David’s Divorce Dictionary: L is for Love.
Definition: Love, or loving someone (including oneself), is the condition of being patient, kind, forgiving, understanding, and honest.
Thank you to Dr. Alphonse M. Tatarunis, my 91-year-old stress-management guru, for this practical definition of love. It is very different than the emotionally driven concept of love many people have at the time they marry.
Just because two people emotionally love each other does not mean that they will successfully live together in a sustained, healthy marriage. For one, loving someone emotionally does not mean that you actually know them at the time of marriage. How people behave “in love” can be incredibly different from how they react “in crisis.” And people are well, unsteady. They change over time; they make painful, repetitive mistakes; they develop mental illnesses, addictions, or new passions; they can become dysfunctional and mean. Uncontrollable circumstances can change relationships and families forever.
The emotional love experienced at the beginning of a marriage can easily evaporate if it does not mature into the sustaining, practical love espoused by Dr. Tatarunis.
If a marriage breaks irretrievably, why should one exhibit love to a soon-to-be-ex?
Divorcing with love avoids self-destructive legal and emotional warfare. If children are involved, divorcing with love protects them by stabilizing the family and maintaining focus on the wellbeing of their children. Parents who divorce with practical love fulfill their responsibilities as adult role-models—children witness and absorb how mature adults should handle a family crisis.
How is practical love exercised in divorce?
By being patient, kind, forgiving, understanding, and honest in resolving the financial and parenting issues.
One can forgive the other for transgressions. One can understand the other’s motivations, needs or problems; one can be patient with the slow, circuitous, and frustrating process; one can be kind in terms of making sure the other spouse is not unduly disadvantaged or damaged by divorce decisions.
And it is important to be patient, forgiving, understanding and kind to oneself as well.
The most essential element of love in divorce, however, is honesty. Honesty is speaking one’s mind, protecting one’s interests, insisting on accountability and consequence (without punishing), and seeing things as they are. It is crucial to be honest and objective with oneself and about the family’s situation. It is self-destructive to see things as completely one-sided, as how they should be; or as catastrophic and hopeless.
Divorcing with Love need not be reciprocal to be valuable and healing. But it must be two-pronged: practical love not only should be directed toward one’s spouse, but also applied to oneself.
What’s the Takeaway?
To survive divorce intact and move on to a better life, give practical love to the person who has helped to destroy your prior hopes, dreams, aspirations, and beliefs. That includes loving the person who is looking back at you in the mirror.
If you have any questions or comments about this article or suggestions for future topics, please feel free to contact me.