I recently attended my daughter’s college graduation where Shreve Stockton, author of The Daily Coyote was the commencement speaker. She encouraged the graduates to make decisions based on their truth. That seems obvious but that’s often not the approach we take in practice. Too often our decisions are based on avoiding pain. She got me thinking that many people go through the end of their marriage basing their decisions on wanting to avoid the pain of divorce. That’s often the reason we procrastinate about divorce. But the avoidance of pain approach usually doesn’t produce the best outcome.
In essence, Stockton said that during our lifetimes we
- will likely lose money
- will lose a loved one, quite possibly more than once, and
- that our body may fail us.
While these events may be among our defining moments, it is how we respond to these crises that sets our future path. Stockton urged the graduates not to let their decision-making be driven by wanting to avoid the emotional pain and hardships because some of this is beyond our control. Instead, our decision-making needs to be guided by our truth.
As I listened to Stockton, I felt her message would resonate with anyone dealing with the end of their marriage and post-divorce challenges. I think for some us, following our truth is what leads us to ending our marriage. It did for me.
What does following your truth mean?
To me, it means not staying in a marriage because you want to avoid the conflict you anticipate will come with divorce.
It means not skirting around issues because they cause friction between you and your spouse.
It means not settling in negotiations because you just want the conflict to be over.
It means not keeping silent on an issue, such as child support or spousal support because it will make your spouse angry.
It means accepting that there will still be disagreements between you and your STBX post-divorce and especially if you have children together.
As Stockton points out, the disagreements, different perspectives are all just part of life. They are inevitable.
I didn’t see divorce as an option for many years. There were deep trouble spots between my husband and I that I felt were fundamental and immutable – so we avoided them, worked around them. I chose not to confront them, not to force the issue because I felt certain it would lead to divorce and that wasn’t going to happen to me. I do wonder now what would have happened if we had had the skills to address those issues early on, if we hadn’t let them fester and compound.
When a friend would raise divorce as a possibility I’d quickly dismiss it saying that I didn’t feel it would change much – I would still be carrying a disproportionate weight of the responsibility of parenting and managing the logistics of the household. We were living more as roommates than spouses and divorce wouldn’t change that.
Eventually, as I was withdrawing more and more, going through the motions, keeping up the facade and sinking into depression, I did start to see divorce as an option and a reality. Divorce didn’t make the parenting challenges go away but it did significantly improve my health and well-being. That was about honoring my needs, respecting myself and developing the skills to address difficult issues. Learning my truth. The mistake I had made for many years was exactly what Stockton was talking about – I hadn’t wanted to see divorce as an option because of the pain I associated with it.
To follow your truth, you have to know your truth and that is why I encourage anyone who is considering or going through divorce to spend some time getting to know themselves.
Do you know your values?
Do you know what feeds your soul?
Do you know what makes you feel content?
Do you know what makes you laugh?
Do you know your parenting philosophy?
Discovering these is a journey. It’s not something you can spend a couple of hours doing and then say, “I got it.” Rather, it means reading self-help books, joining different social groups, trying different activities, making new friends, participating in a divorce recovery program. Knowing these truths then gives you a solid foundation for assessing your situation and making decisions.
And, if you are at the stage of considering divorce, put that decision on hold. Do the self-work first and then come back to the decision about your marriage.
Having you been letting avoidance of pain guide your decisions?