Mindful Divorce

Divorce - Buddhist Style

Experiencing divorce is one of the most painful parts of modern life. Buddhist practice can help us cope better with this trauma.  My own recent experience was quite an eye opener for me into my own life and practice. In hindsight, I can see where I did use the Dharma to guide me through and where I could have used the Dharma more.  Here are some thoughts on clinging, placing the kids first, and a look at the Four Noble Truths in the context of divorce.

What am I clinging to?

The question "What am I clinging to?" has resounded through my mind repeatedly through the process of ending the marriage.  In the beginning, it was in an effort to see what was wrong with the marriage.  Am I clinging to some desired ideal that doesn't exist and want to end a marriage that doesn't live up to that ideal?  Am I clinging to the thought that I should save the marriage no matter what because that is what society expects of me?  Am I clinging to the idea that an intact family is the best for the  kids?

Later it was to help with the separation negotiations.  Am I clinging to this idea or that thing?  What is really necessary for the well being of the children?   Am I clinging to the idea that only I can be an effective parent?  Am I clinging to ownership of this or that asset?  Am I clinging to my own ideas about what is best for the children while avoiding the other parent's ideas?

And finally with the adjustments to life after separation - one thing I was not expecting was for friends to make themselves scarce.  The ending of a marriage is scary to a lot of people, and when they see friends divorcing sometimes compassion goes by the wayside and their fears cause them to turn their backs.  For me the loss of friends has been even more painful than the marriage breakup.  And I had to ask myself:  Am I hurt because I'm clinging to friends or the thought that friends should support me?  Am I clinging to the thought that I am worthless because of the rejection of others?

Looking for answers to the questions about clinging is a difficult process, but it does help.  Sometimes when you have the answers it's easier to let go.
 

Kids First

Placing the kids first in the divorce negotiations is of prime concern.  My children had little problems adjusting to the marital breakup because we placed the kids first.  Here are some ideas to for keeping the kids first
  • Keep decisions about the kids separate from other divorce considerations.  Don't use the kids as battle pawns. Negotiate in private away from the children - especially if the negotiation tends to deteriorate into arguments.
  • Maintain as familiar a home as possible.  Whoever was the main care giver, should continue.  Think of the family home as the children's home.
  • Child support is money that would have been spent supporting a child even if the divorce never occurred. For the parent paying child support:   Don't think you will have more money to spend if the children are living with you - you may end up spending more than you think.  Your ex-spouse is not profiting from child support. Express gratitude for the parent who is taking care of the children.  For the parent receiving child support:  Don't ask for excessive child support - the other parent has expenses, too.  Express gratitude to the parent who is paying the child support.
  • Become partners in raising the kids.  Don't deny access to the kids as a way to get back at your ex-spouse.  Both parents are needed by and loved by the children.  Amazingly, you may find that co-parenting is a lot easier when you are no longer dealing with each other constantly and also don't have to deal with saving your marriage.
  • No matter where the children are physically, they are always the children of both parents.  If long distance parenting is necessary, involvement can continue and perhaps be more meaningful than before .  Don't think of it as the other spouse stealing the children away from you.  Use the time you would spend with the kids (if they were close) to become involved by letter writing (or email), making videos, taking pictures and planning visits.  Some times wonderful relationships can develop out of written correspondence.
  • Maintain good communication.  Direct communication is best.  Kids should not be used as messengers.
  • Respect each other.  Keep negative comments about the other parent to yourself - don't express them to your children.

Four Noble Truths & Divorce

First Truth:  Recognize the existence of suffering.   Sometimes in a relationship we don't even realize we are unhappy.  When I told one friend that my spouse and I were splitting up, she remarked "I was wondering when the two of you would realize you're both unhappy ."    She realized we were both suffering at least five years before we admitted it to ourselves.

Second Truth:  Recognize the cause of suffering.   Rarely is the cause of suffering the other person.  More likely the cause is in the relationship - that third entity that is the both of you.  Blaming one another only takes you away from seeing the real causes.  Until you recognize the real causes, you won't be able to move on.

Third Truth:  Eliminate the cause.    If the cause of suffering is due to an irreparable relationship, then eliminate the relationship through divorce.  But divorce is not the only way to eliminate the cause!   The cause of suffering may be something that can be eliminated through other sources for instance bad communication can be eliminated through counseling and learning to communicate better.   That's why it is so important to really analyze and recognize the true causes of suffering.

Fourth Truth:  Follow the Eightfold Path.  The changes in your life after the divorce can be more traumatic than the actual breakup.  Use the eightfold path as a guideline to get your life back together.
 

Divorce in retrospec


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