibilities — it shouldn’t be something that causes us shame or guilt. It’s just the start of a new chapter in our lives and, with the support of our family and community, we can feel proud about our decision to take those next steps into the future.

If you’re struggling with a divorce — or just need help getting through the process — please visit the websites of our Expert divorce coaches and contact Sonja, Cherie, Laura, and Pegotty directly. They’re here to help.