I was having a conversation with a friend recently, and she shared with me news that a mutual acquaintance of ours was in the process of a “messy divorce.” I don’t know them well. Certainly not well enough to know what their struggles are, or have been.
However, she shared a very detailed account of their relationship. She shared who did what, how each responded, etc. As I listened, I thought to myself; this is not my business. Only this couple really knows the truth of what is happening (and even they may not be perceiving it correctly!).
I knew that what I was hearing was:
- not my business;
- probably not the whole story, or entirely accurate;
- going to be different, depending on whether partner A or partner B told it;
- the source of a lot of pain for this couple; and
- not going to benefit anyone for me to know their business.
So, I said, “It sounds like their family is hurting, and I am sure they both have a story that makes their choices make sense. I am certainly not one to judge!”
Two years ago, I could have just as easily been the topic of this conversation, and likely was for some people. Two years ago, I got divorced.
Divorce is a juicy subject.
I understand the compelling desire to talk about what’s going on in another’s marriage. My mom, who was a part of this conversation with my friend and me, chimed in with the comment, “I think a lot of people get anxious about their marriages when they hear about someone else divorcing.” Out makes sense that by hypothesizing about how “wrong” someone else has behaved, and how it “ruined” their relationship, we seek affirmation that we are not like them and that our marriage is safe.
Confessions Of a Divorced Couples Therapist
I have wanted to write a newsletter on this topic for some time now. However, each time I thought about sitting down to my computer to write this newsletter, I heard a knock on my door. So I would get up, walk down the hall, open the door and in stormed Fear. Fear would say to me, “If you share this information, the world will think you are a failure, and who would want to work with you if they knew you were divorced?”
A divorced relationship therapist. Fear convinced me this is an oxymoron, that these two concepts were contradictory. Helping couples make their relationships work, while meanwhile being divorced. Fear told me that I was like a car mechanic with an automobile that wouldn’t run, or a financial investor filing for bankruptcy, or a realtor with her own house on the market for a year and counting.
Fear was convincing and persistent, and I let her plant her seeds of shame, and then I watered them with my silence. Each time she came knocking at my door, I invited her in. Fear convinced me I was a failure.
Finally, I did what I would advise others to do in a situation like this. I got myself a Coach. Ironically, it never occurred to me to ask her if she has ever divorced. That didn’t matter to me, (isn’t that interesting, I thought to myself). We met regularly, and she challenged me to question what Fear was telling me. She gently nudged me to find my voice, my deepest truth, the part of me that is real. Imagine that, this coaching stuff works!
You cannot force self-awareness. That is the power of having a coach or therapist to assist you. A good coach offers you a nonjudgmental, objective, and safe space to sort through the details of your situation. Fortunately, I had a good coach.
As time passed, Fear continued to visit. I stopped inviting her in, but I still opened the door, said, “hello,” and offered her a seat on my porch. Until one day, I went to my door and standing beside Fear; I noticed Freedom.
Freedom said, “Can you see me?”
And I said, “Yes, why do you ask?”
She replied, “Because I’ve been here all along, waiting for you to notice me.”
Freedom said, “I am here to remind you that you always have a choice. You can continue to focus on Fear. I will not take her away from you. She will always be available to you.” “However,” she said, “You also have the choice to turn your attention toward me. We will both always be here. It is up to you to decide which voice you will choose to hear.”
As I listened to Freedom, I began to feel lighter in spirit, and a sense of peace wash over me.
Freedom explained to me, “Fear has encouraged you to judge and berate yourself for the failure of your relationship.” She continued, “I am not here to convince you that you didn’t fail. I am here to help you see your truth.” She asked me, “Can you be at peace with your divorce?” And, she asked me, “What have you learned from this failure?” Freedom then inquired, “What good has come from feeling ashamed, and from believing you have failed?” And lastly, she wondered, “Can you fail at something without being a failure?”
I sat with these questions for a long while. Months and months. Over time, I noticed that Fear was no longer in sight. When I opened my door, I no longer saw her on my porch. Nor was she in my driveway, or down the street. Occasionally, I would think I saw her drive by, but she doesn’t stop and linger anymore.
What I know today is that that divorcing was simply the right choice for me.
I should have divorced. I needed to divorce. And, I did divorce. It has become that simple (not to be confused with easy or painless) for me. By staying, I would have failed myself. I had a choice. Fail my marriage, or fail myself? I choose to fail my marriage. (And, unfortunately, in the process I failed myself in some ways, too). It’s just that today, I accept my failures. I choose to learn from my failures.
I made a decision that was right for me. It took me two years to accept that it doesn’t matter who judges me as long as I cease to judge myself.
I wonder if Fear has been knocking on your door? If so, be sure to keep an eye out for Freedom. She is much, much better company.