January/February 2003 Living Now
No one can judge a person for having trouble coming to terms with the negative emotions that surround most separations and divorces, since in this stage of life one's personal and financial world is often split apart or collapsed. Bitterness, recriminations, guilt, worthlessness, and insecurity in some degree or another may enshroud people as they go through the process of letting go of their life with their current mate and begin formulating a new life on their own or with another mate. Where children are involved, emotions can be even more intense as parents struggle with finding a satisfactory way to support their children spiritually and financially.
Money strains are a primary reason for separations and divorce. As women become more financially independent and able to support themselves, they have been less willing to stay in relationships in which they feel their needs are not being met. Yet there are still many cases, especially within the older generation, in which the primary breadwinner has been the husband and the wife has been the nurturer of the family. In these cases the husband usually has a psychological (and often financial) advantage over the wife in the negotiations since he has controlled the money.
In many states the laws are nebulous as to how property and income should be split, and there is plenty of leeway for the husband to dominate the negotiations. Often the losers in a property settlement are partners or spouses who leave the relationship because they feel persecuted, betrayed, and not loved. These people are so emotionally hurt that they don't want to have anything to do with their former partner or spouse, and they either leave the money and property to them or accept whatever their partner or spouse is willing to give them. Often only after their emotions have stabilized do they see what they have done, and then it is too late to change the settlement.
I had one case in which a woman accepted so much persecution from her husband for so many years that she didn't have enough self-worth to break away from him, much less ask him for financial support. In desperation she had moved out of the house they owned jointly into a trailer next door on their property. Yet she still was a victim of his verbal abuse. When I showed her how she could free herself financially from her husband, it gave her the courage to look within herself and find the inner strength she needed to make her escape.
Many separations and divorces are settled amicably but usually not without a great deal of counseling and soul searching. Often the money and property settlements are the most difficult because the settlements can never be completely fair, and often one or the other of the parties involved don't have the financial skills and understanding to know how to negotiate the terms. Yet from a spiritual perspective, these separations and divorces often provide a meaningful avenue for self-understanding and spiritual reflection that can transform their life.
However, for many divorcing is still a daunting process. I know a case of a female doctor who refused to divorce her husband and marry her current partner whom she'd been living with for ten years, because she couldn't face the property negotiations she would have to have with her former spouse.
In helping partners and spouses work out their money and property settlements, I try to help them stabilize their emotions by having them take an objective look at their total financial picture. Often when they understand the financial facts of their situation, they have a much easier time making the compromises that are necessary to get an agreement. When the financial figures don't persuade them, I ask them to look into their hearts and try to find the courage to rise above the material inequities and work out a peaceful solution. I explain to them that if they can let go of their financial fears and focus on being as fair as they can with each other, they give themselves a chance to leave the relationship without being encumbered with a lot negative feelings.
As I write these words, Im reminded of Emmanuels comments in Emmanuels Book about what to do in a deteriorated marriage: "Can you not let this (marriage) go with your love and your blessing so the next time you meet this soul again there will be more compatibility, more compassion, and more understanding? For you will meet again. Since all will ultimately come to oneness."
Fred Brown, a Personal Financial Consultant/Therapist for over thirty years, has had five published books on personal finance. He can be reached at 503-771-7650 or through his web site at www.moneyandspirit.com.