Not every divorce needs to be a battle. In their newly released book Better Apart: The Radically Positive Way to Separate, attorney Gabrielle Hartley and yoga and meditation teacher Elena Brower have created a framework for splitting up in a truly elegant, positive, and transformative way. Their advice can apply to any breakup, showing us it really is possible for two people to have a stronger, healthier relationship after their split than they did before it. In this excerpt, Hartley and Brower outline the five essential elements to truly being better apart.
You may now officially dissolve your misconceptions about divorce: the battle, the negative legacy, the stigma, the loneliness, the gossip. Starting now, you’ll choose the tone of your approach. Regardless of what others are choosing, you can choose to be generous, gracious, and aware of the consequences of your actions. As a result, you may find that your post-separation dynamic is better than before, especially if you both engage in this process. But, even if you’re the only one practicing patience, respect, clarity, peace, and forgiveness, your communications can become more thoughtful and functional—and you’ll likely find that you’re truly better apart.
No matter who initiated the separation or divorce process, your legacy depends on your inner attitude, your outer composure, and your vision for the future. While this is much easier said than done for some of us, there is simply never a need to speak disrespectfully to your ex or to anyone about your situation. It isn’t productive for you or anyone else around you.
Having seen her parents endure a costly, contentious divorce, a woman I know vowed never to marry. She’d seen up close “how nasty marriage can be.” This deep, lasting impression led her to “protect herself” by remaining unmarried. The real impact of this internal narrative? Unnecessary doubt, which led her to steer clear of deep relationships and live her life in a constant state of wondering what she’s missing. When two parents choose to create a refined, respectful environment as they divorce, the children are more likely to retain a positive internal narrative about the possibilities of long-term relationships. Even if this is not possible in your circumstance, know that if at least one parent remains committed to healthy, supportive interactions, the situation can be markedly better.
How to have a more elegant split.
No matter where you are in this moment, every aspect of your process is an opportunity to show up as your highest self. Even if you are deeply entrenched in a chaotic swirl of emotion, you can actually change the course of your life, starting right now. Your choices have the capacity to shift the landscape for your family, your children, your body, your mind, and your heart.
The five essential steps to being better apart are simple, precise initiatives comprised of practices, writing exercises, and new attitudes. Even when you feel hopelessly stuck, with each step you’ll find yourself experiencing the dignity of designing your stance and state of being. This will help you manifest the most refined outcome for your situation. As you read through these processes and goals, they may initially seem aspirational—perhaps almost impossible to achieve. Over time you’ll find subtle daily shifts from the inside out that will change the tone of your entire process.
Step 1: Practicing patience.
The divorce process can be exhaustingly slow. When you practice patience, you infuse the process with calm, allowing you to take it one day, one moment at a time with dignity. Purposeful patience empowers you to listen, learn, explore solutions constructively, and let positive options in.
Patience opens up the path to true respect. Patience gives you strength to live in the present moment with mindful awareness. And when you practice patience, you’re training your mind to transform catastrophe into an intentional future for yourself and your family.
Step 2: Practicing respect.
In every aspect of your experience, what you choose to see is what you’ll receive. Should you opt to view this moment as a rejection or a failure, you’ll continue to experience that repeatedly throughout your process. Should you choose to view this moment as an opportunity to see through the lens of respect—both self-respect and respect for the others involved—respect will consistently reveal its gifts to you.
Respect for yourself, your humanity, your pain, and your process will help you begin to find respect for everyone involved.
Step 3: Practicing clarity.
Clarity is your capacity to receive and respond with lucidity, taking nothing personally. On the journey from dramatic reactivity to nourishing responsiveness, clarity rules. When negotiating topics of gravity such as your family’s parenting plan, domiciles, and division of property, being clear about what your priorities are is vital.
This involves learning how to separate wants from needs, so you can respond rather than react when matters get heated and feel overwhelming. You’ll begin to notice which circumstances you can change and which may be relatively unalterable. It also involves learning practices to help you stand up for yourself and to assist you in getting what you need with compassion.
Step 4: Practicing peace.
Practices of peace present enriching alternatives to emotions like fear, aggression, and revenge. Peace implies a valuable neutrality that keeps you free of tension—in your body, your heart, and your mind. That freedom allows you to sustain your resources and keep yourself feeling nourished by your own attitudes and choices.
Practicing peace helps you reconstruct your separation or divorce as a sanctuary of new possibilities.
Step 5: Practicing forgiveness.
Forgiveness is a gift you give to yourself. It’s a moment of giving up what might have been and realizing that everything is as it must be. Forgiveness in the face of even the worst aggression enhances your physiology, evoking a sensation of well-being and possibility. Forgiveness takes you away from contraction, toward an experience of expansion.
Forgiveness is a regular practice for most expansive thinkers; they know that holding grudges and casting blame keep us focused on fear, revenge, and destruction.
Each of these steps is here to help you create a pathway to being better apart. Patience leads to more respect. Respect helps you see your aim with clarity, which helps you cultivate peace. And when you’re at peace with yourself and your situation, you’re more capable of forgiveness. And where does forgiveness lead? To compassion, your ultimate innermost freedom.