Writings on Divorce and Such
I wrote these "essays" during a six month or so period where I was participating in the Usenet group alt.support.divorce. I had been reading the group since shortly after filing for divorce in May 2002. I finally jumped in with a post called "Thank You To You All".
Thank you to you all - 27 Aug. 2002
I want to thank you all for the support you gave me (unknowingly) during my divorce.
I have been married for nineteen years. It was difficult a lot if the time and we did a lot of counseling through the years. That helped us keep it together until the last year or so.
It grew very clear that we needed to get a divorce in May. I was the leavee and was devastated. I spent the first six weeks crying a lot of the time. It was difficult to work and I took a lot of time off. I was losing weight. I couldn't sleep. I started searching for resources and found many. One of them was this group.
Through reading the postings and the responses it became very clear that others were experiencing much the same pain and grief that I was and that I, too, would get through it.
We have negotiated a settlement that we both find fair. Our eighteen year old son is safely off to the dorm at the University. All the required papers have been filed with the court. My lawyer (used only for preparing the paperwork) tells me that the decree should become official on Thursday.
I'm feeling pretty good at this point. In some ways I've known that this day could come for years now. Actually experiencing it is quite another thing!
So, once again, thank you, all of you. I wish I had worked up the courage to post during the depths of my pain, to get some direct support. I'm also glad I didn't.
Re: Thank you to you all - 28 Aug. 2002
The recovery comes and goes. Just this minute I found myself thinking about her..... Then I decided to think about something else.
The hardest part for me was giving up the "spiritual" aspect of the marriage. I believe that marriage is the ideal "pressure cooker" for spiritual growth, if engaged in with that intention.
We both had a problem with the statement in the petition where we assert that the the marriage is "irretrievably broken", questioning what irretrievable meant. Basically it means (to me) that I no longer want to work on the marriage, i.e. I am hopeless about the marrage.
There was a hurdle back in June where I was waiting for some sign (from her, as if more of a sign were really necessary!) that it was "really over". Then, in a moment of rare clarity I realized that it is over when I decide it is over; it has nothing to do with her. That realization gave me a feeling of strength.
I had another, earlier moment of clarity in late May, before the filing of the petition:. I was hanging out with a couple of friends, feeling pretty sad, and suddenly had a really strong memory of how miserable I was in the marriage and that my wife was also suffering great emotional pain. I saw that she and I have the right, the duty, in fact, to find love in our lives. I saw that she had cut the Gordian Knot that was keeping us stuck in a loveless, unfulfilling, destructive marriage. I was flooded with feelings of gratitude and compassion towards her and myself. Suddenly, the tears of misery that I was expressing turned to tears of gratitude and acceptance. Quite the turnaround!
Of course, such clarity comes and goes, the same as with recovery....
I have a great therapist. He catches me in faulty thinking all the time. We're working on the personal and co-dependency issues that kept me locked into the marriage for all that time and which threaten to sabotage future relationships that I may enter into.
I have no plans for another relationship right now. As part of the settlement I bought my wife out of her share of the equity in the house, through a refinance. I've been working on cleaning and personalizing the house to make it mine. I've been out on a couple of "friend dates" where it's very clear that only friendship is desired at this point
We/I have had some so-called "empty nest" issues with the departure of our son to college. For a while last week it looked as if he might balk on the whole college thing. He called us on the evening of the day we moved him into the dorm, saying he hated his dorm, his major, the university, the town, etc. I reminded him that he had told me to my face that he would attend college, that adults live up to their promises and therefore he would be staying, or take the consequences. He decided to stay. The whole thing showed that he can create an emergency that can unite the stbx and I. My therapist told me that there is little chance that this drama was separate from the anxiety of the coincidental breakup of the family.
One more thing: I did a lot of journaling during my "black" period. I especially found an exercise from John Grey's book "Mars and Venus Starting Over" to be therapeutic. It's called the "Feel Better Letter". He calls it a 20 minute exercise. I have one that I spent 5 hours of a weepy Sunday writing. I actually read it to the stbx the other night, in response to reconciliation talk on her part.
I found that part one of the exercise, where I expressed my sadness, anger, sorrow, etc., no longer had the power to move me emotionally although I can remember it being very powerful when I wrote it in June.
The second part of the exercise still resonated for me. In that part I put myself into my stbx's place and write a response letter, acknowledging the feeling that were expressed and asking for forgiveness.. Reading that out loud to her caused my voice to choke and my eyes to tear. I smiled and said, "Mary writes a great letter, doesn't she?".
