Divorce Support: Labels Do Not Define Us

Check marital status here: You’re at the dentist’s office and you notice while filling out the new patient application that there is a question about marital status. It’s just a little box on some little form, whose purpose you cannot be certain about and whose presence you might resent.  Why do they want to know your marital status?  Why include “divorced?”  Wouldn’t “single” be good enough?

A check box does not define you. If you find yourself asking that question before checking that box (and wondering if being single is good enough), try to remember that it’s just a box – just a label.  It does not define who you are or how you are in the world at large.  Yes, single is good enough.  So are you.

The following are a few tips to help adjust your lens and increase your resilience during this time.

Changes. It may seem difficult to cope with all the changes that come with a divorce, even the mundane ones.  They seem to come at you, one after the other.  There was the literal change of address when I moved into my new place, then the change of address form at the post office, and then the change of address cards I mailed to my friends and family. While you’re mending your broken heart and working hard to start fresh, focus on these things as action items and don’t let them get you down.

Stigmas. Bristling at the idea of having to tell even everyone that you’re divorced may represent the strange stigma that divorce brings.  That stigma may stain even the relationships with those whom you are the closest to.   The trick is to remember that your perception doesn’t necessarily represent reality.  Do not judge your friends and family based on their initial reactions. Everybody needs time to adjust to change, and those who love you are no different.  It’s a tricky time for everybody, a tender time for all concerned—and a great time to remember that these people who may be walking on eggshells around you are just trying not to say the wrong thing and hurt you further. Let us not forget they can be our greatest pillars of strength.

Labels. When we marry, our identity becomes wrapped up in that new status and so, when we divorce, our identity feels wrapped up anew.  Suddenly, we don’t know who we are.  It’s natural that your break-up can cause your “make-up” to look unnatural for a while.  It will take time to see yourself more clearly, as being distinct from the status and undamaged because of the change.  Identity is not static, but we forget that as we get older.  The truth is that we’re always forming and re-forming the idea of who we are. Remember, you are not defined by a label. There are dimensions and depth to your person that could never be classified under one grouping, so do not let it get you down.

Remember! Something really important gets lost when we’re in the midst of all this change:  remembering what it took to make it happen.  It takes incredible amounts of strength to go through the decision-making process leading up to the divorce or break up and equal amounts of courage to live with the unexpected and unintended consequences of that choice.  Divorce is not for the weak of heart or the weak of spirit.  Divorce is about having the determination to make your life what it needs to be.  Making a change can bring out the best in ourselves, but if we’re not careful we can overlook that.

Perspective. The statement is not, “I am divorced.” Rather, the statement is, “I went through a divorce.” Who you are is someone that cannot be defined by a mere label.  Look beyond the label and see the truth: you are brave, you are courageous, you are your amazing self.

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2 Responses to “Divorce Support: Labels Do Not Define Us”

  1. Brett March 29, 2010 at 2:48 pm #

    I’m not divorced, but I have thought about having this with me always if I eventually got divorced. Having to always tell people because it’s a label everyone asks about. Sometimes people go bankrupt or lose a job or whatever and they aren’t stuck with a label for their entire life. Glad I found this site – it’s very helpful.

  2. dani44 March 29, 2010 at 2:46 pm #

    Instead of I am divorced, I will now say, I went through a divorce. I love that. That is incredibly true. I don’t know why people are so incredibly obsessive about putting everyone into a bucket. We’re humans. We have depth. We don’t fall into buckets – at least not one alone. Thank you – I like this article a lot.

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