Our society doesn’t like things to be out of order. It says, we should all be in loving relationships and if you’re not, then there’s something wrong with you. Your challenge then becomes eliminating the shame of not being partnered.
I remember, viscerally, the feeling of being shunned and ostracized by the women who were part of my neighbourhood Mom tribe. The many years of supporting each other with our children: the PTA meetings, Fund-raisers, last-minute babysitting, chicken soup deliveries during flu season, summer camp and birthdays, seemed to do nothing to bond us in eternal sisterhood when I became divorced.
Without any reason, what-so-ever, I stopped getting invitations to barbecues and outings. It was as if I no longer existed. I was the same person, but somehow, I felt judged and sentenced for wanting to leave my abusive relationship. Most of my friends didn’t reach out or offer to take me to dinner or a tea and see how I was doing. Yet, my EX was received with open arms, given places to stay, endless meals and emotional support, while I tried to keep it together and make sure the kids were unscathed.
Shame and Back-stabbing
Interestingly, one of my closest friends, who once told me a story of when she became very ill. Her neighbor came over with a dinner casserole for her husband, because of course he wouldn’t have a hot meal that night with a sick wife. She didn’t think of perhaps bringing a pot of chicken soup for her sick friend. We were both appalled by this behavior. One of our own, being so unsupportive to a sick sister and instead trying to get “brownie points” with the husband. A bit back stabby, right?
So, when this same friend stopped communicating with me and never once called to see how I was doing, I became perplexed. “But you just complained about your neighbor and here you are doing the same thing to me – not supporting the wounded sister.” WTF
I had the divorce cooties
This type of shaming isn’t isolated. We as women have to experience many versions of shaming throughout our lives. Yes, men do as well of course, but in this context, it’s always the men who quickly find a new partner (see, he really is the good one), while the women are committed to healing themselves and don’t often jump back in.
Women know that it’s time to heal and perhaps it’s time to learn how to make a better choice with the next partner. But in the meantime, we are seen as some sort of pariah, just waiting for a chance to snatch up the middle aged overweight lazy ass husbands of our friends. Ridiculous!
“Shame is the poison plant of emotions”
Dr. Peter Levine says, “Shame is the most powerful emotion in many ways because of the way it sneaks up and takes over”.
Unlike guilt, which is when you do something that you feel badly about and then goes away, shame is a sentence of judgment that is declared on your being. It becomes your definition of yourself.
Shame relies heavily on social and cultural norms to exist.
This further reinforces your shame when you don’t fit in to the couple’s club anymore. Then you discover that it’s not just the community doing the shaming, it’s also your internal dialogue – that inner critic that makes situations impossible to overcome. The reality is that your inner critic has always been there and this is just something new to reinforce your sense of unworthiness.
This loop continues throughout our lives. And we all suffer from shame BTW. No one gets out of the shame den unscathed!
Brene Brown says, “I define shame as the intensely painful feeling or experience of believing that we are flawed and therefore unworthy of love and belonging – something we’ve experienced, done, or failed to do makes us unworthy of connection. I don’t believe shame is helpful or productive.”
It’s not productive at all. In fact, it cripples our love lives. If you have a deep belief that you are “flawed and therefore unworthy of love and belonging” then you will manifest a life of that thing you fear… being alone and feeling unworthy of love and belonging.
So, how do we eliminate the shame of not being partnered?
We refer to this behavior as self-sabotage. It’s when you put up blocks on your path to love.
You might not even be aware you are doing it. It can be a subtle as using your feelings to create a block. An obvious one is when you have a date to meet someone new and you suddenly feel sick and have to cancel. You can actually make yourself sick for fear of being judged or the thought of rejection.
This is shame at work here.
We look to the body to heal our shame
Shame in our body can present like trauma. Shame is a deeply parasympathetic state. Very close to depression and can be debilitating. We are hunched, our head is down, we walk with trepidation. Severe cases can also present like PTSD. We see these individuals on the street every day and you may be seeing it in the mirror every morning.
We step out of shame by changing our body energy. It’s not about changing your body per se. But it is about releasing the heaviness of shame energy from it.
Eliminating the shame of your breakup and not being partnered
We are energetic beings (you already know this) and our mind tells us how to use our body. It’s your job to pay attention to your body and how you hold yourself.
Look at yourself every morning and evening in a full mirror (if possible). Observe what happens to your body when you ask yourself this question:
What am I most unhappy about my life right now?
Watch how your body reacts. Pay attention to how this feels. Are you slumping your shoulders? Has your head dropped?
Now, let’s reframe the first statement.
Acknowledge that you feel this way. I’ll use a very simple example.
“I see how I feel ___________, but I am not a __________ person. This is just a part of me”
Then write down your shame statement on a card. Turn it over and write the disputing statement.
“I feel alone and worthless” becomes “ I am alone but I’m worthy of love and attention because I have friends who love me.”
Now see how your body changes when you read the disputing statement. Notice how you may be standing taller, your head may come up and shoulders go back to centre.
Keep this card with you and remember the feeling in your body. The next time that shame master shows up, you can instantly correct your body while you are ready the disputing statement.
Read the disputing statement at least 5 times in a row to start.
You can remove the sense of shame by eliminating the negative voice along with changing how your body reacts. Freeing your body and mind from the inner critic has to be your main job when you are working on reclaiming your love life. And eliminating the shame of not being partnered is a job for society as well. But it all starts with you.