The shame of divorce in the 21st century

23 Sep 2018

Divorce is becoming increasingly common; the burden of shame, failure, and blame continues to haunt divorcees and women are suffering the worst of it.

The end of a marriage normally brings about normal reactions of shame and guilt; these feelings arise when people feel a sense of failure—of not having fulfilled their own or their community’s expectations. In the case of divorce, people often feel guilt and/or shame because they have failed to stay married for life. This might be a matter of personal expectations—not fulfilling the promises made to a spouse—and also partly a matter of not fulfilling what their culture seems to expect from them. Divorce has from a long time always provoked both strong and firm opposition, opponents of divorce say that the family is the basic moral and economic unit of society and the divorce made easy craze would bring about social disintegration. Others on one hand argue that marriages are failing anyway so divorce just makes it easy and regulated. Similarly, shame often transforms into blame, anger or rage directed at the spouse.

Thabiso Gulubane of Maphakwane & Partners says although the shame that comes with divorce is still there it is not as rife as it used to be. “The general concept of marriage is that it is more like the merging of families therefore a lot are somewhat ‘forced’ to stay together because the families refuse to entertain the idea because culturally divorced is viewed as shameful.  A lot of churches also discourage the idea of divorce; we get clients who even when divorce seems to be the best option they resist because it goes against their religion, ‘what will the church say’. We see divorce cases everyday and it is quite troublesome, I think it really all boils down to the people married and how they interrelate. “He says the rate at which divorce is high these days the emergence of divorce lawyers wouldn’t be surprising, it could be a lucrative market.

Lemo Otukile who works at Remax Property Specialists in Gaborone and is currently divorced related her story:  “I felt a sense of shame because, as the child of divorced parents, I grew up determined that I wasn’t going to get divorced.  I thought I had done all the right things to protect my marriage, as though I was investing in an insurance policy, but the dreams I had for my future had died. The primary reason for shame around my divorce was because I perceived it as a failure on my part.  I failed at my marriage.  I failed to make it work.  I failed because my ex fell out of love with me.  I failed because I wasn’t good enough.” She says she is working towards not feeling that way anymore and just move on with life.

Boipelo Olaotse a call assistant at Orinoco Call Center in Gaborone; says a lot of people get divorced nowadays.”The times we are living in, comprise the age of instant communication and frequent relocation amongst others. The computer and internet revolutions today have impacted the institution of marriage directly as well as indirectly, because they have taken over every aspect of human life and society. Consequently, the trials married couples faced even a hundred years ago (or less) were totally different in nature and severity from those that married people face today. Marriage isn’t taken as seriously as it was back then and even though there is still shame attached, young people don’t really care about the shame and stigma that comes with divorce”