With almost 50 percent of American marriages ending in divorce, being divorced is not so unusual. So is there still a stigma to divorce? Here’s what Kim Katz had to say:
I do have a hard time introducing myself to adults at my kids’ school because I have a different last name now to my children. I felt I had to explain my personal situation to everybody which is not something I enjoy doing. Every time I go to school I feel they must look at me thinking, ‘How many times has she been married now?’
It has always bothered me because I don’t want to be judged but people do that. They’re going to judge – there’s still a stigma with being divorced. I don’t think it’s as bad it was. I think I put it on myself because anyone looking from the outside could say, ‘What’s wrong with her? How come she can’t stay married?’ It’s kind of a shameful thing.
I’ve always felt defensive about it. I don’t have much cohesiveness or closeness with my relatives but no one has ever said to me anything like, ‘It’s OK.’ It’s all that lack of verbalization. That’s why I try not to assume things with my kids and I try to check in with them and tell me they need to tell me what they want.
People didn’t really open up a dialogue with me and when I got divorced the second time I really withdrew from a lot of my friends. I just kind of shut down because I was really worried what people thought of me and I didn’t want to have to explain it.
There were three of us in the same neighborhood. We raised our kids together and we were extremely close. When I moved a couple of towns away the distance separated us but also they didn’t understand why I got divorced so they didn’t pursue it. They left it up to me but when you go through divorce you’re in no place to think about what your friends need. You have to totally get all your ducks in a row so you’re maintaining your work, your kids, your mental health and you’re depressed. Sometimes you need people to reach out to you and they really didn’t do that so we lost touch.
I was angry with them too because they didn’t really come round. They didn’t check on me. Finally after a few years of being angry, I just approached them and said, ‘Why did this happen? Where did our friendship go?’ We’ve reconnected and I’m happy about that. Now one of them is also going through a divorce and she understands now where I was with everything. For people who haven’t been there, they don’t understand.
I don’t think I ever felt stigmatized about being divorced. I have often felt awkward especially having to tell people when I was getting divorced. I do remember acquaintances getting divorced and my not really knowing what to say. Having been through it, I now have a much better appreciation of what it’s like and I now have the language to be able to talk about divorce so I think I would be a better friend now.
What has really surprised me, and frustrated me, is how inadequately school administration systems handle divorced families. Registration packets for example – one packet comes home with the child. If the school already knows the mom and dad are divorced why not send paperwork to both parents? I guess if divorce was truly accepted, they’d have this down to a fine art by now.