Divorcees shifting to the left

Oh How I love Hashkafa.com – usually I just roll my eyes and move on. But this is one of their posts this week and it does ring a bell.

I have noticed that many friends and acquaintances of mine (sadly there are many) who get divorced tend to shift to the left, halachically and hashkafically. Some of them are very gradual, some are immediate.

One friend started showing more hair, then removed her shaitel, then lowered her neckline, raised her hemline (mid-thigh length, for example), and now looks completely irreligious. She has not put on pants, yet, interestingly. She keeps shabbos, kosher, and stuff like that though.

Another friend took off her shaitel, put on pants, gave up her son to her husband without a fight, and is not religious AFAIK.

Another friend didn’t really move to the left, just *chilled* a bit and became slightly less stringent on certain halachos or chumros.

Is there something about a marriage gone wrong that pushes women to do this? Do other negative life changes cause this as well? Do widows act like this?

It seems like tznius is the first and major thing to go.

Has anyone noticed this? I find it really interesting.

I have found in my own personal experience that this is indeed the case. Many of the divorcees I know have had somewhat of a crisis of faith and have re examined where they want to be Jewishly. I know I did, I have written about it in the past. For me a lot of it was mourning – but I wonder what other women’s attitudes are towards religion after divorce, and why it seems to suffer afterwards.


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  1. Christine says:

    I know I’ve suffered crisis of faith after a divorce and major breakup. It’s seems that we, women at least I can’t speak for the men, tend to question our “reality” of faith because we questioned our faith in ourselves and our belief in our love. If that sorta makes sense? I know my spirituality has suffered with other major life changes/turmoil as well though. I think any time that we go through something that is a trial for us, we look at all areas of our life to see if it’s really helping or hindering our progress.

  2. fille says:

    I see that divorcees become more open-minded, and I appreciate it a lot.

    I suppose this is because they are rejected by their own community to a certain extent, or at least don’t fit in as they did before.

    As a BT, it is very difficult to be accepted by hareidim, they just don’t need you. As opposed to this, divorcees often DO need new friends, even if they are only BT and do not descend from jewish nobility, who tends to snob those “zigekimene” outsiders.

    So my anser to writer: Take an example from the divorcees and don’t judge people by their neckline or hemline.

    Many divorcees are very strong women who make do as best they can, even without much support from anyone, neither their ex, nor anyone else.

  3. fille says:

    PS: Sometimes women get so much really bad shit from their ex and the rabbis and the community until they hold their get in their hands. Therefor, it is completely understandable that they loose trust in “the system” (and stop believing in the importance of hemlines).

  4. kisarita says:

    It’s because they’re older singles now and that’s what older singles go through.
    Living up to community expectations has failed them, so why bother?

  5. kisarita says:

    (Also they’re in the meat market now competing for a man, and need to make the most of their assets)

  6. frumgoth says:

    I also shifted to the left after my divorce. I had become religious as a teenager and felt so strongly about it, so positive. I believed that it was the absolute right thing to do, my path, my destiny. Then I went through the divorce and I could not figure out why this was happening to me when I tried so hard to be a good person, live a religious life, etc. I just could not maintain the level that I had prior to the divorce. It has been many years since then, and I have found a religious level that I’m comfortable with, but most importantly I have accepted the fact that negative things happen and we don’t always know the reason. I can truly thank Hashem for everything he has given me. (went off on a tangent a little but u get the point!)

    • batya from NJ says:

      Frumgoth, i think that sometimes that after a divorce, women can often become disillusioned with religion especially when they sometimes realize that their supposed religious spouse behaved in a way that may have not been consistent with a religious lifestyle. This can be a huge turn-off for the divorcee who may feel hurt & feel that there is no point to bothering to live an Orthodox lifestyle when they have just been hurt by their spouse. I’m sure the same is true for a guy whose ex-wife behaves in a manner not consistent with Orthodoxy. He may also feel burned out of religion & question whether he wants to continue practicing or not…
      What’s important in my opinion is for the friends of the divorced male or female to be careful not to judge their divorced friend who is questioning their faith after the trauma that s/he may have experienced.

      • frumgoth says:

        That’s a very good point B. It’s impossible for ppl. to really understand what the divorced person is going through, so it’s extremely important to have their support as opposed to judgement on how religious they still are.

  7. tesyaa says:

    It’s quite possible that these women were never so “into” religion in the first place, but they kept the halachos because it was important to their husbands. Now their husbands are no longer their husbands, so they have some freedom to be themselves … which might mean that they are less concerned with halacha or at least with the nitty gritty details. It could be liberating.

