Caution: Divorce Ahead. Proceed with love.
“Congratulations! You’re getting a divorce!”
When you tell people you are getting a divorce, there is an awkward moment of silence. It’s the biggest party foul statement you can make. Usually, the next thing that is said is, “Oh, I’m so sorry to hear that.”
But anyone that’s been through a divorce knows the emotional battle that has been waged prior to deciding to end a marriage. And putting an end to the suffering, for both parties, deserves only one comment.
Divorce is awful. But contrary to the evil images of broken families, broken hearts and shattered dreams, the divorce isn’t the problem at this point. It’s the solution. And it’s a profound moment of relief to hear the counselor say, “children would rather be from a broken home than living in one.”
Divorce doesn’t create a broken family, it simply exposes it. Similar to having your car breakdown on the highway of life, once you decide to divorce, all of your shit is laying on the side of the road for everyone to pilfer, ponder and judge. A couple that decides to end their marriage undoubtedly has years of financial dysfunction, emotional co-dependency and passive (or not so much) aggressive habits. It’s been there, lurking behind eye-rolls and sarcastic commentary, but denial is easier than dealing.
When the only thing worse than going through a divorce is staying in a miserable marriage, you know you’re doing the right thing. Yes, the RIGHT thing. Divorce can save two good people from a toxic tailspin that is keeping them both from living a great life.
It takes a lot of courage, effort and hard work to finally take control of your life. It would be easier to stay and simply blame your own bad behavior on someone else’s refusal to participate. Staying is assumed to be the selfless thing to do.
But selfless people who deny themselves independence, happiness and passion become martyrs that demand sympathy. No one, including and especially the children, benefits from self-denial. Everyone deserves the best. Always. Being unhappy is never a productive endeavor. For anyone. You can’t sacrifice your happiness to give someone else theirs. It doesn’t work that way.
Anger is similar to pain, in that it’s there for a reason. And the message that it delivers is always the same. You’re doing it wrong. Yes. You. It’s not your spouse. It’s not your financial circumstances. It’s not your job. It’s not your kids. It’s not your friends, or lack thereof.
It’s your choices. It’s your thinking. It’s your words and actions.
But once you realize that you are the problem, it’s the best day ever. Because then you can finally see that YOU are the solution.
Your anger serves a purpose. And continuing to live an angry life is only to punish yourself for someone else’s perceived crimes. When you take ownership of the anger inside you, and stop believing that someone else is making you feel the way you do, you will finally discover that it is only you that stands in the way of your own happiness.
Happiness is a choice, and that choice will require change. And if your partner doesn’t agree with those changes, that is their right. And if you can’t live together and be happy, then it is, indeed, time to part ways.
The spouse who finally calls the time of death on a rotting relationship will often take the fall with family and friends. If a cheating spouse files for divorce, that spouse is deserting the family. If the non-cheating spouse files for divorce, they are giving up on their family; unwilling to forgive. Because family and friends don’t want to be reminded that the rules of the game can change at any time, and vows are no guarantee of security. When life is comfortable, we want to believe it’s because we’re doing it right, and that it will stay that way. We collectively agree that if a marriage ends, it’s because someone did something wrong. (And so we pop the popcorn and tell our stories!)
But life isn’t personal. It doesn’t matter what cards you are dealt. It matters how you play them.
Marriage is more than just love. It’s a partnership. It’s two people choosing to share goals and make a team effort. But when you realize that you are no longer working for the same goals, the marriage seizes to be effective. Because then, it feels as though you must fight. And so you do. And the one relationship that is supposed to provide solace and support becomes a battleground filled with power struggles. Because if your spouse gets what they want, you loose. If you get what you want, they feel cheated.
You can’t win.
You are willing to stop playing the blame game. Because everything on earth has a life cycle; there is a beginning and the end. The glossy brochure that promotes marriage as “till death do you part” doesn’t mention that you can feel dead when you are still walking around. A death in spirit is just as significant as the death of the body.
But you can revive your spirit, whether you decide to divorce or not. In order to become happy, you must let go of your anger. You can’t hold onto both. If you want to get what you want, you’ve got to let go of what you have. Without fear.
It doesn’t matter who did what to whom, or who didn’t do enough. You don’t need to prove why you were unhappy. It’s enough to acknowledge that you are. You can’t earn a stamp of approval by listing a litany of someone else’s sins. Worthiness isn’t something you earn. It’s something you own.
When you enter into the solution of divorce, you must do so as a team. Because until the decree is final, what you do to each other, you do to yourself. If you want to “win”, you must want the same for your partner. As long as you are married, you win or loose together.
Divorce is a reckoning, and it hurts. You now have half of what you thought you did. Accept that as quickly as possible. Everything will be split…money, possessions and time with kids. You can’t get a divorce without the divorce part. The more you resist necessary changes, the more you will suffer during the process. Whenever you argue for what “should be”, you are failing to deal with what is.
There is no reality that includes “should be”. Get over it. Do you want to be happy, or do you want to be right? It’s your choice, and it’s that simple.
But as always, you can look at the glass as half empty or half full. Focus on the empty space and see it as potential. You now have room for what you want in life. You have the opportunity to make a fresh start. To learn from your own mistakes, not your spouses. Life’s a bitch in this way: it gives you the test, and then the lesson. LEARN IT.
The more time you spend ruminating on the hurts and bad habits of your spouse, the less time you spend dreaming your future into existence. Again, you are only punishing yourself for someone else’s failure to give you what you need. This is not productive, and demonstrates that suffering is a choice.
Pain is part of life, and it’s certainly part of divorce. But suffering is a mental state of mind that only you can change. You alone are responsible for your own suffering. You must identify the thoughts that bind you and the stress that makes you sick. And then make the necessary changes to let go and be well.
After all, that’s why you’re doing this.
Congratulations! You’re getting a divorce…
If you are even thinking about divorce, get NOLO’s Divorce and Money. Purchase an extra copy for your spouse. Because you both deserve to be educated on the laws. If you approach it as a legal procedure, it will become a business transaction that will free you of the emotional chains that bind. Another great resource for both of you is divorcesource.com.