Wednesday, May 25, 2011

The Emptiness of Rejection

It is difficult for anyone to understand how terrible it is to be in a marriage with someone who simply does not love you anymore. You see: to come home to nothing is a terrible pain.

Human beings need love and affection like plants need water. We are dry and half dead without it. We marry in order to make that love become part of our everyday life. But when that love departs, we are scarred because the very nature of love requires vulnerability. Love, as it where, opens us up. And the nature of rejection hurts us in that very place. No one can hurt you like the person that you love.

For some, it is easier to leave then to endure this unique kind of pain.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Why Write Books on Divorce?

People often ask me why I am writing a series of books on divorce. The easy answer is that I have seen too many bad divorces and too few good divorces. And I know that kids benefit for good divorces.

I also enjoy writing and one has to grab a subject and get deeply into it in order to write with intelligence. There are other subjects that move me, spiritually and children, child development, the nature of yearning and even the history of science. (Not to mention, how to make marriages a better option than divorce.) But when you see the dam breaking, one feels compelled to hold the water back.

Too many people divorce in too selfish a way. This is fueled by many factors. Society teaches us that our own needs come first. I don’t agree with this value. Self preservation in divorce compels men and women to fight for what they are due. I agree that this makes sense, but once someone starts this fight, the other person’s will be compelled to protect himself. These fights are often very costly financially and to the well being of the children, who have to watch from the sidelines.

Finally too many people simply start new lives and impose it on the kids before they are ready. I don’t agree with this. Patience has its virtue and let kids digest the divorce before providing them with more change.

So, why write so much on divorce? Over one million children are affected by divorce every year in the United States. I hope to make a difference in their lives.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Denial, for Better and for Worse

Denial is a natural part of the grief process; this isn’t really happening to me!

The Value of Denial: When you are first told about divorce or a medical illness for that matter, the mind often drops into denial. It protects you from the fear of what is to come. It gives you some time to mobilize your psychological resources in order to deal with the problem. Denial is a temporary buffer to the pain of grief and the fear of the unknown.

The Hazard of Denial in Divorce: Some people need to plan an exit from their marriage and capitalize on their partner’s denial in order to gain precious time in the process. Sometimes marriage therapy is a charade meant to buy time. This is the worst case scenario. Sometimes marriage counseling is used in a sensitive way by the one who is leaving to help their partner accept what is happening. In the first situation, the leave-ee (the one leaving) keeps his partner’s denial alive as he plans his exit. In the second and much more loving scenario, the leave-ee stays in couple’s therapy in order to gently lead her husband to the realization that their marriage is really over.

As a couple’s therapist, I have seen both.

Denial with Children: Denial has its role, particularly with the kids. Some young children simply need to believer that everything is going to be okay and you don’t’ want to rock the boat too much. Some kids are in denial throughout their youth, allowing them to grow without too much grief over the loss of their family.

Denial is a complicated and often misunderstood phenomenon in the world of divorce.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

The Pursuit of Happiness

As a student of philosophy I am often struck by how the values of culture can influence each individual, whether we know it or not. Religious faith, for instance seems to correlate with a longer lifespan, less alcohol abuse and better marital life. It may be that the values of the church/synagogue/mosque simply influence a greater commitment to family and one’s personal medical hygiene.

Marriage and divorce are also influenced by the culture at large, but maybe not in the best way.

In the post modern era, we tend to see our leaders as self serving and not all that wise. And without accepting that all leadership is flawed, the modern mind often rejects community norms, in favor of self fulfillment. So, steadfastness to community values like a commitment to marriage and children is weakening as our institutions weaken. What we have on the other side is the undisputable value of individual happiness. After all, if we have one life to live, why not enjoy it to the fullest?

But there is a rub. We are human beings and by virtue of being human, much of our happiness (and yes, torment too), comes from being a creature of relationship. We love, we marry: and we have kids, parents, brothers, sisters, friends, coworkers and pets. Get the point? Human beings are social beings, and therefore, we live a web of relationships. If individual happiness trumps everything, then we get divorced when we are unhappy, we fight for our rights because we think we were wronged and we tell ourselves that our children will learn from our example and become self centered as well.

Love requires more. Think about it.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

The Oscar Curse

There is a lot of buzz these days about the Oscar Curse and it may well be true according to researchers at the University of Toronto, who found that women that have won best actress are over fifty percent more likely to divorce than those who were simply nominated. Let’s be clear: since this accounts for a miniscule part of the population (256 women over 76 years versus over a billion normal women over the same period) these results simply do not apply to most people.

So what can we learn?

First, our actresses and actors are part of an elite class that dominates our consciousness. Remember that they are just people and suffer aches and pains like the rest of us. No one is exempt from the drama of being human.

Second, this rarefied group of women test social norms. By and large, they are more successful than their husbands, more visible and more powerful. Perhaps we don’t have a social norm for the kind of man that can skillfully handle this situation?

Third, commitment to a career, at its most ambitious level can be detrimental to marriage. This happens all the time with successful CEOs who have devoted their precious time to their career and not to their marriage. They divorce often. And actors of this caliber probably fall into a category of people who have neglected the plainness of a successful marriage in favor of career.

Finally, many people stay in an unhappy marriage because they are worried about money. Sometimes it works to their advantage because their marriage improves (but not always). Our star actresses don’t have to really worry about surviving. If anything, they may have to take care of their ex husband with support after the divorce.

(Sigh) Life is so very short. We should all find happiness.