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What Women Are Doing to Divorce

Women and Divorce in Transformational Times

Those sounds you hear are the shattering of a glass ceiling and the fetters of an old patriarchal paradigm breaking wide open as something gorgeous emerges. 

That Something Is Us.

The recent election of Kamala Harris as the first woman of color to serve as U.S. Vice President has ushered in a new frontier of possibility made real. Women are bringing about massive social and political change, reaching from the Oval Office to schoolrooms and kitchen table classes across the country, where little girls—many of them future, grown women of color—are seeing for the first time a vice president who looks like them. Simultaneously, family dynamics and parental role models are rapidly evolving. Just as political and social evolution are dovetailed, women’s partnership with themselves is expanding as new social and industry innovators, like divorce coaches, empower them to consider marriage from a place of choice. This reframes marriage as not being a necessity—and a marriage’s end, not as a failure, but as rite of passage to their own next level of self.

The Long View

Consider what we’ve done: one hundred and one years ago, women in the United States still weren’t allowed to vote, and white women suffragists threw their black counterparts under the bus of that movement for the sake of political expediency and placation. But recently, not only did women vote, they helped lift a woman of color to the second-highest office in the country. We now have a female vice president for the first time in our history. American women, once considered patriarchal property, continue to shift out of the old, claiming not only new representation in leadership at the highest public level but also at the most intimate interpersonal level.

According to a 2015 American Sociological Association study, 90 percent of all divorces in the U.S. are initiated by college educated women.

Publicly, globally, through the connectivity of the internet, women are linking arms with each other and becoming more of a village. They are taking oaths of office, but they are also taking a stand on behalf of other women as they face doubt and scorn, naming their sexual abusers. They are serving as truth-seeking journalists and challenging dictators who seek to distort reality. Privately, they are choosing to have children with or without a partner, or not to have children at all, or not to marry. Continuing to break with the norms, they are leveraging their divorces as transformational ritual journeys. These women are stepping resolutely out of marriage as a primary definition of their value and worth. Or they are picking themselves up off the ground, and making real on the adage: “it’s not how many times you fall but how you get back up that matters.”

Relinquishing the Shame of Divorce

Many women are fortunate to live in countries like the United States where divorce is an acceptable option and has been so, fully, for three generations. Baby Boomers may be surging to the divorce court in large numbers now, but they didn’t always find the topic so approachable. For many Gen Xers, Millennials and Gen Zers, the heavy stigma associated with divorce no longer exists. And it is easier to discuss divorce and go through with it successfully than ever before.

What is the first step? Women have learned it’s about getting support and recognizing they are not alone when contemplating, navigating, metabolizing, and conquering an alien terrain called divorce.

So, don’t be afraid of the noise. We are literally transforming how the world understands power, property, subject and object.  While one woman is second-in-command of a nation—joining other countries where women already serve in the highest office—thousands of others take greater command of their emotional and professional well-being. This includes their mental health, their finances, their children, their life trajectory, and themselves.

Divorce in a Transformational Time

While the landscape of divorce continues to shift in favor of liberation, women are gaining better control over their happiness and personhood. Interestingly, having divorce as an option also serves to validate the search for joy and fulfillment, whether that be living peacefully with yourself or making space to find a better-suited partner. The backdrop of history continues to progress towards greater empowerment and equal treatment of women. Socially and culturally,  the zeitgeist continues to accommodate new models of the woman that expand beyond stereotypes and reproductive utility. While there is still so far to travel, women are embracing the transformational power of divorce as a signpost for other women, and for their own personal evolution.

Notes

Jennifer Bent is a freelance writer, former print journalist and feature writer living on the West Coast. Nicknamed Verbose at a young age, she loves word craft but has to keep a short leash on her fondness for the profane. Jennifer enjoys compelling content and the liberty to write about interesting contributors and innovative ideas. Connect with Jennifer at verbosej@hotmail.com 

If you are considering or dealing with divorce, or recreating your life in its afterward, you are invited to experience SAS for Women firsthand and schedule your free 15-minute consultation. Whether you work further with us or not, we’ll help you understand your next, black-and-white steps for walking into your brave unknown — with compassion and integrity.

*We support same-sex marriages. For the sake of simplicity in this article, however, we refer to your spouse as your “husband” or a “he.”

Unconditional love

How to Reconcile Unconditional Love and Divorce

All of us have the capacity for unconditional love. However, while this lofty concept is an ideal we can nurture in ourselves, it is not at all appropriate to hold ourselves to it as a gold standard if it is to the exclusion of our own well-being. For this reason, the value of unconditional love can become difficult during divorce.

In fact, many experts believe that no one should throw themselves under the bus of a marriage, or indeed, any relationship, in an attempt to love without boundary. We can love and forgive, accept, understand, and nurture. We can also operate lovingly at a deficit for a while; sometimes our person needs more support and doesn’t have it to give back. This is a situational love deficit, though, not a chronic one. There are healthy conditions for love and there are unhealthy ones. The idea that we must love this way, regardless of how we are loved and treated by the other person in the relationship, is a dangerous one.

