Life After Divorce: Are you a difficult woman?

Being labeled a "difficult" woman contributes to the downward spiral of self-doubt that tends to happen to women during divorce.

We get that label not only from our exes, but sometimes from family or even from our best friends.  

We hear that it's the reason husbands cheated or decided to initiate the divorce.  Or the reason why we chose to leave, and wanted and needed something more than what the marriage had turned our life into.

Women hear things like, "You're too outspoken -- if you had just kept your mouth shut more, this never would have happened."  Or, "If you had just never, ever said no to sex . . ." Or, "You expected too much from him.  Men's self-esteem is too fragile.  You can't speak freely."  Or, "You need to be sweet.  You need to know how to butter men up."  And, my personal favorite, "You're too independent."

I want to suggest that by infantalizing men (the woman must always give in, the woman can't hold a man to his word and expect that he will act like an adult, the woman needs to read dozens of self-help books about how to cater to her man . . .) we keep all of these dangerous myths in play.

Why is this dangerous?  Because it casts women in the subservient role, as if this is the way it's supposed to be.  We need to be consistently fluttering around, making sure that everything is okay -- not only for the man in our lives, but for everyone.

When, for example, was the last time you saw a man poring over a self-help book to teach himself how to understand his wife better and cater to her needs?  Such books are hardly ever written because, as any publisher will tell you, men don't read them.  Most men are not worrying about how to please us, how to make us feel confident, how to build us up, and how to be sure not to slip up on catering to our needs -- and I'm not suggesting that they should be.  But, neither should we!

Are you a difficult woman?  I don't believe that the answer lies in relation to a man's opinion, or in relation to male/female relationships at all.  Rather, are you able to sustain good relationships with friends and in the workplace -- in a way that you feel your opinions are valued and needs are met, and the needs of others are respected, too?  That's not "difficult," that's healthy.

Cultural expectations for women's behavior in male/female relationships can't be held as the standard for whether or not you're "difficult."  So much is expected of women that is never expected of men.  Often, merely expressing an opinion is seen as "high-maintenance."

The same thing goes for how you're seen within your family.  Often families are structured to enable the needs of just one family member, sacrificing the rest of the family in order to keep up the charade.  If you're part of such a family, it would be devastating to trust their various biased opinions of you.

So, unless absolutely everyone in your life is telling you that you have serious issues, you're probably just a woman who dares to have a brain and an opinion, and who wants to be fully alive while she's living.

And that's a good thing.