Our society hasn't given anybody a paradigm to look for a spiritual side to divorce. We haven't been trained that divorce can be a time of opportunity rather than despair and hopelessness.
How did you come to take a spiritual approach to your divorce?
I was devastated at the time of my divorce. I had waited so long to get married--I was 38--and it was a dream I'd had for twenty-something years. I had not wanted to get married because I was afraid I'd get divorced. So for me, divorce wasn't only a broken heart but also a broken dream.
Then there came a point after a couple of months of anger and resentment and sadness that my sister came to see me. A lot of my worries were because I had a young son and I'd stopped working because I'd wanted to be a stay-at-home mother. My sister said to me, "You've got to figure out what you can do to have an extraordinary life," and when I closed my eyes and thought about it, I thought that the first thing I wanted to do was write a book about the personal work that I was doing.
My divorce allowed that dream to come true. There was that moment when I saw I could give all my power to my past or I could go to a higher ground. At that time, I started asking myself every time a problem or an issue came up where my first reaction was anger or fear, "If I was an angel, what would I do?" That gave me the opportunity to act instead of react.
Say more about an instance where you took an angel's view and it helped you act.
One particular time was when my ex-husband wanted to change the schedule with Beau, our son. At the time, having a rigid schedule was very good for me because it was the only thing I had to hold on to. So when he wanted to change weekends with me, it put me over the edge. My initial reaction was to say no because obviously he had something he wanted to do that weekend. But when I asked myself what would I do if I were an angel, I decided I would graciously allow him to change anything he wanted me to--as long as it didn't inconvenience my life, which it didn't in this particular instance.
Would the spiritual approach you describe be helpful to couples who are still married but struggling?
Absolutely. This book is about why it goes wrong, this is all that can happen in a relationship. It gives you the underbelly. As many people as this will help who are going through divorce have a better life, it will also help people who are separating actually get back together. After all, you don't have to get divorced to have your partner drive you crazy.
Can every divorce be a "spiritual divorce"?
Yes. In order to heal yourself and evolve spiritually, it's important that we all use our divorces as a spiritual wake-up call. Pain has us look inside, it has us do self-examination, it has us go beyond the hurts of our thinking. Many look at pain as, "What do I do to get rid of it, to suppress it," but I look at pain as an opportunity. If I'm whole and decide to separate from my partner, it's not going to be a traumatic event. It's going to be a sad event, but not trauma.
Each one of us has different wounds. Our partners are there to show us these wounds. Everything I've gone through has led to the fact that now, my life has become a complete miracle. So I honor my ex-husband, even though we're very different, because he gave me the greatest gift of my life, which is me. So once we stand in a place where we love who we are, we can love our past.
I was a child of divorce, and I went off on 14 years of drug addiction after my parents divorced. I couldn't see the big picture back then. But I needed every painful event, every loss, every disappointment, to bring me to the wisdom that I can share today.
I think a spiritual divorce is a journey. It's the process of really embracing the gifts of our marriage. It's when we're at a moment of choice when we really see these are the lessons I learned from our time together. If I honor these lessons I automatically value myself in whatever way. If I feel blame and regret toward my past, I'm tied to my past. So to be in the presence of the gifts of your marriage is to undertake a spiritual divorce.
What are some of the gifts of your marriage?
I have a child--if that was the only thing I ever got, that would be a dance to celebrate every day. I also received self-awareness. I can actually look at things from another person's perspective now. Co-parenting is a great platform for learning how to dance in a rhythm with another person who's very different from you. So I've learned how to give, I've learned how to take time, and I've learned to look at what's in the best interest of the three of us rather than what's in my best interest. What a gift that is.
One thing that I'm sure of is if we take the road of anger and resentment and guilt and negative feelings, we give them all the power. If you want to give your life up to your ex-husband, then hold on to those feelings.
How does a person begin to let go of those feelings and approach their divorce from a spiritual perspective?
Take the finger that's pointing out at the other person and turn it on yourself. What happens in marriages and why they fall apart so easily is that we're so outwardly focused. If we realize that it's our pain, our buttons being pushed, then we can heal those buttons.