The final part, where I write back expressing forgiveness also still carried some emotional power. All in all it was good for me to have had the opportunity to share this with her. It was a form of closure that many divorced couples probably don't get. When I can read through writing like that without emotional hitches, then I will be recovered. As John Grey said in his book, the goal is to get to where you think about every aspect of the marraige and relationship, go to the places you went together, etc., without the emotional fallout. When that can be done, I will be ready to move on.
Well, this has gone on long enough. If I can think of more stuff, I'll write it.
Re: Thank you to you all - 29 Aug. 2002
I think Barb has it right. If we feel emotions other than gratitude or forgiveness there is still work to be done.
We shouldn't regret the time we spend or have spent. It's a form of beating ourselves up by poison our own past. If we find ourself doing regret, or sadness, or anything other than gratitude or forgiveness, it's our indicator that more emotional work is needed.
People who get married are generally very committed, at first, and generally have no idea of what they are getting themselves into. I have a much better idea of what I'm getting myself into with this divorce that I ever did going into the marriage. In fact, I lived with my stbx (or maybe full ex, today was supposed to have been D-day) for almosts four years before my marriage. Lots of things changed with becoming married (unconscious expectations, etc.) and becoming parents, which happened a mere nine months after our wedding day.
People in a marriage usually grow. At the time when they get married they are expecting that they will grow together. Often times the growth that occurs in marriage means that the participants grow in different directions. They are still growing, but not staying together.
So, based on the unconscious way that we usually get married and the fact that growth occurs, even though it may mean that the couple grows apart, I think that we could cut ourselves a lot of slack. If we poison ourselves with hatred or regret or sadness we are sending that stuff out into the worl d. This is a sure way to get back more of the same. We need to express that pain and sorrow and fear and anger in a safe place and do the crying and become strong. That's where the healing comes from.
It should be easy to create a list of things that you are grateful for in your marriage: (my impromptu much abbreviated list) our son, mothering of our son, love, caring, personal and career support, housework including cooking, shopping, laundry, etc.) I am grateful that my ex ended the stalemate. Who knows how much longer it could have gone on the way it was? We were well stuck!
Sorry you're feeling sad, Bill.
Twenty five years is a long time! My wife and I "got together" on my 23rd birthday in 1979. It's always been the unofficial anniversary, separate from the marriage anniversary. Last Friday I celebrated my forty-sixth birthday and our twenty-third year acquaintance. That's half my life with one woman. Thinking on those twenty-three years can bring up emotions. That's a good thing. Eventually they come up and they come up and we don't run away from them and we don't turn away from them and they just wear themselves out. THey have no power left.
Thanks for the conversation,
Re: Happily Ever After??? - 30 Aug. 2002> Happily ever after is a myth.
It depends on how you define happy. If happy is defined as always geting what you want and never getting what you don't want, then yes, happily ever after is a myth.
But if happiness is defined a freedom from suffering, then I believe that happiness is indeed possible "ever after".
Freedom from suffering doesn't mean freedom from pain. Part of what it does mean is freedom from beating ourselves up, freedom from fear of possible future pain, freedom from the past pain of memory.
Back in May I was rereading a book from one of my favorite authors, Cheri Huber. In "The Key and the Name of the Key is Willingness" she made the following statement, "Nothing but the way it is 'could' ever be or 'should' ever be." THis really struck me. It's almost fatalism and it's not. It's merely stating that we should get our thinking in tune with what is, i.e. reality as we are experiencing it.
I played with variations on this thought in my mind: "Nothing other than my wife leaving me could have happened, since that is what happened", "My wife leaving me for another man should have happened just as it did". These thoughts and variations of them cut through my denial, anger, sadness, etc., like a knife. These can be powerful thoughts to get in touch with and express on paper or in thinking.
At this point I can accept the above statements as true statements. There is not much power left in pining over why did it happen, etc. Because I worked on these statements, and in fact any such statement, that could "get a rise out me". I became a "junkie" for finding thoughts that would cause emotional pain and I'd write about then and cry about them and they eventually lost their power over me. It's like being freed.
This is an example of how freedom from suffering in one small area area of my life was acheived, i.e. the freedom to be able to write sentences like those above without being disabled with emotion. I believe that over time and with practice it is possible for use to greatly reduce the amount of suffering that goes on in our lives.
