Drew Barrymore Gets Real About “Divorce Shaming” – And It’s Surprisingly Helpful

Inspiring Stories

In our modern times, divorce has become as commonplace as breathing. It’s a near-guarantee for nearly half the couples that get married. If there’s a 50% chance your marriage won’t make the distance, would you still walk down the aisle?

Some of our dearest celebrities have been through the painful process and are opening up about the toll it takes on your mental health, self-esteem, and general ability to function in society. Drew Barrymore has been around the block a few times; as a result, she is constantly reflecting on her choices and trying to figure out where each of her unions went oh-so-wrong. 

As a woman in her forties with three marriages under her belt, she is all too familiar with the stigma surrounding the very act of getting a divorce and how it severely impacts how you’re perceived in your community or within your circle. People won’t offer a helping hand or a shoulder to cry on, but they’ll be sure to judge you like there’s no tomorrow. 

Here’s what we can take away from Drew Barrymore’s disheartening experience of “divorce shame”: 

Drew felt like the ultimate “failure” for getting divorced

In an interview with Chelsea Handler, Drew describes divorce as significantly worse than a breakup. Outside of the complicated litigation, it proves that you made a severe misjudgment with regard to your personal life. You couldn’t find a happily-ever-after with your spouse, and so you’re essentially reneging on the vows you made so assuredly in your wedding ceremony. In short, it’s typical to feel like a “failure.” 

Drew Barrymore and Will Kopelman

When you get divorced, you’re like, ‘I’m the biggest failure. This is the biggest failure.’ It’s so shameful and hard to actually go through that, even privately. 

Drew Barrymore on Chelsea

Drew addressed the stigma in the initial divorce announcement itself. “Divorce might make one feel like a failure, but eventually you start to find grace in the idea that life goes on,” the statement read. The Never Been Kissed actor later explained to Chelsea she intended to use the word “failure” to accurately detail her frame of mind following the separation. Everything she’d built with her ex, Will Kopelman, was in jeopardy, and she told herself repeatedly she could have done better. It’s only natural to feel as though you’ve failed your loved ones by not trying hard enough. 

Drew Barrymore and her second husband Tom Green

It’s like, I don’t think I’ve recovered from that. I don’t know how to open that up again. It’s like something closed, and it stayed closed. 

Drew Barrymore on Sunday Today

At first, she couldn’t even process the development. “I took it really hard,” she told Sunday Today. She didn’t for a second believe the marriage wouldn’t be “forever.” That’s the expectation you carry as you tie the knot with your partner — you hope to be with them until the end of the road. You can’t imagine a single day where they’re not your husband or wife, so when it emerges that the relationship isn’t sustainable in its current form anymore, the revelation hits you like a ton of bricks. In fact, Drew Barrymore said there’s a part of her that’s still in shock and will not recover for a long time. When it’s your third time dissolving a marriage, and you still have to ensure you can successfully co-parent with your ex-husband, it’s going to be a steep learning curve. 

Divorce is a laborious set of circumstances through and through; it will, in most cases, trigger a sense of shame and self-loathing in you, and you’ll have to be patient to overcome the negativity. 

It took her five long years to recover and gain an appreciation for her marriage

Think about it: you showcased your love before the entire world, made these sweeping promises, and put everything on paper. This person was supposed to be The One, so you can’t help but ask yourself what you could have done better to improve the situation. The entire ordeal has sowed seeds of doubt in your mind about whether or not you deserve love in the first place. Do you automatically start believing you’ll screw up every single romantic commitment in the future?

When it’s just your run-of-the-mill breakup, it hurts, but you tell yourself there’s plenty of other fish in the sea. As Drew put it, you simply say, “yeah, that didn’t work,” and can move on with relatively little damage or consequence. A breakup is seen as an ordinary, if not necessary, part of your evolution — you’ll come across someone, fall in love, the connection will fade, and you’ll just meet someone new. The world will keep spinning.

Drew Barrymore and her first husband Jeremy Thomas

It took me five years to be able to speak with strength, articulation, perspective, hindsight, and see everything we did right. Because when we were getting divorced, it felt like everything was just wrong.

Drew Barrymore to Sunday Today

However, divorce is an exponentially bigger deal because marriage is an exponentially bigger deal. You’re signing a legal contract with your partner, so when the agreement gets violated, it’s only instinctive to feel as though you’re doing not only amoral but also straight-up unlawful. Not to mention women face the brunt of the judgment when a relationship falls apart. Everyone jumps in to applaud and sympathize with the man, whereas the women are made to feel like they’ve defied their purpose on earth. If you can’t be a suitable wife, what else are you good for?

Drew said it took her five long years to get to a point where she could discuss her divorce from a healthy standpoint. In her case, she had to undergo the five stages of grief systematically to reclaim some sense of self-belief. As a child of divorce, she was determined not to repeat her parents’ mistakes and wanted to ensure her daughters were raised in a stable environment, complete with a mom and dad who loved each other to death. When she discovered she had reached the same juncture her parents had over three decades ago, she didn’t know how to make sense of the moment. It felt like an immeasurable tragedy from her perspective. 

Marriage will test you every step of the way 

At the end of the day, a marriage that both lasts long and keeps the parties fulfilled is nothing short of a miracle. If you realize your marriage is better off not existing, keep in mind you’re not a failure. You’re one of the millions of people who decide to go through the arduous journey, so as long as you do what’s right for your heart and your loved ones, you’ll be okay. 

Before you pursue a long-term relationship and consider getting married, ask yourself whether you and your partner are truly ready. You might be mature enough, you might have financial stability, you both love and trust each other immensely, but you could still be woefully ill-equipped. Marriage is a whole different ballgame that’s going to test you every step of the way, but if you’re actually prepared, it will be the most rewarding choice of your life. 

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