One of the worst feelings while going through a divorce is that you are going to be perceived as damaged once it is over. Revealing that you have been through a divorce to your family, friends, strangers and the people you may eventually date become something that cause you anxiety and immense shame. It is difficult going through a divorce, but the feelings that accompany how you will be judged take it to another level.
Not only have I had to endure feeling badly about myself for having one failed marriage, but I have experienced this twice! Each time I make a new friend or have entered into another relationship I dread the day that I will have to bear my soul and reveal my complicated past. I worry that I won’t be taken seriously, that people will think of me as a man-eater or will question my ability to be in a serious relationship and love someone forever. Unfortunately, these worries are based on actual events and stem from past interactions, so it is easy to fear the worst.
I was 25 when my first husband filed for divorce. We were very young when we got married (Me: 20, Him: 26) and had definitely married the wrong people! It was an extremely unhealthy relationship, but he was my first love and having it end left me devastated for quite a while. When I finally decided to get out into the dating world I realized that being a divorcée was a label that would be used against me. Occasionally when I would deny a man a date or say that we were better off as friends, I would be told that I’m “Damaged Goods” and would be made to feel worthless. Yes, men actually said this to me! I eventually began to realize that it was a defense-mechanism used by insecure men who couldn’t handle rejection, but at the time it hurt me deeply and triggered feelings of self-loathing and failure all over again.
The judgement and unkind words didn’t stop with men though. Women who I respected and considered friends would say horrible things behind my back because they believed that they knew who I was just because they thought they knew my story. One night I went to a local brewery with a girlfriend to dance to music and spend time together. As someone who loves to dance, I was drawn to a man who was a talented dancer and fun spirit. We had a blast spinning around and moving to the beat. A group of us ended up hanging out the rest of the night and I discovered that this man had a sorted past with a former female colleague who I had great respect for.
The next day the man reached out to me to ask for a date but I wasn’t feeling in a place where I was ready to date, so I respectfully declined and suggested that we remain friends. Somehow word spread that I had been dancing with him to my former workplace (it is a small town) and I heard that the female colleague he had a past with, whom I had so much respect for, had told him that I was a Man-Eater. When I heard this I felt a deep sadness unlike anything I had experienced before. Not only had it come from someone I thought of as a kind-hearted, non-judgmental woman, but the term “Man-Eater” hurt because it couldn’t be farther from the truth.
Just because someone has been divorced multiple times, does not mean that they “go through” men like they are worthless pieces of trash or don’t take relationships seriously. In my case, I married young the first time and was in an emotionally abusive, toxic marriage that destroyed my self-esteem and left me broken-hearted for years. The second marriage stemmed from my lack of self-esteem, vulnerability, and an emotional fog that clouded my judgement. I chose to divorce the second-time, because I realized that I wasn’t in love and I believed we both deserved to be happy. I couldn’t be the wife my ex-husband needed me to be so I set him free to find the person he should be with. Neither of these marriages were approached with bad intentions or with the belief that they would end and just because I have been married twice, does not mean that I don’t hold marriage as sacred.
I have recently befriended some women in my neighborhood. The other night I had a ladies night at my home with these new friends. As we sat around the fire-pit with our wine glasses in hand, my stomach began to twist as the get-to-know you questions turned my direction. “How did you meet your boyfriend?”, “Oh you aren’t married?”, “You’ve been married before? TWICE?” Each time I divulge my story I dread the outcome. I wonder if I am losing potential friends because they will think I’m a Man-Eater, or a relationship-jumper, or a “Slut”, all because these are the usual assumptions people make about me when they learn a slice of my past. I know you may be thinking, “Why do you even share this information if you are concerned of what people will think?” I share because I truly believe that by telling our stories, that is how we connect on a deeper level with people. The friends who are long-lasting, are a true asset, and add so much love and fun into my life are the ones who know my story and have shared their stories. We know all of the bad things about each other, but don’t sit in judgement, but love each other more because of our scars. These are the type of people I want to connect with, these are the women who are a blessing and add so much value to life. If I have to share my past a million times and feel the pain of rejection and false assumptions, it is all worth it for the few who accept and love me despite it.
The mindset that someone who has gone through a divorce is “Damaged” is incredibly ignorant. Fellow Divorcées, let me tell you something life-changing, YOU ARE NOT DAMAGED! Just because your marriage failed, doesn’t mean you are a failure. Just because you have once, twice, or multiple times been married, does not mean that you are a Man-Eater or a slut or can’t have a fulfilling, life-long relationship in the future. The ONLY opinion that matters is your own. I truly hope that you reach the point I have reached, where you are able to look in the mirror each day and know that you are a successful, beautiful, worthy woman, despite your past. It doesn’t matter if someone says you are damaged or calls you names, because those people are either trying to hurt you because of their own insecurities or are completely ignorant of what you have experienced that led to your divorce. These people are not worth your tears, concerns or time. The people who know your deepest secrets and details of your past and love you regardless are the true treasures!
Please know that no one’s opinion of you actually dictates who you are and don’t allow them to break your spirit! Don’t give up on dating if you’ve encountered rude comments on a date. Go out and find someone who realizes that being a divorcée means that you are willing to love and aren’t afraid of commitment. Don’t give up on making new friends because others have shit on your story. Keep sharing and growing and find those friends who open and are worthy of your time. Don’t stop dancing and flirting and having fun, because life is freaking short and the opinions of uninformed people aren’t important.
I wish you the best of luck. Live, Love, Laugh and Let the Haters Hate-On!