“What are your deal breakers?”
I asked a friend recently as she was talking about re-entering the dating world. She replied with absolute certainty, “Well, I definitely don’t want to date anyone who has been divorced before.”
I asked… curious as to the belief system surrounding this decision.
“Because people who have been divorced don’t know how to make relationships work.”
Almost half of the wedded human population will find their way to this land of the forbidden. That’s a large number of people to remove from our potential dating pool. I mean, for the most part, it’s not where people intend on ending up when they walk down the aisle. Sure, how a relationship ends tells a lot. Did they cheat? Lie? Perfect. Valuable information. How *any* relationship ends is information we can use to understand the person in front of us. The fact that there are divorce papers present adds zero value to what being in a relationship means to the person sharing their heart with us.
But we’re merciless. We shame the divorced. We put them in a box and tell them they don’t know how to make love last and how to create relationship success. Like “being married” means that?!? Because of these messages, we attach our self-worth to our relationship status. But the problem with this is that our relationship status is zero percent correlated to how great of a human we are or how great a relationship is.
But it’s hard to escape these thoughts because we have been sent messages from society, religion and/or media (which are all often synonymous) our whole lives that divorce is bad. As a society we’ve come up with a scale to measure how great we are at love. So, based on our metrics of measuring relationship success, we would rank our worth based on this listing (top to bottom…best to worst):
We hear people say, “I never want to get divorced”, instead of “I want to learn how to have thriving and amazing relationships”. In the first statement, our intention is focused on avoiding an outcome. So, instead of building the habits and rituals to have a great relationship, we avoid the conversations that may break us up. Ironically, these are the same conversations that will strengthen and build our relationship, if navigated correctly. The other statement demands of us the foresight and effort into creating and maintaining a great relationship. Wow, how our perspectives are so skewed. Ironically, we get what we focus on…
See, the reality is that divorce isn’t the problem, unhealthy relationships are. And there are plenty of people, regardless of the whether they’re married or not, who are in unhealthy relationships, including relationships with themselves. The consequence of the messages we send about relationships, is that we reward people for staying in unhealthy ones. We shame relationships for ending, yet the real issue is not being dealt with. We need to teach people how to have thriving and healthy relationships. The way to create safe and secure attachments is to have a relationship environment where we have the ability to speak our truth and feel like ourselves.
A lot of people who chose to leave their relationship, not just those who divorce, made being their authentic selves their priority. Not to mention that they’ve put what is true for them (needing to leave a relationship), ahead of their ego and their desire to please society, culture and religion. Now that’s a quality that I would love in a partner.
What about the people who were left in their marriage? Who didn’t make a choice but found themselves alone and starting all over?
I can honour and respect anyone who goes through a breakup and is willing to look at their role in the relationship. They then use this valuable information to build a newer and stronger version of themselves. These are the kinds of partners we want! Resilience and grit are unbelievably attractive qualities, as well as someone who embraces their growth and sees their most painful life experiences as learning opportunities. Talk about sexy! The greater challenge that the divorced face versus someone during a breakup, is that we vilify divorces, so often people end up feeling ashamed, depressed, and hurt because they’ve been put in a box, a box we’ve created.
We need to cut the bullsh*t. We should run an anti-bully campaign for the whole world. We need to remove our judgments of others. We don’t know their journey. We don’t know what goes on behind the closed doors of their houses. We don’t get to judge them, because we are not them. We need to spend less time analyzing and criticizing other people’s relationship choices and start to look at our own. We need to acknowledge and be critical of the narratives we’re subscribing to that have us becoming the things we choose in our lives. What often happens is we pressure other people to do what we’ve always done, because that makes our choices and our lives make more sense. We’re afraid what their decisions mean about what we believe. Maybe them staying unhappily married means we can too?
Let’s learn how to have thriving relationships. Are we talking about the things that matter in our relationships? Do we understand why we lose our temper and what triggers us to put up walls and withdraw during emotional conversations? Does our partner feel loved and appreciated? Do we? What’s our relationship like with our kids?
As for dating people who are divorced, I can’t be the only one that sees the massive flaw in our general logic?! The divorced offer qualities that someone who has been to the depths can offer. They know what it’s like to get to a place that doesn’t feel great and to try to do something about it. They know how to talk about the things that matter and they know what it’s like to challenge the status quo. They have put the freedom to be themselves ahead of compromising their happiness just to keep everyone around them happy. The divorced don’t deserve to be called the divorced, they should be called human, because that’s what they are. Just like everyone else, they have made mistakes, said the wrong thing, chosen the wrong things, and get to choose and find someone else to love them for everything that they are, just like they’ll do for their partners.
We need to stop shaming them, because we are them, they just had to sign some extra papers and probably spend a little (lot) more money.
Originally Published on Thought Catalog