Groundhog Day - 2 Sep. 2002
I just watched "Groundhog Day". It is one of my favorite films. I think the appeal to me is transformation.
The main character is stuck. Every day is the same. He tries to find escape in various ways and still is presented with his reality; the never-ending monotony, the pain, meaningless existence, unfulfilled hopes of love. Most of us have been there.
Our character finally chooses the path of love. He becomes a service to the community. He gives of his heart and soul. And, behold.... he is transformed and has transformed the world around him at the same time. And his stuckness dissolves in love and joy.
The same is true for all of us. We can seem stuck. It can all seem so endless, just the same pain every day with no end in sight.
When we find something that we can love, anything that we can love, somewhere in the world, and serve it, to whatever extent, we will get in touch with the love that lives in our hearts. When we take the responsibility for something and love it and serve it, whether it be our child, our beloved, or our life, we are opening ourselves to the universal energy that flows through all things.
Serving the world in the midst of our pain we will one day find that time has moved on, we are no longer stuck and the pain is no longer there. We have grown and we have found love and peace.
That's what I get from that movie. What do you think?
Thankfulness - 27 Nov. 2002
I'm posting under my own name from now on. My reply address still needs nospam removed to reply to me directly. Formerly: Brion [in|from] Colorado
I'm thankful for all the love there is in the world, just for the taking, if we can just open ourselves up to it.
I'm thankful for my wonderful son, and the chance that he and I have to grow closer together every day.
I'm thankful for my house and my town and my job.
I'm thankful for the wonderful people on ASD who are willing to help people through hard times. You truly are a family.
I'm thankful for my friends and colleagues and family.
I'm thankful that my divorce was not a nasty, drawn-out ordeal.
I'm thankful that I can still be friendly with my ex-wife and she can be friendly with me.
I'm thankful that my in-laws still love me as a son and brother.
I'm thankful that I could go on like this for a long, long time.
I'm thankful for the opportunity to tell you all how thankful I am.
Are You Ready to Grow Up? - 28 Nov. 2002
Here's an excerpt from my latest reading material, "Private Lies: Infidelity and the Betrayal of Intimacy", by Frank Pittman:
A third problem with marriage is romance, which seduces people into expecting too much. Romance is wonderful and smells like a new car and fades about as fast and has nothing to do with real life. Most people of marriagable age have not learned the difference between love and romance. Some never do.
A romance, according to Webster, is "a ficticious and wonderful tale" therefore "an experience embodying the quality of picturesque unusualness." Obviously such experiences, however exciting, are not quite sane.....
They are in-love, personalizing this romantic excitement, and hoping marriage will make it permanant. In-love is, of course, a form of temporary insanity. Psychoanalyst Lawrence Kubie describes being in love as "an obsessional state driven in part by anger." ....
When the romantic excitement fades and the poetry becomes prosaic, or the inappropriateness becomes impractical, someone feels cheated or misled. Suddenly the magic is gone, and with no magic, lights go on and all is revealed. Many people want the magic of romance more than they want to be married. You can't have both-one is fleeting, the other forever. Some try to keep the magic alive by avoiding the mundane world of practical reality, and instead stirring up startling and disorienting experiences to provide a picturesquely unusual setting for the increasingly mundane relationship. This may hold things together, but the cost is someone's or everyone's sanity.
This is what I see you doing. You are not "in love", therefore there is no reason to be married. This kind of thinking will lead you to jump around and never settle into the reality of marriage. Marriage is give and take. Marriage is a pressure cooker that cooks our souls and smooths our rough edges and can lead to liberation.
Are you the type of person that gives up when things get hard? Are you the type of person that needs excitement all the time to feel alive? Are you willing to grow up? Marriage is something best practiced by adults. Are you willing to give up your self-centeredness and concentrate on your wife and your child? Are you willing to teach your daughter that when things get hard, the right thing to do is to cut and run? Or, are you going to show her that two adults can hold something together and make it wonderful, even when it's difficult.
You can have your difficulty now, in your marriage, trying to save your family and set a good example for your daughter. Or you can have your difficulty in your (most likely nasty) divorce, watching another man raise your daughter, seeing her infrequently and wondering (if you ever become this conscious) if there was something you could have done when you had the chance.
On Zen Practice - 8 Dec. 2002
I think all this talk of zen and focussing on the present is a good thing. The thing is, talking about it is philosophy. Philosophy is something that can be in one ear, sound good, then go out the other, leaving little real trace.
