My recent Facebook post featuring a quote by Catherine Ponder raised a few eyebrows and even drew an expletive as a comment! If you missed it, here’s the quote:
“If you have to force someone or something into your life, that is not part of your good. What you have to fight to get, you must fight to keep.”
To me, after twenty years of divorce practice, this truth is self-evident, and is supported by metaphysicians, scientists, Biblical scholars, among many others. Scientists refer to it as Newton’s Third Law: For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. Biblical scholars say “for whatever a man sows, this he will also reap.” (Galatians, Chapter 6, Verse 7, New American Standard Bible.) Metaphysicians talk about the Hermetic Law of Cause and Effect (“every cause has its effect; every effect has its cause; everything happens according to law; chance is but a name for law not recognized.” The Kybalion.) Those familiar with Eastern principles and teachings identify this concept as karma. And I’ve heard Oprah refer to it as “divine reciprocity.”
The essence of this principle is that the energy and intent you bring to every interaction, situation, event or experience will return to you so that you yourself may experience that same energy and intent, although not necessarily in the same instance. This is why “paying it forward” (the latest idiom for the Golden Rule – “do unto others as you would have them do unto you”) in terms of kindness, generosity, compassion, respect, and empathy, is one of the greatest acts of self-care we can undertake.
So, how the heck does this relate to divorce and that quote above by Catherine Ponder? In my experience, it plays out in a couple of important ways. Allow me explain.
DO NOT ENTER.
One important aspect of “Golden Rule” self-care is the conscious choice to refrain from certain actions, which we know would cause pain, hurt or grief to another, namely, our spouses. For example, would you turn down a road marked “Do Not Enter” and push the accelerator to the floor with your kids in the car? Probably not. Yet, many of my clients (or their spouses) do this all the time. The road is called “extramarital affair” and the result usually leads to a fatality – the marriage. The deceit that is inherent in the affair toxifies the marriage and irrevocably destroys the bonds of trust.
And while I cast no aspersions or judgments on these clients (or their spouses), I know, after almost twenty years of practice, this axiomatic truth: “If she will do it with you, she will do it to you.” In other words, the law of divine reciprocity sets up an experience for the “cheater” to be cheated. Maybe the person with whom the spouse had the extramarital affair finds a new squeeze and betrays on the spouse. Maybe the spouse misses out on an important job promotion to which he/she was otherwise entitled or loses a huge business deal to a competitor. In a different vignette, the spouse could have a bad ski accident on the first day of a two week ski trip and spends the rest of the vacation laid up. Or perhaps the wandering spouse truly has had a change of heart, and wants to repair the marriage and knit the family back together, only to find there is no willingness or trust left with which to do so. And it’s also quite likely that the betrayal could be the catalyst for a long and bitter divorce, as deep-seated resentments acidify the legal process. Regardless of how it all plays out, in some substantial way and at some future time, the philandering spouse reaps the hurt, disappointment, sadness, grief and/or loss occasioned by the spouse’s own behavior in undertaking the affair.
If our marriages are stagnant (sexually or otherwise), then we need to have the guts to be transparent with our spouses. We have three options. We can commit to working on the issue(s) in marriage counseling with a seasoned professional. We can discuss (with our spouses!) whether it would be appropriate for each partner to meet certain needs outside of the marriage relationship. Or, if we believe (or our spouse believes) that there is no possibility of working through the issue(s), we can choose to extricate ourselves from the marriage relationship, and seek a divorce.
ENVISION AND RELEASE.
If your spouse has decided that he/she wants a divorce, my humble suggestion to you is that you think twice about fighting to keep the marriage intact. Now hear me, I did not say “just give up your preference to stay married.” That said, I do think you need to retain an attorney to help guide you through the process, if you can afford one (because so many important rights are determined in a divorce – parenting time, child support, alimony, etc.). But, there’s nothing wrong with making it known to your spouse, your attorney, and your spouse’s attorney that you’d like to stay married and are willing to work on the marriage with a capable professional. And there’s certainly no harm envisioning your family remaining as an intact nuclear family.
Once you’ve done these things (offered to work on the marriage and envisioned your preferred outcome), I suggest that you release all your hopes, preferences and expectations, and trust that whatever needs to occur will occur for the highest and best of everyone involved. If you are a spiritual or faith-based person, you could consider releasing these things to a Higher Power for resolution that is out of your hands. Release is not easy, but in my experience, the clients who can do so enjoy the greatest amount of peace during the divorce.
I also suggest releasing the urge to attempt to force your spouse to remain as your marriage partner. The “force” may occur through manipulating your spouse by way of guilt, shame, threats, or other means of coercion such as intentionally withholding information or stalling the divorce process. Forcing someone to be a part of your life, as Catherine Ponder states above, is not part of your good. And intuitively, we all know this. We’ve all been guilted, shamed, judged or coerced into something we did not want to do or experience. And how did this feel? Horrible. If you and your spouse are meant to reconcile, it will happen – by mutual agreement – and not through intimidation. And if you and your spouse end up having to divorce, then releasing the “fight” to stay in the marriage will also make the process more expeditious and less costly – both financially and emotionally.
Whatever we call cause and effect, it is real, and it plays a leading role in the productions of our marriages and our divorces. We can use this Golden Rule as a beacon of our own self-care, whether we rehabilitate our marriages or legally end them.
Suzanne E. Grandchamp