Women and Midlife Divorce: Moving Away from Sentences of Shame and Blame
Billson, M. Jane
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The author uses her own experiences to explore social responses to divorce and disclosure of trouble in marriage for women in midlife. Current stories of divorce are presented as limiting and blaming as opposed to an opportunity to thrive, and the idea of personal growth as a construct that offers an alternative to the dominant discourse on women and divorce is deconstructed and critiqued. How language locks people into telling stories of deficit and despair is looked at and a response-based approach to divorce is offered as a way to engage women in conversations about divorce that moves away from self-blame and blaming by others. The difference between a feminist approach and a response based approach is presented in a case study. A list of questions is presented in a helpful/unhelpful binary to demonstrate what questions may be more helpful. The implications for counsellors are discussed. Among the conclusions is the need for counsellors to be aware of their own biases, beliefs and assumptions about women who divorce in midlife and how inquiring about social responses and responses to social responses can influence therapeutic conversations.