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Cathy Meyer

Shame, Guilt and Divorce

By January 17, 2012

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I have an answer to a question quite a few of you may be asking yourself. I know I get plenty of reader emails asking me, "why is my ex so unwilling to negotiate and compromise?" It is a question I've asked myself about my ex.

According to a study by Anne Wietzker, of Ghent University in Belgium you can expect different behaviors during divorce proceedings based on whether or not your ex feels guilt or shame.

Evidently guilt "appears to be more pro-social, in that it leads to better problem-solving and more reasonable negotiation." In other words, if your ex feels guilt over leaving he/she will go out of their way to redeem themselves by relieving the pain the divorce has caused you.

On the other hand, "the stronger a person's feelings of shame, the more conflict-avoiding and/or forcing or intimidating behavior the person will show." The divorcing spouse who feels shame is more likely to engage in pro-longed divorce litigation and use threats and scare tactics to get what they want.

Basically, the spouse who feels shame has no shame. Not when it comes to the way they behave during a divorce anyway.  Or, the more worthless and incompetent your ex feels about their behavior the worse the divorce process will be for you.

So, next time friends tell you your ex is being a jerk because of  "guilt" you can correct them and tell them you wish that was the problem.

January 23, 2012 at 12:33 pm
(1) Emma's Grandma says:

After reading this, it makes real sense why my ex treated me, our kids and the divorce the way he did. It had nothing to do with being ill it had everything to do with the shame of his behavior. That behavior was fueled by his illness and an interfering minister. Ah, but she has to live with it as disabled as he is he moved away, out of state, to live by her.

January 23, 2012 at 1:42 pm
(2) Mem says:

My ex left our marriage after reuniting on facebook with his old flame. He took me to court to pay him Child support and he had 5 trust funds and I used 35K of pre marrital money to pay off his student loans and truck. He also wanted to impute my income to 40 hrs instead of 30 so I would have to pay him more money. He also had been putting away money from his family trust for years into a separate annuity.
Would you have shame?!! His family was livid with me when I inquired about the trust funds, so they turned against me. I only did this when he would not give up pursuing CS from me. BTW he won the CS on a temporary note because he did not report all of his income differentials He did all of this to someone who has health issues(RA). Today he is so ashamed that he projects his behavior as if I was the one who did all of this to him.

January 23, 2012 at 2:00 pm
(3) Jeff's Ex says:

Wow! This article speaks volumes regarding my current state of affairs. Our marriage lasted 16 months – he moved 1400 miles away and yet 18 months later we still cannot get through a mediation settlement without his crazy antics or demands.
There are no assets (everything was mine before we married), no large sums of money (we made it by comfortably, but no savings), what’s up?!
Well, knowing he is narcissistic and very controlling helps reassure me that I am not doing anything wrong, he is just unreasonable from the get go. He has a very clear rage, guilt, shame cycle that causes violent outbursts and extreme tantrums. I wish he had guilt! Even a thimble full :)

January 23, 2012 at 7:19 pm
(4) Julia A. Wheat says:

It is even more pathetic when the Judges cater to this behavior and allow a party to do this and prolong the action costing more legal fees, mental, emotion and financial devastation, especially to the children.

January 25, 2012 at 10:14 am
(5) Montreatgrad says:

All I can say is “BINGO”

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