I recently attended a symposium about divorce entitled, “What’s Love Got to Do With It?” At first glance you might wonder whether we had anything to talk about. What do love and divorce have in common? Isn’t divorce the result of the loss of love? Sharing ideas with others interested in improving the divorce process reinforced my belief that love, forgiveness and compassion are the keys to divorcing well, and that divorce can indeed be a healing process. Divorce is an all-too-common event these days. We all have friends, family members, neighbors and co-workers who have experienced becoming unmarried. Some just barely survive and are stuck looking back at their divorce with regret and resentment. Years later they continue to bad-mouth their ex and blame their divorce for their ongoing unhappiness. Their inability to be present and available has long-term consequences for their children as well. Most of us also know people who not only survive, but thrive in their post-divorce lives. They are somehow able to accept the major changes in their day-to-day lives and move forward. By doing so, they are healthy role models for their children and fun to be around. What accounts for these vastly different outcomes? Personality certainly has something to do with it. Some humans are blessed with more optimistic outlooks than others. Seeing the glass half full reduces anxiety about the future. Life circumstances also play a role. Good health, steady employment, and a healthy balance sheet contribute to feeling better about what lies ahead. However, several decades of experience tells me that one factor trumps everything else in terms of one’s ability to recover from divorce … the ability to forgive. Anger, bitterness, blame and resentment are feelings associated with the loss of a loving relationship. Grieving the loss is necessary in order to get on with life. Tara Brach, a leading western teacher of Buddhist meditation, emotional healing and spiritual awakening, who was a symposium presenter, says, “Vengeance is a lazy form of grief.” Rather than being lazy and stuck, working through one’s grief with a therapist, clergy person, or trusted friend can lead to understanding and forgiveness. Acknowledgment and forgiveness of one’s own contributions to the divorce are essential, as is forgiveness of the other person. In the Collaborative divorce process, our professional team includes a neutral coach and a child specialist, both of whom assist the parties in reaching closure with regard to their marriage and defining their future co-parenting relationship. “When you forgive somebody who has wronged you, you’re spared the dismal corrosion of bitterness and wounded pride. For both parties, forgiveness means the freedom again to be at peace inside their own skins and to be glad in each others’ presence.” -Fredrick Buechner
As a Collaborative Attorney, this sort of thing makes me proud to be a Member of the Collaborative Law Institute of Minnesota (CLI). I’m really excited to share that this May, CLI is hosting a four-day, international symposium to explore love and forgiveness in Collaborative Practice. The event is titled “Divorce: What’s Love Got to do With it?” This event, to my knowledge, isn’t for people experiencing divorce. It’s for professionals who help people that are going through a divorce. Now, why you may ask is this important? Well, I think it’s really cool that a group of dedicated professionals is really thinking about how to make things better for divorcing families and families experiencing other life-events that we include under the label Family Law. A grant from The Fetzer Institute is making it possible. You’ll want to check out their website; it’s really cool. Here is a sample of their take on love and forgiveness in the world:
We believe in the transformative power of love, love that protects us in our vulnerability while also impelling us to tend to the needs of others. We believe that forgiveness can also be transformative, a process that further extends the healing power of love. We accept that these forces have power: power to heal, and power to transform even the most difficult, troubled situation into something that is generative, affirming, and life-giving. In a world that seems dominated by aggression and separation, we are part of a broad and deep yearning for something different.I recently submitted my application to be a part of the host committee and to help brainstorm after the symposium is all done as part of the implementation committee to figure out ways to incorporate love and forgiveness into Collaborative Practice on a local and practical level. To learn how love and forgiveness can play a part in your family, contact Arnold Law and Mediation or locate another Collaborative Professional.