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Life's Lessons

On Divorce

 

Some Profound Thoughts Such as...

Why did I have to go through a divorce?

(Or the Death of a loved one)

What is the meaning behind grief?

Why does life bring us pain?

What is my purpose on Earth?

 

 

Perhaps it may be good to start this page with an essay by Ralph Waldo Emerson, who can express better than I how good things -- things we never expect or even fathom -- can come out of despair and pain.

I ran across this essay while I was struggling with the pain and hopelessness in my life that came from divorce, and the agony of wondering what was left of my life when my marriage ended at age fifty. When I read it, it touched me deeply. I felt it to be extremely profound, as if it were written just for me.

In his list of calamities that Emerson says are unpaid losses, you may well add divorce, because it is one of life's most painful losses. Concerning his speaking of death, you would do well to consider and accept that divorce is also a death - the death of a marriage and of a way of life. In this essay, I hear Emerson telling me that, not in spite of, but because of the tragedies that may befall us during our lifetimes, these tragedies can bring about changes in our lives which could ruin our lives, but which, instead, give us the chance to change and grow into a much stronger person who can be of much more value to mankind. This essay is one of my most favorite pieces of literature. It means so very much to me, and I hope it will bring meaning to you and your life as you struggle with your grief.

 

"Compensation"

by
Ralph Waldo Emerson

The compensations of calamity are made apparent to the understanding also, after long intervals of time. A fever, a mutilation, a cruel disappointment, a loss of wealth, a loss of friends, seems at the moment unpaid loss, and unpayable. But the sure years reveal the deep remedial force that underlies all facts. The death of a dear friend, wife, brother, lover, which seemed nothing but privation, somewhat later assumes the aspect of a guide of genius; for it commonly operates revolutions in our way of life, terminates an epoch of infancy or of youth which was waiting to be closed, breaks up a wonted occupation, or a household, or style of living, and allows the formation of new ones more friendly to the growth of character.

It permits or constrains the formation of new acquaintances and the reception of new influences that prove of the first importance to the next years; and the man or woman who would have remained a sunny garden-flower, with no room for its roots and too much sunshine for its head, by the falling of the walls and the neglect of the gardener is made the Banyan of the forest, yielding shade and fruit to wide neighborhoods of men.

Poems of Ralph Waldo Emerson, T. Y. Crowell (NY), 1965

If you understand the meaning of this essay, it will have a profound effect on you.
If you can't, I hope that one day you will be able to comrehend its vast wisdom.

 

There are times when we wonder why we have to go through grief and pain in our lives. If we think about it, we have to realize that grief, pain, mistakes and heartaches are a part of life that we all experience at one time or another if we are to live on Earth. We can't escape them if we are alive on this earth. And, if we could drop all of our troubles and never see them again, as the below poem wishes, would we remember what we learned from our troubles and pain?

The above essay may be hard to understand, but if you read it over and over, you will begin to see. The Banyan tree is one of the most magnificent trees on earth. It has a huge canopy and a multitude of roots descending from its branches that reach down and give it a wonderful foundation. What Emerson says is true - if you allow them, and if you follow the flow of things, you will see that many of our tragedies end up being blessings even though we don't see why at the time.

 

"The Land of Beginning Again"

I wish that there were some wonderful place
called "The Land of Beginning Again",
Where all our mistakes and all our heartaches
and all our poor selfish grief
Could be dropped like a shabby old coat at the door and never be put on again.

~ Louise Fletcher Tarkinton ~

Divorce is one of the most painful things a person can go through. It brings heartache and pain that we don't like to experience. We wonder why it had to happen to us when other marriage should last a lifetime.

