Often, when I’m leading a divorce recovery retreat in Sedona, Mexico or Montreal, the participants ask what they should say if a group of us walks into a restaurant and someone asks what our group is about. Over the years, we’ve jokingly decided to say different things – we’re a group of women CEOs or an international quilting club.
We’ve called ourselves circus performers or said that it was a high school reunion (in spite of the fact that our ages ranged from 32 to 70!) One year, we said were a women’s barbershop chorus but then someone asked us to sing – whoops!
But one thing we’ve never said, at least not till this year, is that we’re a divorce recovery retreat. We didn’t want people to know. Why? We were ashamed.
One of the themes that wound through our talks at the Sedona Retreat this year was how many of the women felt ashamed. It was taken for granted that it was more valuable to be married or in a relationship than to be a divorced woman. To be participating in a divorce recovery group, by definition, means that someone rejected them. It means that they are struggling to recover and are not the victor in the equation. It means that they are the vanquished.
We talked about this. We talked about how pervasive the view in society is that if you don’t have a ring on your finger or a partner in your bed, you’ve failed. So many women grow up expecting to be married – it’s the stuff of girlhood fantasy, particularly for those in their 50’s and above. It’s the goal, the expectation – it defines what it means to be an adult woman. It means that you’re valuable, wanted, desirable.
So then we talked about how to start to tinker with the erroneous belief that divorced women are “less than” and for the women to start see themselves as valuable. We called out the names of women we admire who got their fame through what they accomplished and not through husbands or partners: Rosa Parks, Oprah, Amelia Earhart, Beyoncé, Madonna, Mme. Curie, Mother Teresa, Ellen, Lady Gaga, Malala Yousafzai. We talked about what Serena Williams had printed on her shirt at the French Open this year: “Mother, Champion, Queen, Goddess.” You notice, the word “Wife” was nowhere to be found!
We opened up a discussion of how to shift our feelings about ourselves – to love ourselves and stop being ashamed – an emotion that comes so easily to women. Thinking it through and integrating that being single is nothing to be ashamed of is a challenge but it’s where we need to go.
So the next time all twelve of us went into a restaurant and someone asked us what our group was about, we proudly said: “We’re on a divorce recovery retreat!” We thought of Serena and owned it. Champions!
Share your thoughts below about the feeling of shame of being divorce and how you are going to overcome it. And if you are interested in attending a divorce recovery retreat, check out the Jump Up! happening in Montreal this September.