I saw a wonderful book title, the “Good Karma Divorce,” by Judge Michele Lowrance and I want to share what I’ve learned through long experience guiding people through “no-karma divorces.” Let’s consider the easy situation – no young kids or a joint business involved. If you have those added degrees of difficulty, the guidelines and strategy are the same, but you’ll have to develop different tactics to fit your specific situation.
If two people work together amicably to divorce and then work at getting along afterward, it’s easy to have a no-karma divorce. But what if one person is done with the way the intimate relationship has been while the other person wants to fight to keep the same old patterns going?
Jane knew soon after she married Joe that her husband was not the man she’d dated. He began to be weak and inept. She had to do all the physical labor to keep the house clean, the mental acrobatics to keep them solvent despite his spending on his toys and also the emotional work to keep him happy so he wouldn’t get depressed, angry and even more useless. In addition, he became mean, nasty, sarcastic, controlling and blaming. Everything had to be done his way or he’d sulk, blow up and verbally attack Jane.
In the beginning, Jane didn’t think of leaving. She felt stuck; she was pregnant, she’d been raised to be a people-pleaser and she had promised to obey him all her life. She kept thinking that it was her duty to do all the work and that if she was a good enough wife and mother, he’d be the nice person whom she’d dated.
So she stuck it out – year after year, baby after baby, decade after decade. But no matter what she did, Joe never got better. In fact he got worse – more negative, manipulative, passive-aggressive and abusive.
Now that their four kids were grown and independent, she felt more free to act. Her spirit was crying out to her.
Since Joe will blame her, harass and fight with her all the way and try to take everything he could in order to retaliate, what can Jane do to have a no-karma divorce?
- Jane accepted that she can’t please Joe unless she violates her own spirit by staying with him. Well, he was never really happy with her anyway. But she can still leave in a no-karma way.
- Jane adopted a mantra: Don’t argue, don’t blame, don’t explain, don’t justify, don’t defend, don’t seek his permission. Answer “why” questions once or twice and then move on. When he tries to start an argument, just leave. When he says she has to tell the grown kids that she’d changed and it’s her fault and she’s probably having an affair, tell him, “I’ll tell them my truth. I have changed. I’m leaving because I just got tired of putting up with your behavior. I won’t stay and take your bullying any longer. I’m not having an affair. I just want to do better with the rest of my life. I’ll love the kids always and we’ll figure out how to have a great life and great times together even though one of their parents doesn’t want to put up with the behavior of the other one anymore.”
- Jane saw a lawyer and made a plan. She thought, given Joe’s behavior for more than three decades, she had to do this in secret before telling him that she wanted a divorce – no, that she was going to divorce him. She made an inventory of all the money and things they had. She learned what to do if he threatened her or physically abused her. She didn’t give up most of their money and stuff, and go free but penniless and become a burden to her kids in order to assuage her guilt. She analyzed what she thought was a fair distribution of stuff – close to 50/50. Then she let her lawyer negotiate with his.
- She told Joe she as going to divorce him and she had to repeat it a number of times. She let him blame her, but when he started to rant and bully her, she asked him to leave until he could calm down or she left for a while. She knew he’d need emotional time. He knew how much they’d fought but he never expected her to leave. He thought she’d take it forever. She had to screw up her courage and determination in order to proceed. She also had to commit – no guilt, no blame. She decided that there was no going back, even if he pleaded. She made cue cards to carry and read to him that were her standard answers to his questions and accusations. Using different color cards, she wrote quotes or advice to herself that she could read to strengthen her resolve when she felt herself wavering.
- She prepared herself for Joe to try to manipulate the kids to be on his side and to coerce her to stay with him. She guessed that some would agree with him and do his bidding, while others wouldn’t. No-karma meant that she remained calm and truthful as she explained to them why she needed to leave in order to have a chance of creating the future her spirit wanted. No matter what happened, she’d keep reaching out to them – give them and their children birthday presents, holiday gifts, regular letters and calls. She hoped that someday, when they’re older, they’d understand. She cried to herself when some exclude her from their lives. After telling Joe, Jane told the extended family what she was doing. She didn’t ask them what they thought or for their permission. She didn’t discuss family dynamics and whose fault it as. She understood that no one else got to vote.
- She took care of her body and spirit through the emotional and physical ups and downs. She had to face her fears – “I’m a bad person” or “He’ll kill me or he’ll kill himself and it’ll be my fault” or “I’m weak and I’ll never survive without him” or “Everyone will hate me and I’ll end up alone and broke.” She knew she’d have to deal with her own emotional upheaval. Divorcing him meant that she’d destroyed a life-long dream. She’d changed the whole structure of her universe that had lasted for decades. The marriage and family had been the gravitational center of her old world. Now there was a void. Everything had to be shifted around; she had to create a new universe with herself and her spirit’s desires at the center, and also include her children and grandchildren. That would be difficult and take time, but she’d simply have to live through the turmoil. She got an expert coach to help her stay on track and to plan her next steps.
- She clarified to the kids, her family, his family and their friends, the behavioral standards she had to have in order for people to get close to her. She realized that she was testing them just as they were testing her. She reminded her children that she wanted to have an adult relationship with them now, while she was being a great grandmother to their kids. She decided which events she wanted to attend and which she’d avoid. With her family she made plans for the weekly events with her grandchildren and for yearly holidays and vacations. She also brought up the big public events like graduations, weddings and funerals. She was clear. She’d always be civil, polite and cheerful with Joe on occasions where they’d be together. But she wasn’t going to be friends with Joe anymore. Divorcing him meant that she’d no longer be involved in his daily doings or his emotional life. She would be friendly, but not friends. She would not enable or rescue him physically or emotionally, and she would not call on him even if she felt needy. That’s how she’d avoid any karma.
For Jane, no-karma meant keeping calm, steady and on-track despite Joe’s provocation. And when she did react, she didn’t wallow in self-bullying but forgave herself and got back to how she wanted to Be and act. She wasn’t going to take his attacks personally.
Jane was able to maintain herself; nothing stuck to her and she emerged from the turmoil with no karma.
For different tactics, see the case study of Jean in “How to Stop Bullies in their Tracks,” available fastest from this web site. Also, I’ve seen the same difficulties when it’s the husband wanting to divorce a controlling wife, or partners splitting up.
Since all tactics depend on the situation, expert coaching by phone or Skype helps. We can design a plan that fits you and your situation. And build your will and skill to carry it out effectively.