In my case:

I was luckier that most. My life seemed untouched by pain until I was nearly fifty. I thought I had a good life, and by most standards it was. I had what I thought was a good marriage. I had two beautiful, wonderful, healthy children. Both of my parents were still alive. I hadn't suffered from any major losses up to then. On the other hand, since I hadn't experienced grief, I didn't understand it, so I couldn't comprehend the pain of others like I should have been able to do. Now I can.
I also didn't know how to deal with grief. I managed to deal with it with great difficulty during my divorce, and I'm sure I will face it again in my lifetime.

In fact, since then, I have lost both parents and a brother, and an aunt I was very close to. As bad a loss as they were, none of them were as painful as my divorce. The divorce was more personal, and affected my very soul. Many people will tell you that a divorce is worse than a death, even those who have had a spouse die. Death is a natural part of life. It doesn't affect your self-esteem or self-worth. There isn't a living person walking around to remind you of your failure. You weren't told that you aren't lovable. You weren't rejected.

In my marriage, I had dealt with job problems, daily struggles, marital disagreements (some quite large). We had the usual "in-law" strife's that many couples have. We had some problems, but I thought that always managed to live a fairly good life. When it came to real trouble and pain, I got a late start with real life.

When
Real Life hit, it hit hard.
I had to learn how to deal with it. In doing so, I learned a great deal
about pain and compassion, lessons that were sorely needed.

Nobody gets married with the expectation that their marriage will end. When I got married, we were very much in love. My husband did loved me. We made endless vows and declarations that we would grow old together and love each other eternally. We each considered the other person to be our best friend. Things were good for a long time, although, looking back, had I been aware of the "red flags", I would have been more prepared for what would eventually happen.
I was proud that we were still together after other marriages we knew of had failed. On the surface, his mid-life crisis did us in.
In reality, it was a number of things.
In the end (and this took me a long time to realize), we just weren't good or right for each other for the long haul. His values turned out to be way different from mine. He stopped wanting to go to church, he really didn't want children, he didn't care about neighbors, he didn't want a home, but rather wanted to live on a boat.

Finally, our marriage ended, not by my choice, but by his. I did everything I could to to try to make it work, including going to therapy and trying to get him to go with me to counseling. He didn't think he needed either - he intimated that all of the problems were mine. By that time, there had been too much water under the bridge and too much emotional damage, and the marriage couldn't be repaired. I learned that it takes two people to be committed to a marriage to make it work. If either person doesn't want to work at it, the other can't fix it by his or herself. When one doesn't want the responsibilities and commitments that go with marriage, no matter what the other wants or tries to do, the marriage can't be saved.
He never would admit that he had any problems or that he wanted to try to work to stay together.

Since the marriage didn't last, should we feel that we should have never gotten married? Or that we were wrong to get married?
No, I don't think most of us should not feel that way about our marriage. In another page, I talk about our marriage being part of a plan that we were meant to be a part of in our evolution through life.
I eventually came to terms with the failure of my marriage,
and eventually understood the reason for our marriage. Being married to him was a part of my growth, of learning lessons, of learning not to give up my values when I knew it would be wrong.

In the beginning, we were in love. We had wonderful goals and plans for our life together, and we looked forward to a lifetime of being together. We each had needs when we met, and we found the person who met our needs at that time. We thought we had the person who met the criteria for being our lifetime mate. We had two children who otherwise wouldn't have been created - children who have a purpose and who are giving back to this world. We pursued career goals; we had fun times; and we had a fairly good sexual relationship. There were financial struggles at the beginning, but we made it through them knowing we would eventually make it. We never got rich, but we did O.K. And I have decided that the time we were together fulfilled our destiny for that period of our life. It's important to realize and acknowledge this. Our marriage wasn't a mistake. It was what we were meant to do and where we were meant to be at that time in our lives. Consider this:

Our Lives Are Where We Are Supposed To Be

"Our past is neither an accident nor a mistake.
We were where we were supposed to be,
doing what we were supposed to be doing,
with the necessary people."