The real core of zen is not the philosophy, it's the practice. For one to really get the point of focusing on the present it is really necessary to practice focusing on the present.
One way that can be done is in a regular meditation practice. Like the buddha always said, "don't believe me, try it yourself and see if it works for you". It is hard to do, but there's almost a guarantee, if one practices meditation, with some degree of regularity, even for a short time and then evaluates, one will feel the difference. Then it is possible to get to the "marrow" of what the zen people are talking about, beyond any philosophy.
There's a reason why, when the young monk came to the master and asked "what is buddhism", the master replied "a shit-stick" (i.e. a piece of toilet paper). He's talking about the intrinsic ability of a meditation practice to remove the unwanted residues of life.
Just something to consider.....
On Revenge and Hatred - 20 Jan 2003
I've been thinking a lot about the subject of revenge. It seems to come up periodically in postings to the group. I thought I'd share my thought with all of you and solicit your comments.
Revenge is a form of hatred and a manifestation of hatred. Revenge is done out of hatred. Hatred is something that exists in most people. It does not just magically appear, just as nothing in the real world appears out of nowhere. If it did not pre-exist, it not appear. For hatred to manifest, it must pre-exist.
I believe that there are many instances of hatred and revenge in relationships. One partner does something that the other partner does not like and that partner then takes revenge. This can take many forms, from passive-agressive actions to violence. This agressive, hateful behavior can lead to ever-increasing cycles of action and counter-action: ever deepening cycles of revenge.
If this cycle is not broken, the relationship can be blown apart and result in divorce. If the pattern of revenge and hatred deeply ingrained, it may never be overcome and may be repeated in new relationships.
I believe this is the root of the increased probability of failure in second and subsequent marriages.
I believe that one explanation may be that divorced people, because of the issues that broke up their marriages, may be more prone to patterns of hatred and revenge than first-time married people that have not suffered through failed marriage and divorce. I have seen evidence for this in the desire for revenge expressed in many posts to ASD.
These pattern, unless broken, can and will poison future relationships.
For me, the turning point from hatred to love came during a conversation with a couple of friends of mine, soon after my return from a business trip and not long after the betrayal that ended my marriage.
One of the friends, perhaps thinking that is is what I needed to hear, began bad-mouthing my wife. Suddenly, I was able to extend the grief I was feeling, and had been feeling through much of the marriage, to my wife. I realized that she had suffered in the marriage also, as much as I had.
I was filled with love for her, for us, for the sacrifice that we had made through the years, holding together our marriage for the sake of our family. My tears, which had been tears of grief and sorrow, changed to tears of love and relief.
I turned to my friend and told her, "You don't even know her. You don't know how much she suffered, how much we both suffered!" And that was the beginning of the transformation of my hatred and desire to revenge to a completely different set of feelings; acceptance, relief and love.
It was a globalized love that still had its ups and downs, but grew over time. It grew as I realized that the fault in the failure of the marriage was shared, until the fault eventually was "allocated" to a statutory :-) 50% for each of us. It grew as our divorce unfolded without any desire for revenge and resulted in a fair negotiated settlement. It grew as I could see the benefits to the family of an absence of hatred and an emphasis on healing and love.
Hatred cannot be ended through hatred. That premise, "building a better world through hatred", is the basis of much of our present society, and it does not work.
The antidote for hatred is love. Somehow, we, as people who have suffered through divorce, must unlearn patterns of hatred and revenge and learn to forgive our ex-spouses and ourselves. We must learn to love ourselves. The more love that we can generate within ourselves, the better chance we have of breaking the pattern of hatred and revenge and the better chance of taking what we have learned into future, fulfilled relationships.
It is in this way that we can learn to break the pattern of hatred that is within us; a pattern that, if left unchecked, can follow us throughout our lives.
Dividing Things Up - 2 Feb 2003
Once again, my story may seem strange to you all. It does to all my friends and family that I have told it too.
During the divorce, which was negotiated between my ex-wife and I, it was decided that I would refinance the house and keep it and pay her a calculated settlement.
We made a list of all the major items in the house and divvied them up on paper. It was agreed between us that this list and the division of physical property contained therein would be binding on us, and not immediately take effect.
Although my ex does not live in this house, she is currently in a transient condition in Arizona. Therefore, she has with her only items for her immediate use and the bulk of her things are in boxes in the basement of this house.