    • sometimes what you are saying is true, but not usually. i think that the shift to the left is more of a reaction to being divorced and the whole ordeal of getting divorced than it does to them not having been all that frum to begin with.

  8. to be fair the men do the same thing it just isnt as apparent because they dont have as strict a dress code.

  9. Miriam Shenny says:

    It is a very sad truth what you have raised here. I have moved over to the left an awful lot, I always did it right, but when you get divorced something seems to happen from within and its a case of, I am going to let people know. I was brought up in a very sheltered and frum background and a large family of 9. Divorce is still very shunned in the frum community even though it is becoming rife. My community sided with my ex husband that I actually had to move away. As a woman unfortunately we do not count for very much. I have now a wonderful community which I feel supported by and a part of.

  10. Miriyummy says:

    Towards the end of my marriage (we divorced after almost 21 years) I felt very ugly. And by the time I got my get I felt beautiful. The hat came off, the clothes became more attractive (although if anything, the hemlines went south, I became even more Bohemian than ever). I wanted to celebrate the new me, and if that’s going left, then left I went.

  11. As Frum Single Female said above this is not a phenomenon limited to just women. Many men go through this as well.
    Divorce is a highly traumatic and highly stressful event that often leaves one with a good deal of time to reflect on life, and religion. For me in my darkest moments the question became does any of this really matter? I went(initially) from being pretty RW Haredi to being very LW MO, even to the point of not always keeping Kosher out. I have since come back to a more moderate(some would say LW) Haredi position, but that occured on my own terms. I actually started to put all of the Halakhic skills that came with my Semikha to use in analyzing the texts and the rituals .
    The Orthodox community is set up so that young people(or new B”T’s for that matter) don’t really have a chance to reflect, experience, or in other ways really question until they are in a position where those questions would be dangerous to the lives they have built.
    When all of that comes crashing down, and everything you feared losing is lost, then you have the ability to honestly re-evaluate. To begin to weigh and test your values and beliefs and find what is truly you or not.
    I wouldn’t overly worry about the drift to the left. Some will drift back, others will not, but ultimately they will wind up where they truly were in their hearts and minds.

    • Chanief says:

      Well written. I think examining religion and observance and how one relates to them is a natural part of life, but happens at a time in life where most orthodox individuals are married and raising a family. Questioning something so big that has the potential to change ones life in a big way is difficult to do when you have so much to lose if the answers lead you to a different place. Divorce leaves people with the freedom and a lot less to lose.

  12. e says:

    I have seen this as well in many, though not all cases of women who went through a divorce. I think they question their role in their communities and embrace their new found freedom.

  13. Batya says:

    B”H, I’m not talking from experience. I’ve seen friends go in both directions. It depends on how the community embraces them. My neighbors have been very supporting. But a similar negative reaction happens to those who don’t marry; they become less religious.

  14. Z! says:

    I think it is because living in Jewish communities we are taught that if we do xyz then Hashem will give us abc. As long as we follow the pattern, our lives will turn out as we “expect”, but as soon as bump occurs in the road, some people take a detour. For some this takes them very far away from the right, others directly into it.
    I believe this kind of soul searching occurs after or during any trauma. Stress in amarriageMostly, I have seen divorce as RESULT of one partner becoming less observant.

  15. Kew Gardener says:

    Related to much of what’s been said already — often people are thinking that the right-wing world is what led them into this mess of a relationship, and well look how far it’s gotten people.

    There was an OU weekend event on Jewish marriage a few months ago. They said for years and years, “premarital counseling” consisted of separate sessions for the man and woman, all about a few halachas. Giving them more advice about married life (including its non-rated-G aspects), or -gasp!- giving them counseling TOGETHER, was frowned upon as “not tzniut.” The OU was saying that sounds great, but when their beit din has been seeing easily a dozen divorces annually of couples married less than a year (and some of them pregnant), it’s time to throw out the old map and try whatever works. Because this isn’t.

  16. Just the opposite says:

    I am such a rebel! My reaction to divorce, once I settled down and got used to it as my new life, was to reevaluate my positions on everything so I wouldn’t make the same error in judgement in shidduchim the next go-round. I do believe this refocus helped me miss the acting out your frustration with religion phase I’ve seen so many friends, both male and female, go through after a split. It was not by any means an overnight metamorphasis, it’s still in progress. I went from covering my hair with a hat, to not covering at all after divorce (got a heter) to wearing tichels and sheitels exlusively. Not everyone shifts to the left. I went more to the right, but gradually.

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