If we were doing the right thing at the time, why didn't our marriage last? Well, as in a good many marriages, things can change. People change. Values change. As life progresses, things from our childhood crop up and create problems. Strife creeps in, issues build up, jobs create problems and insecurities, hurts add up, issues don't get resolved, needs don't get met. After awhile, it gets so bad that it it can't go on or it would destroy both people, not only physically, but mentally and emotionally.

 

"The very measure of a good relationship
is in how much it encourages optimal
intellectual, emotional and spiritual growth.
So, if a relationship becomes destructive,
endangers our human dignity,
prevents us from growing,
continually depresses and demoralizes us...
and we have done everything we can to prevent its failure...
Then, unless we are masochists and enjoy misery,
we must eventually terminate it."

~ Author Unknown ~

 

Sometimes the choices we make in earlier years, which were right at the time, become the wrong choice later because of a number of uncontrollable forces. They might have even been controllable forces if we had been aware of them at the time, but we weren't. It is important to realize that we did the right thing based on what we knew at the time. It wasn't a mistake.

What I thought was a good marriage turned out not to be a lasting one. But was it really a good marriage or did I create a fantasy of a good marriage in order to endure? Looking back, I always felt that there should have been something more. We didn't seem to have the devotion to each other that should have been there.
I was skeptical and cynical of those "perfect" marriages in books and movies; I didn't think they existed in real life. The husbands who loved their wives more than life itself, the husbands who cherished their wives, defended them, the wives who looked up to and respected the husbands, the couples who always got along fantastically -- those were fairy-tale marriages. I didn't think they could be real. I didn't realize that what our marriage was lacking was the things that it should have had... the forever-after qualities. One of us certainly didn't have the quality of sticking through both the good and the bad times, for it was during a particularly bad time that it ended.

After a lot of grief, soul-searching and therapy, over a period of time I came to acknowledge that his leaving was a blessing. Had he not left, I wouldn't have been given the opportunity to have the life I'm living now, nor would he. I was forced to grow and try to became a better person or stay miserable for the rest of my life. As I grew, I became more spiritual. I learned to be more compassionate. I started learning to like myself. In my marriage I had been made to believe that I was hard to get along with, and that I wasn't a very nice person or giving person.
I grew to realize that was just his opinion.

 

My standards for the criteria of a mate are much higher than they were when I was younger, for I have changed and my values have grown more important. My new husband and I have the same values and we feel very comfortable together. Again, he meets my criteria for a life mate, as I do his. But because we both have grown through other marriages, we think we are very well suited to each other. I think this one will last a lifetime.
We are much more knowledgeable about life and we cherish each other.

The Rule of Thumb is that we are attracted to a person on the same level (socioeconomic, personality, values, goals, and most importantly of all, the same level of function or dysfunctional emotionally and mentally) as we are. That is who we will usually marry. We will seek out this type of person over and over unless we grow and through counceling get to the bottom of our personal issues.

If we want something better, we must become better ourselves in order to attract better. Because I was able to learn and grow and become a better person, I met a man who was on a higher level.

We have to grow and change; we have to learn from our mistakes.
If I had met my present husband years ago, neither of us would be interested in the other for a number of reasons. At the time we came together, we were right for each other. We had both learned from mistakes in our first marriage. We were both more mature and knew what we did and didn't want. We were more secure in ourselves. We met each other's needs in a more mature way. We had learned how to love unconditionally.

In this marriage, I do feel cherished. I feel as if I'm appreciated, like in the fairy tales. I'm not criticized or put down. This time we are right for each other. We accept each other's faults and idiocyncrecies. We support each other. We complement each other with our strengths and weaknesses. But it's important to realize that I needed to go through the other marriage in order to get to where I am now.
Everything that happens has a purpose.

 

Here are some "rules" that, in part, help to sum up
what is to follow.

