After Divorce: The Compelling Case for Detached Compassion
“My ex was such a big part of my life my so many years, I can’t imagine not being friends with them.”
“After what my ex did to me, there’s no way that I can ever forgive them. I’m just so angry.”
“I just heard that my ex is already dating again! Can you believe that?!?”
“My ex keeps asking for my advice. I want to help, but I always end up feeling rotten after the call. What should I do?”
I’ve heard them all. More than once.
And even though the situations are all different, they all have a common theme.
Only now that you’re divorced, those bonds have become restraints.
“A feeling of aversion or attachment toward something is your clue that there’s work to be done.” Ram Dass
Yes, it would be awesome for you to be able to be friends with your ex. But that tricky navigation will take time and (I’m sorry to say) may never happen depending upon your circumstances. Be open to the possibility, explore the option if you’re interested, but release your attachment to the outcome.
Yes, your ex did you wrong. Way wrong. And you have every right to be angry. But the misdeeds have already been done. That’s over and no amount of anger can change that. The rage that you’re holding is holding you back, causing you even more pain that the initial injury. Releasing it doesn’t release your ex, it releases you.
Yes, your ex jumped quickly into the dating scene. Maybe even before the marriage over. It’s hard to see them with somebody else, hard to not feel as though you’re being replaced. Your interested because you’re used to being interested and perhaps because you’re hoping to uncover some signs of their unhappiness or their new partner’s shortcomings. Accept that your life is no longer tethered to theirs and if you need to feel as though you’re doing better, focus on building you instead of looking for their defects.
“The more attached we are to a vision of the future, the less present we are to what is actually trying to emerge here and now.” Peter Merry
Yes, your ex keeps reaching out to you. Perhaps they’re used to depending on you for advice and guidance. Maybe they’re playing around with the idea of rekindling a romance with you. Or maybe they’re just playing you. Your emotional reaction to the contact is your sign that your boundaries are being tested. It’s too much and/or it’s too soon. Yet, on some level, the contact feels good. Normal. And it feels good to be needed. Yet, by allowing yourself to put in this role, you’re allowing yourself to be stuck in this role.
It works if your ex is a potential friend down the road or a foe of the worst kind.
It’s applicable if you have to maintain a co-parenting relationship or you will never see them again.
It’s effective in every situation because it only depends on you and your reactions, not on your ex.
Compassionate detachment means that you take a step back. It’s the difference between being soaked in the storm and watching the rain through the window.
Compassionate detachment means that you find a place of empathy for a fellow human being. It’s the difference between squishing the ant on the sidewalk and allowing it to go on it’s way.
Compassionate detachment does not preclude the opportunity of a friendship; closeness can always be found down the road.
Compassionate detachment does not mean no consequences; if your ex behaves poorly, it’s not your job to protect them from feeling the effects.
Compassionate detachment does not immediately extinguish your impulse to know what your ex is doing; the preoccupation will decline as you maintain the distance.
Compassionate detachment does not mean no boundaries; establish guidelines to protect yourself and help them when you choose to.
And finally, compassionate detachment does not mean forgetting or ignoring. It means releasing the emotional attachment to the event and the person.
Strive to lead with compassion and detach from the outcome.
“Overcoming attachment does not mean becoming cold and indifferent. On the contrary, it means learning to have relaxed control over our mind through understanding the real causes of happiness and fulfillment, and this enables us to enjoy life more and suffer less.” Kathleen McDonald