Learn from the Pain of Divorce
Written By: Mark Smith
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Divorce is a nightmare. It rips something apart that was not meant to be ripped apart. It forces to to face the loss of your best friend, your lover, your partner, your identity as a family, your financial security and your innocence. It is easy to become jaded, negative and bitter.
Divorce does not have to destroy you though. In fact it can become THE most healing event of your whole life. Relationship pain is supposed to give us an opportunity to heal. Relationships are our teachers. They can and will expose the deepest wounds from our childhoods. The pain is meant to be embraced. It is all good ultimately. You can't get away from who you are and how you were wounded as a child. Marriage is the big truth teller. Your marital pain is not about the other person and what they did or did not do to or for you. Your marital pain is about who YOU picked and put solely in charge of loving you. It is about recreating how you were loved growing up. It is about an opportunity to learn about yourself and face off with your darkest places. It is an adventure.
Almost all of my clients initially come to counseling for but one thing…their relationship is giving really bad, dysfunctional and hurtful love. They come, in effect, asking for the good stuff, for the fulfilling, intimate, sexually connected stuff that dreams are made of. To them, a divorce equals humiliation, failure, shame, financial disaster, destruction, and guilt for hurting their kids. It is basically the end of life as they knew it. They don’t come for deep soul searching or mid-life reflection. They come for their relationship to get fixed and to get fixed NOW. Many times they reach my office too late to reach their goal of salvaging their marriage. One of them has given up and they are making only a weak, token effort at counseling.
One of the first things that I say to such couples is that I actually DO NOT BELIEVE IN MARRIAGE COUNSELING. What passes for marriage counseling is usually a well meaning but misguided counselor saying in so many words, “How can we put our heads together and figure out a way to fix things in your marriage”. While that might sound like the right approach it is actually both harmful and just completely off base. Your marital problems mean something. They are trying to teach you something vital about you. The highest goal for marital therapy is for both parties to squeeze every last ounce of insight, knowledge and truth about themselves and their partner that they can from the crucible of their marital fires. I am seriously thinking of changing my business cards from ‘Marriage Counselor’ to simply ‘Teller of Truth’. Most of us spend a great deal of energy and most of our lives trying to avoid and run from truths about ourselves.
If people knew what marriage actually was they would not view having marital problems as being such a terrible failing to be avoided at all cost. It would actually be seen as a badge of courage, maturity and normalcy. If you get anything out of reading this article get the following…I am going to share with you the meaning of love itself. If you get what I am going to share it can radically improve your marriage or help you to have a much more positive and healing experience as you divorce if that is where your journey leads you. All of us sustain emotional wounds in our childhoods, it is the human condition. Thankfully we develop psychological defense mechanism in childhood that protects us from additional damage. Unfortunately we are then stuck with those defenses as we enter adulthood and they blind us from whom we are and where we came from. Nature or God or the universe would like to heal our unresolved childhood wounds but cannot due to the psychological armor that protected us in our youth. So, and here is the secret very of love…nature developed a very wonderful and a very painful mechanism called love, relationship and marriage the purpose of which is to tear down your walls, i.e. to rip your heart out and hurt you so that you can finish the business of healing your childhood wounds. If you came to my office I could quite literally prove this to any open minded person. Marriage is supposed to hurt! Marriages are supposed to come crumbling apart after the initial honeymoon or enmeshment stage has run its course. Marriage is the ultimate truth teller about who we are and how we were loved as children. You will marry someone who loves you in the same manner that your parents loved you and that is difficult news for most of us. Marital pain, even the most excruciating marital pain is a gift to help heal our deepest selves. There are NEVER ever any victims in the institution of marriage. We are all presented with a golden opportunity to learn, heal, cry, and resolve ancient wounds which have been running our lives all of our lives. Marital problems are all good all the time (if you understand them).
I tell my clients that I try to disturb the comfortable and comfort the disturbed. If you are bitter and blaming of your former spouse then my goal here is to deeply disturb you. You missed the whole point of your marriage. You are wasting a wonderful opportunity to grow, heal and become everything that you are supposed to become. Your spouse was not the problem in your marriage. However they hurt you it was not about them. If you didn’t marry them you would have married someone just like them. You reenacted your childhood trauma and drama because that is what love is. Your former spouse was your teacher. If you do not learn the lessons that you could derive from your divorce you are almost guaranteed to marry the same person with a different face and a different name and reenacted the whole thing all over again yet again. Bitterness will only hurt you.
For those of you who carry the heavy burden of shame due to an ugly and painful divorce that you did not want I have great news for you. I would like to offer you the comfort of knowing that your divorce was not a moral failure or an indictment on your character. Major gut wrenching, marriage threatening issues are inevitable for almost every marriage eventually. Unfortunately you just weren’t in a place where either you or your former spouse knew what a blessing your marital crisis really was. It was a blessing in disguise. It takes two highly motivated, open hearted, non-defensive, courageous, non-blaming, trusting people to turn the dark clouds of impending marital implosion into the sweet fruit of a newly rebuilt marriage constructed on the bedrock of healed and understood childhood wounds.
A divorce can be a wonderful adventure of freedom, healing, celebration and joy. It is not the end of you, it can be a fabulous reinvention of you. A divorce can free you of a punishing, victimy carbon copy of the parent you hurt you the most during your childhood. It can free you to discover who you really are without the prescribed identity of being spouse. It can free you to build your space, home and life to your tastes and your unique personhood. If you make progress with your issues it can free you to fall in love with a healthier more loving future spouse who can love you better then you have ever been loved. Search through the ashes of your burned down marriage for life changing truths about who you are, why you married who you married and how you can love better the next time around. A divorce isn’t a prison sentence. It can be a priceless get out of jail (not so free) card that can catapult you into a better, healthier and happier you.
If you are shackled with layers of defeat, shame, bitterness, depression, hopelessness and negativity about your divorce and your life you really need some therapy! Let us help you proactively dig for pearls of wisdom and truth what looked like a horrible situation for all concerned. Life is too short to be stuck. Let us help to rebuild and celebrate the new and healthier you (844-2442).
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