We have made so much progress in the realm of matrimony over the years. Same-sex marriage, no-fault divorce, and the paternal right to equal custody keep us moving forward as a society amid the hotbed issues of marriage and divorce. However, there is still one area in which we seem to be stuck: our perceptions of marriage and divorce.
Back in the 1950s and earlier, divorce was widely considered disgraceful and humiliating. It was equated with complete and utter failure, and for a woman in particular, the demise of her marriage represented the end of her life. In contrast, marriage represented the ultimate accomplishment, the pinnacle of social status.
Here we are in 2012, and not much has changed. Divorce is a dirty word, and it has been referred to as “contagious,” as if it is some awful disease. Being divorced—or even single, for that matter—is often seen as undesirable and tragic. Marriage, in contrast, is seen as a rescue ship from singledom, a guarantee of eternal happiness.
Most of what you know about marriage and divorce comes from external sources. From the happily-ever-after stories ingrained in you from Disney movies to the volatile divorce conflict between your parents growing up, your perceptions of marriage and divorce live inside of you both in and out of consciousness. When you combine this internal schema with your present-day outside influences, you may find that processing your experience of divorce can be confusing and conflicting. You may feel completely at peace with your divorce, but find that friends and family look at you with pity and regret. You may also feel like a complete wreck inside, while people around you can’t understand why you aren’t simply relieved to be out of the relationship.
The important thing to remember is how you choose to experience divorce is completely up to you. Divorce is not contagious, nor is it hereditary. It is simply a life transition that forces you to challenge everything you thought to be true.
What you believe colors the way you see the world. Your beliefs are powerful and have a great impact on how you feel and behave, and they will ultimately affect the quality of your experience as you transition through and move on from your divorce. Beliefs can be categorized both positively and negatively, determined ultimately by how those beliefs affect your overall well-being. For example, if you believe your life is over because you are divorced, you may very well stop living. If you believe that your divorce could be a stepping stone to something better, you will aspire to make it happen. The choice is yours.
Here are five steps to help you begin uncovering your beliefs about marriage and divorce so you can develop perceptions that benefit you, and improve your well-being, as you move on from divorce:
- Make a list of all of your beliefs about marriage and divorce without judgment or editing.
- Go through the list and eliminate the beliefs that don’t serve you. These would be the ones that make you sad, angry, resentful, or embarrassed.
- Using the beliefs you kept, make a new list by adding any beliefs you aspire to have (even if you don’t believe these beliefs just yet).
- Review the list again and eliminate any belief, old or aspired, that could potentially keep you stuck in the pain of your past or fear of your future.
- Create one final list of positive beliefs that you can refer to on a daily basis as a reminder of your growth and well-being.
As you begin to let go of negative beliefs, and incorporate more positive ways of seeing your experience and situation, you will begin to change both internally and externally. Remember that you don’t always have to believe what you think!
© Copyright 2012 GoodTherapy.org. All rights reserved. Permission to publish granted by Andra Brosh, PhD, BCHN, therapist in Pasadena, California
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