Relative Evolutions - Evolve, Don't Dissolve
Jul 27, 2015 - divorce    No Comments

There’s Always Another You

A woman stands before a display of small boxes in a store aisle, staring at a familiar face.
A female shopper approaches.  ”Excuse me,” she says, pointing to a box.  ”Is that you?”
“It used to be,” the woman confesses, then quickly walks away.

I’ve been watching the Netflix Original Series, Grace and Frankie.  The show stars Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin as seventy-year-olds forced to start over after their husbands left them for each other.  There are many reasons I like the show (perhaps I’ll write more about it another time), but for now I want to focus on an issue both women faced in the first episode:  they are no longer who they used to be.

Each character arrives at the realization of her rebirth and processes it a bit differently.  But regardless of her attitude and actions, neither woman can deny the crumbled remains of her old identity.  It happens to all of us.

It doesn’t always happen through divorce.  The fact is, we’re constantly evolving.  The person you are now isn’t the messy-haired person who opened his/her  bleary eyes in your (or someone else’s?) bed this morning.  Your hair is styled now.  You’ve had new experiences.  You know more.  Maybe you own more shoes at the present moment, or have less food in your fridge.  In any case, you’re different.  We’re always changing.

Now, back to divorce:  sometimes it’s hard to realize how much we’ve changed.  Sometimes we get stuck in the narrative that we’re a broken version of the person we used to be.  Wrong.  That person is gone.  The realization might come as a terrifying relief.

Here’s an exercise:  Sit down with a pen and paper (or your computer), and write down the things you have, the things you know and the things you do since your partnership ended.  Consider the places you’ve been, people you’ve met, books you’ve read, classes you’ve taken and music you listen to… Think about the car you drive, the food you’ve tried, the clothes you’re wearing, the chair you’re sitting in and the people you know…  Regardless of the length of your separation, your list will show you another you…. A New You.

Do you see it?  Do you feel it?  What do you think?

…And, who do you want to become next?


Jun 23, 2015 - divorce, Uncategorized    No Comments

What Your Ex Can Teach You… About You

kissing a pig

kissing a pig

I’ve long stated that speaking badly about your ex only reflects negatively on you.  And that’s still true:  if you spend lots of time and energy painting your ex as a wholly no-good, dirty-down, stayin’-out-late cocker spaniel… well then, you’ll have to admit you’re the one who committed yourself to a dog.  Isn’t it better for your own ego to (at least publicly)  focus on the positive attributes of the cocker spaniel?

That said, there is something to be gained by examining the flaws of an ex.  But it’s not your personal power and self-confidence, it’s a deeper understanding of yourself.  Do you have a history of attracting the same type of mate?  Are you drawn in for the same reasons in the beginning, and turned off for the same reasons at the end?  Are you a sucker for an Aloof Bad Boy?  A Cold-Hearted Bitch?  An abuser?  An addict?  A manipulative narcissist?

Have you ever considered your romantic relationships to be a mirror through which you can study yourself?  Not just your potentially bad choices, but the underlying needs those choices illustrate.  Have you traced patterns back to your childhood?  Are you seeking a familiar wound in an attempt to heal it? Is there a lesson your soul needs to learn to reach fulfillment?

…That probably sounds a little heavy, and I’m not a therapist so I don’t want to get too deep.  I’m simply suggesting that the Gift of Self following a separation doesn’t lie merely in the free time and new space. Partners have a way of both happily and unhappily waking us up to who we are and what we need.  Don’t be afraid to look a little closer, you might find a clue to help you heal towards your higher self.

Does anyone have a relevant personal story to share?

PS… In the middle of writing this, I got distracted and read this fabulous piece from Danielle LaPorte, in which she similarly discusses betrayal as a painful yet positive turning point.

Apr 29, 2015 - marriage    No Comments

What is a Successful Marriage?

wedding picI used to think the general consensus was that a “successful marriage” meant the couple stayed together until parted by death. Perhaps that’s the most prevalent assumption, but it seems I was wrong in thinking timing was the primary definition of marital achievement.

A few weeks ago, I was discussing marriage and divorce with a friend who believes our culture is too accepting of divorce. She told me that even people in her church family have divorced without social consequence in their community of worship. (I hypothesize the divorced might feel differently)

“I think it’s really sad when people can’t work it out,” she told me.

She didn’t understand when I suggested her very statement might feel condescending and shaming to someone going through the process.

I decided to turn the tables a little. “What about people who decide to work it out by evolving their marriage to less traditional terms?” I asked. “Like, what if they mutually agree to an open relationship instead of a monogamous one?”

She curled her lip and rolled her eyes. “Those people need to get divorced,” she insisted.

“But they’re ‘working it out.’ Isn’t that what you want people to do? To stay together?”

