The overarching theme in the approach of Spiritual Divorce: Divorce as a Catalyst for an Extraordinary Life is transformation — discovering the magic of meaning and fulfillment in the midst of loss, disappointment, and despair. According to the latest numbers, there are more than 20 million divorced adults in the United States.
Before my review, a little Q&A.
“This was to be our 25-year anniversary but we are getting a divorce instead. We had a great life and I do not hate him. I want to remain friends with him and his family. We were very close and did things together a lot. Would it be bad for me and my grief recovery to remain friends? Should I just let our teenage boys maintain that relationship? If so how do I get past the jealousy of him getting to keep that part of our life?”
I know this isn’t how you might have imagined celebrating 25 years of marriage, but I commend you for the relative amicability you have been able to achieve so far. With teenage children in the mix, it is important that you are able to preserve your ability to co-parent and communicate with one another. You raise some great issues and I will do my best to address them.
In terms of your grief recovery, you will discover the degree to which you are able to remain friends with your ex. There are certainly examples of divorced couples who have found a way to maintain, or perhaps more accurately re-invent, a relationship after divorce that goes beyond simply co-parenting. However, it requires a willingness on both sides to have that as a goal and to develop the communication skills and personal mastery skills to do this. As you move through your separation process, I recommend you tap into the resources of the expertise of an experienced counselor.
In terms of your teenage boys and their relationship with their father, I would certainly encourage you to do what you can to support their continued relationship with their dad. They are old enough as well to express their preferences. You say that you feel jealous about your husband being able to “keep that part of our life,” but with all due respect that precious part of your life, ie your teenage boys, was only made possible with the participation of your husband. It is the ego that feels jealousy or wants to compare if you receive more or less love.
But your higher self already knows that there is no shortage of love. What I recommend to help you through those feelings is to keep your children’s best interests in mind and resist any temptation to put your children in the middle of their divorcing parents. Keep the long-term perspective in mind. How do you want your children to feel at a future milestone like college graduation or wedding if both mom and dad are present? Build and celebrate your relationship with your sons. Let your relationship with them be your primary focus.
I’m struggling with trying to understand how my husband was not the man I thought he was. His family is also really disillusioned with him. How can this happen to someone? How did I miss so much?”
Divorce can really warp your sense of reality. One day you’re madly in love with someone, planning your future, starting a family, and deciding what you’ll do together in your golden years. Then there’s the day where you might be standing in your lawyer’s office, signing legal documents about asset division and child custody, wondering “Who the heck is this person I was married to?”
The disillusionment and disbelief you’re feeling is something many people who are separated or divorced are quite common. Sometimes you see the relationship failing, or you might be the person who initiated the divorce. But coming to grips with no longer being in an intimate, lifelong relationship with your spouse brings up all kinds of questions. How can someone I thought I loved turned out to be like this? How can it be that I missed all these signs, or had poor judgment, to begin with? How do I make sure I don’t get blindsided and disappointed like this again?
The first tip I recommend to you is that love, life, and relationships will always have many twists and turns. Your logical mind can easily get stuck into a repetitive loop trying to understand your ex-husband and have his actions and choices “make sense.” The truth is that sometimes things don’t make sense. People can be duplicitous, deceptive, or even irrational. It can happen in the workplace just as easily in your matrimonial home. But pouring your time and energy into trying to figure out the emotional wiring of someone else is not going to get you any clarity that will make a difference for you in the long run.
The second tip is to lovingly and with a lot of compassion for yourself and starts to harvest the wisdom of your marriage breakup. It is so important to take the time to reflect on what we’ve learned from our past challenges so we can grow and make more aligned and empowering choices in the future.
Here are a few questions to help you reflect on the soul curriculum lessons that are here for you to learn.
- Were there signs of incompatibility that you missed or tried to deny?
- Where did you stay silent, disconnect or simply tolerate any feelings that your marriage was under some stress?
- Knowing what you know now, what would you do differently in future relationships?
Be patient and very gentle as you do these pieces of what I call “emotional homework” and you’ll start to feel more clear and grounded as you dig into it.
“The holiday season is coming up and I’m recently separated. I have two school-age boys. My stomach feels like a knot thinking how different the holidays are going to be now for them. Is there some way to make it easier?”
Family holidays are supposed to be relaxing and stress-free, but often they aren’t. Planning family holidays is a particular challenge for the millions of divorced families out there. In fact, one out of three Americans is part of a blended family.
Divorced families face an even bigger challenge with holiday planning with children shuttling back and forth between mom’s house and dad’s house. There are all those logistical questions. Whose turn is it to have the children for Christmas morning? What if both parents are having a turkey dinner on the same day? How do you handle summer break? What do you do if you end up solo on a major family celebration day?
The key for separated families, like yours, is to do some advance planning and preparation. Without that, holidays can end up being a time for stress and re-opening of old wounds instead of a time to relax and unwind, both for divorced parents and their children. There are some tips I can offer to make it a bit easier. First of all, instead of planning your holidays one at a time, …take a look at the overall picture of the different holidays e.g. summer vacations, Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year’s, Valentine’s Day, Mother’s Day, and Father’s Day. Plan and negotiate a few holidays ahead. Getting the big picture and seeing all of the options at one time makes it easier to identify trade-offs and compromises that work for everyone.
Be flexible and use your children’s best interests to guide you. Studies show that children do the best after divorce when there’s a cooperation between their parents and they maintain ties with their extended family. Don’t promise your children a special family time with you before you reach an agreement on that with your former spouse. The holiday schedule should be agreed upon by the adults before the information is shared with the children.
Ultimately, the family looks and feels different after divorce, so it’s a great time to come up with new traditions. Instead of the post-Christmas dinner family walk, perhaps you start a post-Christmas dinner karaoke contest instead. If you don’t have your children for a holiday, be proactive and make a plan for yourself. Find some friends to be with or get involved with charities that need an extra hand in the holidays, like a soup kitchen or family shelter. First of anything aren’t easy when you’re freshly separated, but I hope these tips will help steer you through your first holiday season!
Read the Spiritual Divorce Book
Divorce shakes us to our core, leaving us feeling lonely, flawed, enraged, undesirable, hopeless, and empty. Debbie Ford, New York Times bestselling author, reveals in Spiritual Divorce how this devastation can be transformed into a profoundly enlightening experience.
Ford considers pain to be a “sacred emotion” that can lead to self-discovery. For her, surrender entails softening the heart and accepting responsibility for our emotions. To reconcile with ourselves, we must acknowledge the personal characteristics we have disavowed and reclaim our projections, claiming the qualities we generally attribute to others rather than ourselves. Another important element of spiritual divorce is forgiveness.
“Every day you don’t forgive, it’s as if you’re ingesting tiny bits of poison,” – Dr. Harold Bloomfield.
This empowering book demonstrates how the breakdown of a marriage is, at its core, a spiritual wake-up call, a chance to liberate ourselves and reclaim our lives. The end of a relationship, regardless of who ends it, is a damaging event. Ford provides a clear plan for transforming ruin into renewal.
Debbie Ford, a Workshop Facilitator at the Chopra Center for Well-Being, lends a refreshing and helpful perspective to those going through a divorce. Her guidebook offers exercises, meditations, and Seven Spiritual Laws to help readers get through this dark and difficult period of life.