When a couple says, “I do,” those two simple words are filled with hope, love, and devotion. There is a sense of permanency, of stability, of forever. And yet we are repeatedly faced with sobering statistics. Half of all US marriages end in divorce.
The average length of these marriages is eight years — that is a long time to intertwine one’s most intimate thoughts and feelings with another before they are torn apart. Divorce is notoriously messy, with melodramatic TV shows, books, and movies built around the heartbreak and hair-pulling of a crumbling marriage, complete with insults, acrimony, and carnage. But maybe it doesn’t always have to be that way. Maybe there can be an alternative to the animosity and loss.
In her book, A Loving Divorce: A Perspective of Compassion for All Relationships, Lynda Miles tries to walk an alternative path, one that lays the groundwork for a respectful separation that honors the needs of the individuals and allows for personal growth during what can be such a difficult time.
Miles writes from a place of painfully honest experience. When she and her husband, Brian, realized they had reached the end of their marriage, she wanted more for them than a division of assets. Rather than a reactionary parting of the ways, she decided to take a deliberate and thoughtful approach to divorce, but found herself without a blueprint. She notes, “When I was considering a loving divorce, I could find no books on the subject.” Instead, she had to find her own way.
Now, she shares with us what she learned from the experience. This book, in fact, is part of that process. She writes, “The things I share are very personal, but I realize that I’m just one person; I’m not that important. Sharing deeply is important. Love, acceptance, understanding, and the possibility of helping others are important.” And while this book may be more anecdote than antidote, it provides a thoughtful exploration of ending relationships.
When Miles wanted a loving divorce, it was not an easy route. Divorce carries a heavy social burden and marriage is often held up as the pinnacle of bliss and personal success. She writes, “For starters, I had to process and let go of any possible judgments others might have about divorce. That was a tall order! My older siblings were all in lifelong marriages, and my younger siblings were also married, for at least several years. And what would my codependent mother say?” She starts by talking to people, exploring whether others have been successful in creating a loving end to their marriage, and finds compassion and support in others, married and single alike.
This book is filled with many little gems that are likely to be relevant regardless of your current relationship status. One important point Miles highlights is the need to be moving toward something rather than just away from a marriage. She writes, “This separation/divorce was the next step in our lives. For me, it was a step toward realizing wholeness and greater independence, having healthier boundaries, and becoming healthier psychologically and emotionally.”
She shares how she was able to grow through her divorce. For Miles, she was able to find security and confidence within herself. She notes, “I feel so much less limited in my life because of my ability to be happily without a partner.” And, yet, while some of this can feel excessively idyllic, Miles is honest about her own struggles, remarking, “I’ve come to the conclusion for myself, that we’re all perfectly imperfect.”
Hers is a message of acceptance and understanding, both of herself and those around her. She notes, “This idea of being perfectly imperfect has helped me with self-acceptance, which has helped me to better accept others. We so often treat people the way we treat ourselves — and by cultivating more self-love, we can better love those around us.” This is good advice for all of us.
Although A Loving Divorce can feel a bit saccharine at times, there is a certain genuineness and self-reflection that allows Miles to pull this off. Miles has an approachable style that is easy to read. While this book is unlikely to turn around an acrimonious divorce, the ideas Miles shares may be helpful to a wide range of relationships.
A Loving Divorce: A Perspective of Compassion for All Relationships
Moksha Books, March 2016
Paperback, 125 pages