Mental illness isn’t the only thing with a stigma. Stigmas can be found all over the place. I think divorce is one of those things that can have one attached to it, particularly within my religion. Marriage is considered sacred in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, especially when the marriage has been performed in one of our temples. Throughout my life I’ve noticed there is this stigma that if a couple who was married in the temple gets divorced it is because at least one of the two had an affair, has some sort of addiction or was physically or sexually abusive. I’ll admit, when I was younger and only knew how to see things from my own limited point of view, I thought those were the only reasons a couple should ever get divorced. Now, having been through a divorce myself, I see that there is more to a marriage than that. A truly good marriage is more than just being faithful, not having an addiction and not being physically or sexually abusive. Neither I, nor my ex-husband, had a problem with any of those things. Neither of us cheated, neither of us had an addiction, and neither of us were physically or sexually abusive. It’s hard not to wonder if people look at me and judge me because of my divorce, especially when they hear that it didn’t happen because of any of the aforementioned reasons. If marriage is so sacred, then I must be a pretty horrible person to end it otherwise, right? It might be a nice sentiment, but actually comes from an incredibly limited perspective, lacking understanding and any sense of compassion.
It has been six months to the day since my divorce was final. Perhaps that is why I wanted to write about this now, though it is a subject that has been on my mind for quite awhile. Another stigma, or perhaps I should say stereotype, that I have seen attached to divorce is that divorced couples hate each other and fight all the time. Stereotypes do come about for a reason, and, sadly, I have seen or heard about this sort of scenario a lot in the last six months. I will admit, my ex and I got into a couple of shouting matches while going through the divorce process and we continue to have disagreements now and then, but for the most part we were, and have been, pretty civil to each other. That’s because we are two mature adults who love and care about our children more than we care about ourselves. We’ve done everything we can to ensure their happiness through all of this.
Some states, including mine, make you take a divorce education class if you have children under the age of eighteen. I grumbled about it, because I tend to rebel against anything that is forced upon me, but it ended up being a really great class taught by a man who had been divorced himself, with two sons in the middle of it. He shared sad stories of couples who put themselves before their kids, but he also told us that you can make things work. He admitted there were times he wanted to say something bad about his ex-wife or put the kids in the middle, but then he’d think about what was best for them and would make the right decision. He also told us that they would all still go do things together sometimes. One of his sons played hockey so he and his ex-wife would sit next to each other at their son’s games, then they would both take him out to dinner after. What an incredible example of parents who put their kids first. I feel as though my ex and I have done the same thing.
Now, do I still believe marriage is sacred? Of course I do. We had our reasons for getting divorced, but, frankly, that’s no one’s business but our own. Instead of judging or wondering or perpetuating the stigma and stereotype perhaps it would be better to simply accept, encourage and love.