Divorce: Is ‘D’ the New Scarlet Letter?
One of the most common comments I get from people who have gone through divorce is that they feel like a failure. I completely understand this because I also felt like a failure when I got divorced. We feel like we should have been able to make it work, we wonder if we tried hard enough, we wonder what we could have done differently, we feel we’ve let our friends and family down, we’re afraid we’ve screwed up our children’s lives, we wonder if we could ever have a “successful” relationship.
Ultimately, we have let ourselves down, and that’s a hard pill to swallow. Nobody gets married with the plan that when their kids are a certain age they’ll get divorced. Nobody gets married with the plan that after a few years they’ll dislike each other and possibly do very hurtful things to each other. We’re in love when we get married and we think we’re going to be together forever. We have dreams of children and a home together, of vacations and adventures, of growing old together.
And when things change over time and we find ourselves unable to rekindle the love that was once there, or we are devastated by a betrayal or abuse, or we’re riddled by guilt over our own betrayals – we realize we’re breaking the biggest promise we’ve ever made, and that feels like an enormous failing.
While it is true that your marriage has failed, I don’t believe that makes you a failure. Just like when your child misbehaves, it doesn’t mean that you’re a failure as a parent. We all fail at tasks, jobs, relationships, projects throughout our lives – this is how we learn and grow. Babies fall down over and over and over as they learn to walk. Kids crash when learning to ride their bikes. Marriages end as adults change and grow, make mistakes or have disagreements they can’t resolve.
Michael Jordan missed the winning shot in 26 basketball games. Does anyone think he’s a failure? Of course not, but he had failures. And he learned from them. And he had many more successes. This is the lesson to take away. Not that you are a failure, but what you have learned from failing. Thomas Edison failed nearly 1,000 times before he successfully created a light-bulb that would last up to 1200 hours. He learned from every single failure and is credited with some of the greatest inventions of all time.
You have experienced failure and there are many lessons to be learned as a result. You now get to choose how to use those lessons to grow and succeed as you move forward in your life. Others may see you as a failure, and you may feel like you’re wearing a scarlet letter. But with such a high percentage of the population getting divorced, I don’t think there’s really a stigma attached to it – I think it’s mostly in our own heads. So just take that scarlet letter off and throw it away. Treat yourself with the compassion and encouragement you use with that baby that’s learning to walk. Take one step at a time and before you know it, you’ll be running and skipping through life.