Is a relationship breakdown or divorce always a failure? Of course not – in some cases, it’s the wisest choice the couple can make, even though it’s painful.
The Australian Institute of Family Studies says the average marriage lasts about 12 years in Australia. And while one in three marriages will end in divorce, one in five will marry again. So maybe a divorce isn’t a complete failure – just a way to learn what you really want in your next marriage.
Instead of focusing on the negative (that the marriage is ending), it’s time to consider the positive (that a couple have been together for a certain length of time and have for the most part enjoyed their life together). Imagine two people who were happily married for fifty years, ten years, or even one year, and then realized they’ve grown apart. Their marriage served its purpose for some time, and when it no longer served its purpose, the partners moved on. In some cases, a marriage should end for the protection of the abused spouse, and this should never be considered a failure.
Psychologists say that a marriage that makes both partners happy while it lasts, and then ends if it stops making them happy, is the definition of a successful marriage. A marriage that lasts forever with one or both partners in abject misery, on the other hand, is not successful (though it is, by definition, “stable”). As writer Katerina Simms said, “Marriage shouldn’t be about grinning and bearing; to imply so is to guilt people into staying in sometimes-perilous situations.”
Even though it can be tremendously painful and difficult, divorce should not be regarded as a failure—instead, it’s an action taken to start correcting a bad situation. Although going through a divorce is often painful, don’t forget that the marriage itself may have been worse. Whether your marriage ends because of betrayal, or because you and your partner have simply grown apart, divorce is the first step to a better life—even if it takes a lot more steps to get there. And divorce doesn’t imply that the marriage itself was without value or worth, or that a marriage ended is a marriage forgotten.
Psychologists also agree that talking more about divorce will make the event seem less shameful, and therefore less likely to be viewed as a failure. People are so afraid of talking about divorce — and even more so about getting one themselves — because they are afraid that divorce will be a “failure” and that it will make them somehow inferior to their peers.
“People who are ashamed of divorce feel that way because they think the marriage failing is a sign that they are inferior,” relationship expert and author April Masini said. “The reality is that we all have failures in life. Some are in relationships. Some are in jobs. Some are in academics. Some are physical. Some are financial. Some are in health. This is what makes us all different, alike — and human. To deny failure, is to deny humanity. When you look at divorce that way, you may not feel so ashamed.”
Ending a marriage is a sign that your relationship is over — at least romantically. But instead of viewing that as a bad thing, you need to focus on the positive: You made a choice that was likely best for you, your former partner, and anyone else involved in the decision, such as children.
Some people will always be too stubborn to admit that, but through a divorce, you can actually begin to live a life that is authentically yours.
“In removing the shame-based ideology from divorce, couples are able to realize that divorce is not always a negative,” psychologist Carla Marie Manly said. “In fact, divorce can be a power tool in learning more deeply about the self, the relationship, and what might have gone amiss. As such, learning and growth for both partners becomes the focus. When shame is removed from the equation, a powerful shift in attitude and future behaviors can result.”
Like Manly says, focus on the growth stemming from the end of the relationship and you’ll find yourself moving forward in leaps and bounds.
Don’t forget that you and your spouse are the only ones who know what your marriage is truly like – nobody else can see what goes on behind closed doors and therefore can’t make judgments on your decisions. If you’re around people who are shaming you for your divorce, you need to ask them to support you, be there for you, and stop their negative comments. If they can’t, then they’re not worthy of your companionship.
If you need assistance with any aspect of separation and divorce, please contact our friendly, experienced team today. We offer a FREE, 10-minute phone consultation.