Dhamma in the Time of Divorce
It seems we at the BSV are a pretty monogamous crowd, or to put it another way, I’ve not heard of all that many divorces amongst BSV members in my 20 years of attending. As some/ nearly all of you/a couple of you, would know, I’m in the midst of just that…a divorce. I’m extremely fortunate in that the divorce is more than simply amicable, we are and plan to remain close friends. My new partner Selina and I have invited Seesee to be an Aunty to the children we are planning, that is how close my about to be ex-wife and I are. Still there is much that I am learning about myself and my Dhamma practice and it is this that I wish to offer. I’m not offering a guideline on Buddhist divorce, merely my thoughts on how it is affecting my practice of the Dhamma.
This is, in its own way, a deeply curious time for me. On one hand I have the ending of a marriage, the beginning of a friendship and the start of a relationship. I know that I glow these days and the source of that glow is never far away. I also weep in a way that I never have before. Plans are being made, yet dreams are dying..
We are taught Forgiveness, Loving-kindness and Patience and its importance in practicing them in daily life. Still it is amazing to see couples who, like Seesee and myself, were married for a very long time, suddenly treating each other appallingly simply because the relationship has failed. Almost everyday we see in the media of a murder that happened because a relationship failed. We practice Forgiveness throughout the marriage/relationship and when it ends, the very first thing we discard is that Forgiveness.
I am finding that despite the fact that Seesee and I are friends that there is, at times, an amazing amount of hurt due to the ending of the marriage. I have and occasionally still do, weep deeply over the death of something that mattered everything to me. There is the perception of something happening that shouldn’t be. Seesee & I shouldn’t have ended, yet we did. Issues should have been resolved, yet they were not. This is where Forgiveness walks up and asks if he can help. There is a lot of anger in me with the label “Seesee’s family” attached. Yet what point is it to continue having anger towards people I’m never going to see again? Yet it is still there.
There is a necessity to forgive both Seesee and myself. It would be too easy to blame the ending of the marriage on Seesee, yet this would be to engage in an unfairness. I played my part in the ending, there is no one person in the house I live in who did not play a part in the ending. Selina did not play the role that some of you have thought she did, falling in love with Selina was the sign that the marriage was no longer troubled, it was over. Selina was a sign, not a cause. She is no Scarlet Woman, despite what some are assuming, Selina did not cause the ending of the marriage, she did not seek to destroy something. Nor is she a middle aged infatuation. Falling in love with Selina was a sign that whatever efforts that logic was trying to make to ensure the marriage survived, my emotional needs had already decided that they wanted out. So I need to forgive myself and Seesee for not being able to resolve small problems when they were just that, small problems. There was a need to forgive a perception of failure on my part. I had tried desperately to make it work and it had ended. There is a deep need not to beat someone to death emotionally be that person either Seesee or myself simply because the marriage had ended. I saw my parents do that, and simply will not repeat it with someone I love as much as I do Seesee. The marriage had died, love had not.
Patience is a deep friend. Patience is needed to allow the new friendship with Seesee to grow. We are both changing as people and whilst I am often caught up in building my life with Selina, there is the recognition that neither Seesee nor I are the people we were when we separated on April 1. We both need patience in order to allow the other to grieve and to grow. Whilst my life is centred around getting a job, marrying Selina and starting a family in no particular order, Seesee is more socially active than she has ever been and now sees more of her family than she has in decades. We need to gift each other with patience and space. There are new roles to learn and occasionally we make mistakes. I am known to call Seesee “darling”, and occasionally Seesee will open a door that used to present no problems, only to be met with embarrassed shouts.
Loving-kindness (Metta) has also been present. Metta is a way to simply acknowledge that for 20 years we have been friends. I can radiate Metta to Seesee and not have to worry about a relationship getting in the way. I can call her “Mum” and do it with love. For Seesee mothers Selina and myself. Metta means that the need for family can be recognised and acted upon. I can and do tell her “I love you. Selina and I want you as part of our family. We do not want you to be unloved or lonely.” This is Metta.
Compassion ( Karuna) is present because there is the temptation to simply stop caring for someone. I mean Seesee is no longer my wife, why should I care if she has bad days or not? Karuna dampens anger. Karuna means that when one of us is grieving, the other holds them and wipes away their tears. It is an unusual dynamic, two people grieving for a marriage and comforting each other when they were husband and wife. Our relationship has changed from marriage to friendship.
I am learning about Impermanence (Anicca). After 20 years, it was reasonable to assume that Seesee and I were about to become `an old married couple’. Instead there is a death happening. It doesn’t seem that long ago that Seesee & I were first in love, yet here we are at the ending.
I am also learning about assumptions. There are some who have made assumptions of the very worst kind in regards to recent events. People who, despite their own conceit, do not know the entirety of what was happening in my life. People who have treated others badly because of events within their own lives leading them to make assumptions about mine. People who never considered that they were not hearing nor were they entitled to know everything. Understand that I am not complaining, just making observations. Assumptions, I have learnt are dangerous and lead to a kind of blindness. Assume the worst of someone or an event, and you will often be rewarded with what you assumed, as a result you will miss the beauty in the person and the event. Assumptions are often amazingly wrong. I had assumed that I would not find love and happiness in a younger woman….yet here I am in love and happy in a way that words appallingly fail to describe.
Because things are dynamic, I will stop with this. If this essay seems unfinished, that’s because it is. My life is unfinished and the one thing I know is that things will change.