Rules For Being Human

  1. You will receive a body. You may like it or hate it, but it will be yours for the entire period this time around.
  2. You will learn lessons. You are enrolled in a full-time, informal school called life. Each day in this school you will have the opportunity to learn lessons. You may like the lessons or think them irrelevant and stupid.
  3. There are no mistakes, only lessons. Growth is a process of trial and error; experimentation. The "failed" experiments are as much a part of the process as the experiment that ultimately "works".
  4. A lesson is repeated until it is learned. A lesson will be presented to you in various forms until you have learned it. Then you can go on to the next lesson.
  5. Learning lessons does not end. There is no part of life that does not contain its lessons. If you are alive, there are lessons to be learned.
  6. "There" is no better than "here". When your "there" has become a "here", you will simply obtain another "there" that, again, looks better than "here."
  7. Others are merely mirrors of you. You cannot love or hate something about another person unless it reflects to you something you love or hate about yourself.
  8. What you make of your life is up to you. You have all the tools and resources you need; what you do with them is up to you. The choice is yours.
  9. The answers lie inside you. The answers to life's questions lie inside you - all you need to do is look, listen, and trust.
~ Author Unknown ~

 

I believe that we are put on this Earth to become the very best person we can be. In order to do that, we have to learn. We are given lessons in order to learn what we are supposed to learn. Quite often (most of the time, if we are honest), we don't learn unless there is a reason - either we have a desire to learn, or we are forced to learn in order to survive. We are forced to learn and grow.

We learn best from our mistakes. We don't tend to learn as well when things are going well - there is no need. The same is true in our relationship with God. In times of trouble, we are brought close to Him. When things are going well, we tend to neglect our spiritual growth.
It was when I was in the most pain that I grew the most spiritually. I had to believe there was a purpose for all of the pain.

The poem, "The Weaving" helps us to understand that everything that we go through in life is part of the ultimate plan for our lives.

I guess that what I have been through has led me to a place where I believe that all of my life's experiences - the good, the bad, the smart moves and the regretful ones have led me to where I'm supposed to be at this point in my life.
Things aren't perfect now, either. Things are never perfect. We still have problems and troubles in life. I still have some learning and growing to do.

Imagine This

You don't have to believe in reincarnation to follow me on this train of thought. I'm not so sure that there might not be such as thing as reincarnation. I'm open to the thought that is might be possible, and I don't believe that it goes against the Bible. It is said that reincarnation was once in the bible until people throughout history had their hand in adding and removing portions of the Bible.
It is possible that some of us are old souls and some are new souls. We have a journey to make and things to learn in order to become a complete, whole and healthy person.

It is believed by some that if we don't complete that journey in one lifetime, we get other chances. In some lifetimes, we travel far and learn a lot, moving up the spiral of life faster. We are given obstacles to overcome, hardships to endure, seemingly impossible situations to live with to mold us. We learn a lot in those lifetimes. In other lifetimes, we rest and move more slowly and have easier lives. But in each lifetime, we are given opportunities to overcome our basic "faults", or to learn the lessons we are meant to learn. If we don't learn, we have to keep repeating our lives until we do. If we do learn, we move on to the next lesson. When we have learned a lesson, we don't have to repeat it again in the next lifetime. And so we grow, until we have reached the point where we have become the best person we are supposed to be. I'm not wise enough to know what happens then, but I hope our soul can then rest in Heaven.

Now, if you don't believe in reincarnation, you can look at it this way. We can learn our lessons in one lifetime, becoming all that we were meant to be, OR we can waste that life and remain a person who hasn't evolved into his or her best. We won't get another chance, so we have to grow as much as we can in our one lifetime. Either way, it is up to us to grow and evolve as far as our lifetime takes us. We can learn from our mistakes and try to become a better person, or we can stay as we are, unhappy and unfulfilled. Sometimes circumstances prevent us from doing and being our best, but it is up to us to try to overcome those circumstances and make the best of what we have.
In thinking this way, then we must make the most of the one life that we have.

