MY LESBIAN DIVORCE
I was having a conversation with a friend recently, and she shared with me news that a mutual acquaintance of ours was in the process of a messy divorce. I didn’t know them well. Certainly not well enough to know what their struggles are, or have been.
However, she shared a very detailed account of their relationship – who did what, how each responded, etc. As I listened, I thought to myself, this is not my business, and, only this couple really knows the truth of what is happening (and even they may not be perceiving it correctly!).
- Not my business;
- Probably not the whole story, or entirely accurate;
- Going to be different, depending on whether it was told by partner A or partner B;
- The source of a lot of pain for this couple; and
- Not going to benefit anyone for me to know their business
So, I simply said, “It sounds like their family is really hurting, and I am sure they both have a story that makes their choices make sense. I am certainly not one to judge!”
Years ago, I could have just as easily been the topic of this conversation, and likely was for some people.
In 2014, I got divorced. My very own lesbian divorce.
Divorce is a juicy subject. But a lesbian divorce for a lesbian relationship expert, that’s extra!
I understand the compelling desire to talk about what’s going on in another’s marriage. In fact, my mom who was a part of this conversation with my friend and I, chimed in with the comment, “I think a lot of people get anxious about their own marriages when they hear about someone else divorcing.”
By focusing on how “wrong” someone else has behaved, and how it “ruined” their relationship, we seek affirmation that we are not like them, and that our marriage is safe.
I wanted to write a newsletter about my lesbian divorce for a long time before I actually did. Each time I thought about sitting down to my computer to write this newsletter, I heard a knock on my door. So, I would get up, walk down the hall, open the door and in stormed Fear. Fear would say to me, “If you share this information, the world will think you are a failure, and who would want to work with you if they knew you were divorced?”
A divorced relationship therapist.
Fear convinced me this was an oxymoron, that these two concepts were contradictory. How could I possibly help couples make their relationships work, and also be be divorced?
Fear told me that I was like a car mechanic with an automobile that wouldn’t run, or a financial investor filing for bankruptcy, or a realtor with her own house on the market for a year and counting.
Fear was convincing and persistent, and I let her plant her seeds of shame and then I watered them with my silence. Each time she came knocking at my door, I invited her in. Fear convinced me I was a failure.
Finally, I did what I would advise others to do in a situation like this. I got myself a coach.
Ironically, it never occurred to me to ask her if she has ever been divorced. That didn’t matter to me, (isn’t that interesting, I thought to myself). We met regularly (and actually still do), and she challenged me to question what Fear was telling me. She gently nudged me to find my own voice, my deepest truth, the part of me that is real.
Imagine that, this coaching stuff works!
As a side-note to all of you who believe that being a therapist means you can do the work of a therapist on yourself… well, that is not actually true. You can not force self-awareness. That is the power of having a coach or therapist to assist you – you are offered a new mirror in which to see your reflection. Ideally, a nonjudgmental mirror, and one that is framed with compassion and a desire to truly understand. It is what I wish to offer everyone with whom I work, and I am so grateful to have found a mirror like this for myself.
As time passed, Fear continued to visit. I stopped inviting her in, but I still opened the door, said “hello,” and offered her a seat on my porch. Until one day, I went to my door, and standing beside Fear, I noticed Freedom.
Freedom said, “Can you see me?” And, I said, “Yes, why do you ask?” She replied, “Because I’ve been here all along, waiting for you to notice me.”
Freedom said, “I am here to remind you that you always have a choice. You can continue to focus on Fear, I will not take her away from you. She will always be available to you.” Then she continued, “However, you also have the choice to turn your attention toward me. We will both always be here. It is up to you to decide which voice you will choose to hear.”
As I listened to Freedom, I began to feel lighter in spirit, and a sense of peace wash over me. Freedom explained to me, “Fear has encouraged you to judge and berate yourself for the failure of your relationship.” She continued, “I am not here to convince you that you didn’t fail, I am simply here to help you see your truth.”
She asked me, “Can you be at peace with your divorce?” And, she asked me, “What have you learned from this failure?”
Freedom then inquired, “What good has come from feeling ashamed, and from believing you have failed?” Lastly, she wondered, “Can you fail at something without being a failure?”
I sat with these questions for a long while. Months and months, in fact. Over time, I noticed that Fear was no longer in sight. I opened my door, and I no longer saw her on my porch, or even in my driveway, or down the street. Occasionally, I saw her drive by, but she kept on going.
What I know today is that my lesbian divorce was the right choice for me.
I should have divorced. I needed to divorce. And, I did divorce.
It has become that simple (not to be confused with easy or painless) for me. By staying, I would have failed myself.
I had a choice. Fail my marriage, or fail myself? I choose to fail my marriage. (And, unfortunately, in the process I failed myself in some ways, too). It’s just that today, I accept my failures. I choose to learn from my failures.
I made a decision that was right for me. It took me two years to accept that it doesn’t matter who judges me as long as I cease to judge myself.