The furniture that was divided up on paper is still populating the house. I do anticipate that the house will look MUCH emptier when that is eventually divided in fact. I, in fact, do look forward to that day, because I would like to arrange the house to my own specifications. I can wait for that day however; the desire to change things is tempered with practicality.
Our separation agreement specified that we would divide all household items, and nothing beyond that. Among ourselves, we agreed that any of her items still in my possession at the time of the termination of maintenance, August 31, 2005, will become mine.
Strange, but true.
Your mileage may vary..................
About Suffering - 3 Mar. 2003
The pain that I am referring to starts as a physical sensation in the body. We've been taught to associate thoughts with bodily sensations. The thoughts lead to associated emotions.
If the thinking and the emotions are allowed to loop back, such that one begins to take it all personally, that is suffering.
An example of this looping behavior would be: a sensation arises which I associate with loneliness, this leads to a sadness and tears, which then leads to thoughts that I'm being a baby and I kick myself for my weakness. Then perhaps I berate myself for being so hard on myself. The pattern can continue indefinitely.
If the pain and emotions trigger feelings of hopelessness, or self loathing, or feelings of despair, that is suffering.
If the pattern of suffering is allowed to go on, unchecked, this can lead to ever deepening cycles of despair, self-hatred and the like, as well as more emotional distress and physical symptoms. The whole thing can spiral out of control. It is a stimulus/response pattern that we have been conditioned to believe in and which becomes automatic.
The payoff is a confirmation of who we think we are, which is deeply gratifying at some level of our psyches.
Maybe we have been taught that we are unlovable. We will, consciously or unconsciously, attempt to set up situations where this belief can be played out. Sooner or later a situation will arise that will allow us to prove to ourselves that, indeed, our belief about ourself is true; we are unlovable.
In that way our "sense of self" is confirmed, at the expense of our greater well-being.
The Cocoon - 3 Mar. 2003
Note: I am indebted to Shambhala Training for the image of the cocoon. This imagery is presented in the book: "Shambhala: The Way of the Warrior" by Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche.
I've heard the pattern of suffering described as a cocoon; a secure, confining, smelly, dank, familiar cocoon that insulates us from the world of beauty and fullness that exists outside.
We can only see the outside world through the filter of the walls of our cocoon. We get only a distorted view of the world outside.
We stay in the cocoon because it is familiar to us, it is ours, it seems secure; despite it's cramped and limiting effects on us. Because of the limiting effects of our view through the walls of the cocoon, we may not know that a larger world is outside, ready to welcome us.
Some people stay in their cocoons for their entire lives, lulled by the view from inside into thinking that the world is drab and ugly and painful; not seeing that it is the walls of the cocoon that are filtering the view.
When we somehow get a glimpse of or hear about the possibility of the larger world, we may be tempted to start scratching at the walls of the cocoon and get a glimpse of the world as it really is.
That may give us the inspiration to keep scratching and scratching until we have opened up a space in the cocoon where we can tentatively reach out and feel the fresh air, experience the direct sunlight, taste the clean water.
We may be emboldened to then take a step out into the real world, knowing that our cocoon is always there if we need to retreat; to stretch out and let the sun dry our wings.
In time, we may be tempted to fly, leaving the cocoon behind; free of suffering, free to range throughout the wider world, a liberated being.
On Pain and Suffering - 15 March 2003
Pain is inevitable. Painful things happen to people all the time. We stub our toe. We hurt! Pain is NOT personal, in the sense that pain is brought to ME by some outside entity that is out to get me. Of course, when we have pain, it IS our pain.
Pain comes to us like an earthquake, or a tornado, or a flood; a natural event. It is not God's punishment. That is taking it personally! Wen bad things happen to us it is never personal.
Suffering is different. Suffering is intensely personal. Suffering is mental. We can suffer from our pain. We can suffer from avoiding pain. We can suffer from past pain. We can suffer from imagined future pain.
Suffering is a choice. We see the choice to suffer in statements like, "I can't let myself off the hook". The choice to suffer has been made.
Suffering is caused by faulty thinking. The choice to suffer is a manifestation of self hatred. We take things so personally. Taking things personally is saying, "the world revolves around me!"; a recipe for suffering!
Pain can never be avoided. We will have pain. Pain comes and goes, and, sometimes it comes and stays. Pain does not, necessarily, lead to suffering. We can feel pain without suffering over it. We can have suffering without pain.
Suffering can be ended. Suffering is mental. Suffering is a choice. When we have had enough of suffering, we can stop suffering.
With love to all.