Counterintuitive Lessons from Divorce

The cliché of divorce is the cheating husband, the destructive crazed ex wife who takes revenge—on your property, cars or even pets! We get a lot about what we think about divorce from films and television that show us that every split is acrimonious, every ex is the enemy and nobody wins. Divorce, we’re told, has to be ugly.

But that hasn’t been the experience of my recent guests, Michael Schiesser and Neelama Eyres. They were married for two years when they started their family. But two years after the birth of their special needs son, the couple divorced. Today, they are co-authors of Divorced with Love, and co-founders of Inner Journey Institute, the couple’s own journey through marriage and divorce taught them that compassionate and kind divorce is possible.

Michael and Neelama have a unique perspective on the possibility of happiness after divorce. They’ve honed this perspective by learning some surprising lessons.

Understanding the Other’s Pain Erases Guilt

Neelmama spoke candidly about a truly counterintuitive realization—that connecting to the other person’s pain actually makes you feel better. That’s because sensations of guilt were keeping her at a distance from truly empathizing with her ex. “It was like, I feel bad that I did this…it was unbelievably different to say I feel bad about doing something than to actually feel what I had done.” That is, as long as she felt pain about the divorce, she was blinded to how her partner was experiencing it. She was turning her attention inward instead of outward. She wasn’t showing empathy.

But the moment she shifted her attention to how he was experiencing it—shifting from sympathy into empathy—she was able to start the work of healing. It wasn’t about beating herself up for the past. It was about understanding and moving forward.

This triggers a sequence of events that Neelama calls “revolutionary”: “something profound releases because first, you’re feeling your own pain, then you’re feeling the pain of this other person, and doing so opens up the door of compassion.  And that compassion somehow heals that guilt that so many of us carry.”

Having a Common Challenge Can Help

Neelama and Michael had, from the start of their split, a common priority—caring their special needs child. This goal, a goal that requires hard work, patience, empathy, and teamwork, made their situation more complicated. But it also gave the couple a way to be a team. Because they had to work together, they found a way to do it.

The Truth is More Important than Being Right

When both sides have dug in their heels, it can feel like there’s no way out. But the moment the couple considers that there may be a truth outside of the defensive case they’ve built for themselves, they are on the path to healing. As Michael says, “truth is more important than being right.” He goes on to explain that when he explored what happened as his relationship fell apart, he saw his own role in her decision to leave. “That was painful,” he says. “This little part of me felt so much happier if it was all her fault.” But that mental shift, that admission of some guilt, was necessary for moving forward.

These lessons are counterintuitive, which may mean it takes a while to come to them. But they should also be taken as a positive lesson that out of heartache and frustration can come important emotional tools that will serve you in your life moving forward.

If you’re considering divorce but would like to try an approach that might mean a brighter future, call my team to schedule a confidential consultation.