Understanding Unconditional Love and Divorce

At the risk of oversimplification, let’s use the following metaphor. To expect unconditional love from ourselves for a spouse is a bit like the pedestrian right-of-way law. It is a great and necessary guideline in theory but in practical application, it is potentially destructive. It’s great if both parties are respectful of the other. However, giving 100 percent of the benefit of the doubt to one partner at all times means that one of them becomes a martyr instead of an equal participant.

The concept of unconditional love was originally coined in the 1930s by psychoanalyst Erich Fromm. Psychologist and A Way of Being author Carol Rogers later expanded on the concept, which he coined as “unconditional positive regard”. While the loving acceptance and non-judgmental receptivity to the whole person that is inherent in Rogers’ philosophy is worth emulating, a therapist is in a much different and much less emotionally vulnerable position than a spouse. The client-therapist relationship might be a symbiotic one, but it is not an intimate partnership.

When I say that the online articles about this concept are often cautionary about some forms of unconditional love, there are still some who attempt to lock spouses into unconditional love by taking a stringently religious, anti-divorce angle. And even those articles spend an awful lot of time circling the issue with scriptural quotations rather than analysis.

Religion and Unconditional Love

Some pastors take a more metaphorical interpretation of religious texts, while others hold a black-and-white interpretation of what Christianity means and what the Bible asks of marriages and spouses. Both can be incredibly supportive of women considering divorce, but the latter can be more apt to counsel women to stay in marriages where abuse runs rampant. All humans are flawed, even church leaders, so if this is happening to you, please consider that we can all have opinions that are skewed a bit too much by bias and seek a third opinion—whether from a divorce coach, therapist or lawyer. Family members often carry the same bias and while well-meaning, they are not always the best source of help when you are unsure.


For healthy action steps, you may wish to read “36 Things to Do If You are Thinking About Divorce.”


While acknowledging that perhaps all world religions weigh in on the subject of unconditional love, this piece only uses Christianity as a point of extrapolation for simplicity’s sake. Not all the religiously inclined online authors take this “unconditional love at the cost of ourselves” perspective, though.

What Scripture Says

The term unconditional love is mentioned on the Bible. However, there are conditions that exist, particularly within the relationship between deity and religious adherent. One example of this is the repentance required for forgiveness, and the Ten Commandments could certainly be viewed as conditions.

“And this is perhaps the nuance we need when thinking about unconditional acceptance. Love calls us to honor the emotions and experiences of others but not to accept any and all behaviors that arise out of these emotions.

This would tend to argue against the idea that unconditional love is synonymous with blind devotion. It challenges the idea that a devout Christian woman must stay in a marriage even if her spouse is abusive, or that she must acquiesce to our children’s tantrums without curbing them.

What We can Learn from Other Forms of Love

Some of the writers claimed that a mother’s love is the closest thing we have to unconditional love on this planet. To a point, this seems to head in the direction of truth (although it is not to suggest that mothers are perfect or on the hook for being so, and indeed, anyone who has seen the true-story movies Mommy Dearest or Precious know that mothers are just as capable of love’s opposite as anyone else). But mothers who are trying to be their best do reach a place of selflessness with their children. They embody a complete willingness to make the facilitation of their child’s life a priority over their own. That is certainly a facet of unconditional love.

I would say that a dog’s love is the closest thing to unconditional love, and I think that the saying “God is Dog Spelled Backwards” is as accurate an assessment of a spiritual truth as any from the great spiritual leaders.

But even a mother has to set limits with her children. A parent must say “no” occasionally; it is not very loving to take an “anything goes” attitude with a child. That she loves them is unquestionable. But to love without enforcing rules or requiring a code of behavior confuses permissiveness for love. One could make the same argument for a spouse.

The Takeaway

Many people misinterpret unconditional love. It is not spiritually or emotionally mature to go into a long-term relationship with the agenda that we can love our spouse only if they maintain a certain level of wealth and success or if they maintain their 30-year-old physique at 60 or as long as they remain wrinkle-free. This entitled, exclusionary, transactional thinking comes based on conditions somewhat outside our partner’s control.

But it is a mark of self-esteem to go into a long-term relationship with the understanding that we can expect emotional symbiosis—that we love and respect one another to the best of our ability, make allowances on occasion, sustain patience in the face of occasional spats or crankiness, nurture in the face of illness. The golden rule of treating someone the way we would want them to treat us does go both ways, though.

You can love someone completely and even forgive them the very worst abuse without staying married to them. It’s also possible to love from a distance and sometimes that is the only way.

You do not have to stay with someone in order to love them. The only fully enforceable covenant is the one we make to both love ourselves and also be spiritually present by taking responsibility for ourselves and our actions.

If we’re all children of divine love, then we can assume that we are as deserving of that kind of regard as our spouse. Unconditional love does not expect us to tolerate abuse or chronic disrespect, and is therefore perfectly compatible with divorce. Love doesn’t seek to make doormats of us.

Notes

Jennifer Bent is a freelance writer, former print journalist and feature writer living on the West Coast. Nicknamed Verbose at a young age, she loves word craft but has to keep a short leash on her fondness for the profane. Jennifer enjoys compelling content and the liberty to write about interesting contributors and innovative ideas. Connect with Jennifer at verbosej@hotmail.com 

 

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*SAS for Women is an all-women website. At SAS we respect same-sex marriages. However, for the sake of simplicity in this article we refer to your spouse as a male.