Apparently it’s not that simple.

I should’ve known.  And, I guess I always did know… maybe I’m just hypersensitive at this time. Those who judge the success of others’ marriages do so on many levels.  It’s not just about the End Date.

A few days ago another friend pointed me to a Facebook page where I read a debate about the role of God and the presence of Satan in marriage. Supposedly, marriage is an institution of God and therefore any marital issues are evidence of Satan, who seeks to disrupt and destroy all that is of God.  Not everyone agreed. (What about when two Satanists get married?)

But… why does any of this matter?  Why do we care how many people are involved in a marriage?  What does it matter what their genders are (#SCOTUS)?  What right do outsiders have to insist a couple follow a certain sexual code of conduct?  And as long as marriage requires a legal license and impacts tax filing statuses, religious beliefs need not be universal within the institution.

If participants feel comfortable, respected and fulfilled by their partnership, so be it! And if they don’t, let them make other arrangements.

Mar 26, 2015 - Uncategorized    No Comments

Let’s Talk About Failed Marriages

If you listen, you’ll hear a lot of talk about failed marriages.  But what’s the real topic in such discussions?  The answer is divorce.

Divorce is indicative of a failed marriage (at least for those who choose to use such terminology), but the truth is the marriage failed long before a divorce was set in motion.  Yet nobody talks about those failures because the marriage is still “intact.”

candlesMarriage ceremonies feature sacred vows which are supposed to bind two people to each other for as long as they both shall live.  In most cases, some version of “til death do us part” is incorporated into those vows.  But it’s not the only promise a couple makes on their wedding day.  They also swear to love and honor one another.  They pledge to be faithful and devoted.  They use words like “cherish” to describe their regard for their partner and partnership.

Now… how many intact marriages are comprised of faithful individuals who love, honor and respect each other?  Each year hundreds of thousands of couples go to marriage counseling, most likely because, on some level, the vows were broken.   Do we point fingers at those in therapy and insist their marriages failed?  Not really.

Why is it that we only grade marriages based on one vow (and by the way, not everyone says that anymore)?  It it because that one is more important?  Is it because that’s the only one evident to outsiders?  Is it because we’d prefer to bury our heads in the sand rather than face the shame of failure due to a multitude of factors outside simple “divorce”?

If we expect marriage to be taken seriously, shouldn’t we value more that just the end date?

Mar 4, 2015 - divorce, marriage    No Comments

Did S/he Cheat? Does it Matter?

woman aloneSeveral years ago I had the feeling my partner was having an affair.  When I questioned him, he told me I was crazy, insecure and possessive.  During that period of our relationship, he did a lot of screaming while I did a lot of crying.

Did he cheat on me?  I couldn’t prove it, and he insisted he was innocent, so I stayed in the relationship.

Since then, I’ve heard many similar stories from people who desperately want to believe the best about their partners.  Sometimes they justify, “it was only an emotional affair.”  Sometimes they fall back on The No Proof Excuse.

In the end, the result is the same:  Someone ignores his or her intuition and turns the other cheek.  Throughout the process, these victims question themselves, their motives, their sanity and their sense of security.  They might seek counseling to help get over their “issues” and be better, more trusting partners.  All the while, the other half of the couple is free to continue working late, hiding his/her phone and enjoying weekly 6-hour “dentist appointments.”

As a result of my experience, I spent a lot of time reflecting on that dark period in my partnership.  Eventually, I decided I’d been asking the wrong question.

The issue isn’t “Is my partner cheating?”

A more appropriate inquiry is, “Does this relationship meet my needs?”

I should’ve asked:

Do I feel loved?
Do I feel safe?
Do I trust this person?
Does s/he respect me?
Do we communicate effectively?

The list will be different for everyone, but I think it behooves us all to have such a list.  In order for a relationship to be healthy, we need to tune in to ourselves and determine our individual level of fulfillment.  Why do we have a tendency to push our needs aside and wait for someone else to commit a socially (un)acceptable sin before we entertain the idea of cutting the cord?

I suppose I know the answers:  We don’t want our intuition to be right.  We don’t want to “fail.”  We don’t want to “lose.”  We don’t want to look bad.  We don’t want the kids to feel bad.  We don’t want to bring shame to our families and communities.

On the surface, those are all noble reasons to stay put and not make a fuss.  But are they really?  Isn’t a marriage with no respect more of a failure than a marriage that doesn’t last Forever?  Aren’t the kids going to feel even worse when they realize they were the reason Mom and Dad kept themselves miserable?  Are we really so selfish as to think our actions can dictate how outsiders feel about themselves?

There comes a point when silence and sacrifice become suffocating and suicidal.  If you don’t stand up for yourself and your needs, who will?

A marriage shouldn’t survive at the expense of its participants.