Have our attitudes to divorce been shaped by our experiences as cave dwelling hunter/gatherers?

Well, maybe but what could we learn from a primitive life in a limestone cavern that could possibly be relevant or useful in our lives today?  Strangely there are some fundamental behaviour patterns that were formed in the early part of our evolution that still effect our lives today.  

cave painting Hunting, gathering and maybe getting divorced
We know little about the social organisation of Stone Age men and women.  A few fantastic cave paintings and a lot of stone axe heads is about all we have to go on.  It's clear that men were doing the hunting of wild animals and the gathering of fruits and berries.  The women were tending the hearth, looking after the children and preparing a hearty meal for the lads returning from the chase or from trudging through the forest looking for the low hanging fruit.  Interestingly a phrase still used today but with a somewhat different meaning. 

We can also be certain that there was pair bonding either formally or informally.  Given the stresses and uncertainties of cave life (nothing new there then) those relationships must have occasionally broken down.  So life after divorce may well have been a challenge to Stone Age people as well as to us.

Life after divorce was definitely not a picnic
What were the expectations of the newly single cave person?  How was the split signaled to the rest of the group?  What happened to the sleeping arrangements?  Who moved out?  Did fathers have their kids every other weekend or once a month, or what? 

Life for the men was probably easier.  They always had the camaraderie of the hunt and the shared danger of the chase to fall back on.  Whereas the women who may well have shouldered a disproportionate amount of the blame probably fared less well.  Being thrown out of the group and the cave would have meant almost certain death.

Dealing with divorce, our early experiences live on
However, the reaction to divorce may well be conditioned by our early experiences of cave life.  The hunter/gather life went on for hundreds of thousands of years so there was plenty of time for cultural norms to be established.  The family tribe had rules and obeying those rules was of paramount importance, disobeying the rules could be a matter of life and death.  However, the rules were different.  Men were not ostracised from society because of a broken relationship but women probably were.

It may be that in those times women took the blame for the failed relationship.  For some women that feeling of failure which has its origins in our very early history can be even worse than the fear of being alone.  They often take more responsibility for the marriage, for keeping their tribe together, and when it falls apart for whatever reasons they feel it's their fault.  That's the legacy of cave life and it can make an unwanted contribution to a woman's sense of victimhood.

What can we learn from all this?
Firstly we don't live in caves anymore and secondly both people in the relationship need to take ownership of the reasons for their divorce.  Chucking each other out of the cave or just suddenly moving out to the cave next door is no way to go about it.  Do it gently either with a mediator or a sympathetic lawyer is the best way to go.  The better the divorce the better the life you will have afterwards.

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