 

By doing our best in our lifetime, I believe that we can:

  • Strive for spiritual growth and enlightenment
  • Make changes for the better
  • Make up for hurtful ways
  • Seek help through therapy or counseling
  • Read and learn as much as we can about healing, recovery, good marriages, and dysfunction
  • Strive for self-enlightenment by getting to know ourselves we really are
  • Change things that we don't like about ourselves
  • Become the person we want to be
  • Learn to really love others
  • Use our talents to the fullest
  • Give back to others
  • If we can't be perfect in each of these, we can keep trying
 

 

Thus, I believe that our lives bring us what we need in order to learn the lessons that we are meant to learn in order to move up that spiral to ultimately become the person we are meant to be. I believe that unconsciously, and/or by divine intervention, we make the choices that lead us to places in our lives that give us opportunities to grow. When we reach those places, it is up to us to grow, or stagnate.

 

Food for Thought
  • Think about your life. Is it evolving or standing still?
  • Can you find a reason or a purpose for your first marriage?
  • Can you see why that marriage didn't last?
  • Can you see how it led you to where you are today?
  • Can you see why you chose the person you chose in your first marriage? In your present marriage?
  • What have you done to learn and grow?
  • Have you made the best of your opportunities, or merely survived the ordeals?
  • Can you see how your life, from its beginning, has shaped you?

Like Harvell Hendrix, I believe that we are meant to be a part of a couple. Most of us want and yearn to be a part of a couple. I believe that we learn and grow best in a relationship.
I believe that men and women belong together in life.
I also believe that a person should "spend some time in the desert".
A person needs to live by his or her self to learn to be
an independent person before they get married. If a person gets married right out of high school or college (as they did when I was young), then eventually, sometime during their lifetime, they have to learn to be independent in order to be a whole person. After a divorce,
a person needs to spend time grieving and healing alone.
Like me, some of us don't get that chance until a marriage fails. I went right from my parent's home to college to marriage the summer I finished college. I didn't have a chance to establish an identity or to become a whole person on my own before becoming part of a couple.
After my marriage ended, I had a number of years to learn about myself. I was in counseling for several years. I spent time reading, working through childhood issues, going to therapy, learning about myself, and forming friendships that I didn't have within the marriage. I spent time reflecting on myself and my life. I purposely wanted to grow. I spent time alone learning about Me and working on Me.
My life isn't perfect now - I still have some internal struggles with issues that will never go away but that I have learned to deal with. I have had my share of problems. My father was an alcoholic and my mother suffered from bipololar disease. Then came my divorce. Later, I had to deal with an invalid mother in a nursing home and an alcoholic brother who hindered more than helped. When I most needed him, God sent my present husband into my life. He helped me make it through those bad times. Like everyone, I have frustrations at work, I get sick and sometimes wonder if I ever will feel better (I always do feel better, but when I feel "down" it's hard to remember feeling "up"). We have dealt with death on both sides of our family. We have had problems with our children, and worried about them and their lives. Life goes on.
I look forward to retirement which is two years away, when we can relax and travel and have the time to enjoy life more fully. But I'm still living life, and life brings its pain and trouble as well as its joys and contentment.

I hope that this page has helped you to accept your divorce (or your grief, whatever it is), and made you realize that your life isn't over just because your marriage ended. It isn't over even if your spouse has died. I hope that this has given you something to work on and look forward to - a better, happier life. We came into this life by ourselves and we will leave by ourselves. It's just nice when we have a loving person with which to share our lives.

In the end, even though we chose to move through this life with a mate, now or previously, our life and what we do with it is up to us.

 

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This page created in 2003 and updated.

 

Copyright Notice - Please Read:

Contents of this page (including text) with the exception of the background image set, the poem, Rules for Being Human, and "Compensation" are Copyright 2003 by this author. No part of this page's original composition can be copied, downloaded, reproduced, printed, placed on another web site or otherwise published in any medium without explicit written permission.

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Copyright 1995 - 2005 by Linda S. Nix
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