1. People & Relationships
Cathy Meyer

What Roles Do Guilt and Shame Play During The Divorce Process?

By October 21, 2013

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Shame during divorce

"Why is my ex so unwilling to negotiate and compromise?" It is a question I hear often from those engaged in a high conflict divorce.

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 humiliation and disgrace your ex feels about their behavior the worse the divorce process will be for you.

Doesn't make sense does it? You would think that someone who feels shame over their behavior would adjust that behavior to be less shameful instead of heaping more bad behavior on top. Irrational!

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

January 5, 2014 at 3:57 pm
(1) Tony says:

I was attracted by this article, because until I am married, divorce is possible or even highly probable and it seems to me that guilt and shame could considerably influence eventual divorce process. In the given situation, it is much more likely that divorce will be suggested by wife, not me. And if this happens, she may first propose amicable separation. I guess I could feel guilty for the state of marital relationship and ready to accept the proposal. However, what if the proposed terms would be too steep for me, unfair, for example, anticipating that I stay without own living place, in a material adverse situation? Probably I would not agree to that and then wife would file for divorce proceedings in court. The court would perhaps be more indulgent. But the court would rule not only on the division of joint property and other conditions of separation, but also if conditions for divorce are met. In relation with this the problem of shame may appear, when the court trying to prove wife’s position, which could be “our marital relationship is unsatisfactory for me because husband has become a gay and wants to stay so”. Revealed in court would be details about my sexual preferences and behavior, which I would be ashamed of. This could be too much for me and could began behaving in a conflict way. Shame can be a problem indeed. I wonder what to do if wife really proposes divorce?

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