Postcards from a Peaceful Divorce had a big week in the blogosphere recently, as three different sites have discussed my approach to divorce. Of course, their reactions couldn’t have been more different. William Quincy Belle thought my article on peaceful divorce was a must read for anyone who is going through the divorce process and that I offer people hope during a grim time of personal crisis. Cathy Meyer thought that I gave the impression that it was a divorcee’s own fault if she ended up with a hostile divorce and that with time my harmonious post-divorce family would dissolve, leaving me blind-sided and bereft. The Bitter Divorcee rushed to my defense against Ms. Meyer and said that while my approach had made her envious at first, it also inspired her not to make peace with her ex (because that is impossible) but instead to make peace with herself.
As the topic of several of my posts has been my exploration of the attempt to get things right, I couldn’t help noting the irony that someone was angry with me for proffering my experience as the one and only right way to approach divorce. As I question what is right for me and work through the process of finding it, I would hardly offer my experience as the only proper way to do it. My way is certainly not the right way, nor is it the Truth with a capital T. It is only right for me and my family, and the truth that I am expounding here is profoundly personal. If it resonates with you, I am glad that I could share. If it doesn’t, well thanks for stopping by.
Divorce is a gut-wrenching process that brings up a lot of anger and sadness. Separating from the man that I loved most in this world did force me to take a look at myself, and I didn’t like all that I saw. I’ll admit that I was very reactive and even angry and resentful in the last years of my marriage. I over-reacted to my ex’s bad moods and let some of his habits really get under my skin. I realized that I blamed him for my own unhappiness and that wasn’t fair. I set about the process of forgiving myself for these faults, forgiving him for leaving the marriage and learning to appreciate us both in new ways. I tried to be more mindful of my reactions and learned to stop myself in midstream when I was being argumentative with him. I started to accept his behavior as beyond my control, and I actively appreciated the ways in which he was a good father and friend to me. I decided to make our love more important than our conflict.
These actions brought about a shift in me and in him. Yes, I am grateful that he responded, and I realize that not all exes will do that. I’m not saying that if you try, you will definitely get a peaceful divorce. However, I do believe that if you try, your chances at peace are better. Several of my readers have shared with me their own success stories and I am so happy to hear that. Yet, once again, one’s approach to divorce is a personal decision that each divorcee can only make on his or her own. If it doesn’t feel right when you do it, then it’s not the right approach for you.
Some of the divorce coaches will advise you to look out for yourself first, and I did that. But part of looking out for myself was looking out for my ex and my children as well. I didn’t want our family to explode so I actively worked to keep it together. I kept inviting my ex over for dinner and for family gatherings. I let him know that I recognized my part in our breakup and I even congratulated him for his courage to leave our relationship, something I never would have done. With time I have embraced his new girlfriend and she has joined us for dinners and birthday parties. Now we are all embarking on a national job search together.
The Bitter Divorcee thinks that I am advocating for a different paradigm for divorce. I appreciate her comment because it’s true. I don’t believe that divorce has to destroy a family. I want to show people that there are ways in which you can transcend your anger and resentment, reach out to your ex, and find common ground upon which to build a different type of nuclear family, one that doesn’t live together but loves and enjoys each other’s company.
I certainly never expected peace to be so controversial, although I guess if we look at it politically it always has been (fodder for a different blogpost). So yes, I am a proud advocate for peaceful relations with an ex. I am extremely pleased that it worked for me, but as I have indicated in other posts, it is still an ongoing process that we will never get perfectly right.