I’m a child of divorced parents. What that means differs depending on who you talk to.
My mom has always struggled with the idea that her marriages were failures. Now that I’m separating from my spouse of 20 years, I’m asking myself this question: what if I could define divorce as an empowering act of love, rather than a failure?
How is a divorce not a failure? The only reason some of us feel it like it is a failure is the conditioning we got around it. We were taught that if you aren’t trying hard enough, doing the right things, making the other person happy, or fulfilling our duties properly we were failing. We were to blame and the final decision of divorce was a failure to to stick to our vows.
I could have stayed content with the way it was. Maybe I could have done something or said something that would have fixed everything. I could’ve been a certain way that the other person liked better. Maybe there was a way to agree on the stuff we felt so differently about. We should have compromised more, better, harder.
Do you feel the straitjacket of could/should I’ve jammed myself into here? I do. In the form of chest pain.
I woke up one day, in the middle of this process, the greatest life stress I’ve ever had, and realized part of the reason it’s so stressful is the doubt, fear and shame I feel around making the wrong decision, not being good enough, and about others seeing me as a failure.
I know I entered this stage of my life wanting a bigger kind of love. I know my goals and dreams for my kids involve them understanding a bigger love too. I know I’m not a failure.
“But if you just stay and work it out it will be so much easier,” said the unrelenting voice in my head. “If you can just find a way to fix your communication it will all work out. If you try harder to be and do what he needs, it might all be okay.” The voices were convincing. I might be able to avoid a lot more stress by trying harder.
We are two normal, successful, rational people; we ought to be able to do this right.
But we didn’t.
I finally realized these voices weren’t the ones coming from my soul.
Our relationship, along with being one of my greatest teachers, was also one of the most difficult ones, mostly because I would never accept the fact that we are so fundamentally different when it comes to values we never even had a chance.
This isn’t failure. When we come to acceptance, I think it’s victory.
When you come to clarity and acceptance and muster the courage to give yourself permission to be yourself, even if that self isn’t what the person needs, that’s victory.
It’s just really hard to celebrate a victory like this when the aftermath effects so many other people I love. It’s easier to fall into failure mode and sulk, worry and fret about my life being a mess. About what I’m doing to my kids. About the struggles I’ll have to take care of myself and them moving forward. About all the possible negative outcomes. I forget gratitude in the pit.
And that won’t get me anywhere.
I choose to define divorce as an ultimate act of empowerment and love. To move through the difficult, painful conversations with as much awareness and compassion as possible while also standing up for myself. To realize the role model I’m being is one of love, possibility and of teacher. It’s possible my kids will stress over this but it’s also possible the space I create for conversation, reflection and possibility gives them a new way of understanding relationships and marriage. A way that empowers them. A way that opens them up. A way that gives them perspective and a larger pool of rules to live by.
They need new rules. They need to figure out how to make their own rules, crafted from the knowledge of their own hearts. They need less conditioning and more awareness; awareness that the only one standing in the way of the big, fat, juicy love they desire is them.
Divorce is a teacher, not a failure. A teacher we need to help us move through to bigger, better love—for everyone involved. It’s the transformational life lesson disguised as the worst possible moment of failure. If we can see through it to the core, use our awareness and find the truth, we’ll be able to redefine it for ourselves, and for everyone else who’s ever gone though it or contemplated going through it.
I choose the difficult work of awareness.
I choose love even when it feels like failure. I choose the path that feels like someone untied the straitjacket and set me free. The one that let’s me be me—big love.
What do you choose?
Author: Laura Probert
Image: studio tdes/Flickr
Editor: Katarina Tavčar