The more I am confounded by life, the more I try to rely on Eric Fromm’s words: “Love is the only sane and satisfactory answer to the problem of human existence.”
Wait! Find a way to love my spouse as I divorce?
Love is more than an attachment to another person. It is an attitude, a way to relate to the whole world. For Fromm, mature love is behaving lovingly regardless of whether or not it is reciprocated. For some, it may include a commitment to understand the other even if you do not agree.
So why, in the midst of hurt, misunderstanding, and perhaps fear about the future (that is often expressed as anger, outrage, distrust, and sadness) should we find a way to love?
If we want to improve things around us, we need to enhance our ability to do so – our self-awareness and self-control, as well as our compassion and understanding. With knowledge comes the realization of what we can control (which is a lot in fact!), and have an opportunity to change how we think and feel.
Understanding another while acknowledging our own feelings can help us recognize the pain in the moment and allow us to reach for a broader perspective to frame a positive orientation for the future.
In divorce, this might have a direct benefit to parents and children. Less acrimony often improves communication, which in turn reduces hostility and fosters better parenting.
But, it is difficult to hold both (our self and the other) when experiencing highly charged emotions or feeling threatened or overwhelmed.
Even if there is good will and a desire to collaborate, divorce is a change. People have different ways to deal with change as well as different expectations of acceptable outcomes. Some may be paralyzed with worry, some may try to avoid the inevitable, and some may take charge “solving” every possible contingency without input from others. Attempting to resolve issues arising from the decision to divorce may result in changes that were not originally intended, like a change in residence, parenting time, or family finances. These variations can be misunderstood and/or have a negative impact. Divorce, even under the best of circumstances, is stressful and under stress we often don’t act and feel lovingly.
The role of a divorce coach in the Collaborative process is to be part of the team that serves as an emotional and perceptual sounding board, provides individual support, and helps manage the intense feelings that may occur in the process. The neutral coach brings a less passionate perspective, strives to understand each person’s needs and concerns, and facilitates the communication of information in an understandable manner that incorporates all involved.
With assistance, people can feel more in charge of their choices. With striving to understand, people can feel respected and be hopeful. With improved understanding, people are better able to focus on mutually beneficial decision-making and reduce tensions.
And love? What to do? Stay in touch with our capacity to love. It is what gives meaning to our lives.