Divorce: Love yourself to love others

The premise is simple. If you don’t love yourself, you can’t love somebody else. However, in examining this idea, I’ve come across a great number of opinions as it seems that "love yourself" is open to interpretation. Love may mean love as in something narcissistic – As I look in the mirror, I comment, "My gawd, what a good looking man.", but it could also mean self-esteem – As I look in the mirror, I comment, "You’re a good man."
Others point out the supposed conflict of ideas inherent in the saying. Loving yourself is self-absorbed or looking inwards while it is argued that loving somebody else requires looking outward, to be paying attention to somebody other than one’s self. Still another feels than hating yourself does not preclude loving another thinking the two actions, loving yourself and loving another, are independent. A religious site offering biblical studies says this is all wrong as it is only through loving God that one can love another. Boy, if you’re a self-loathing atheist, you’re in trouble!

The best idea I ran across though talked about self-knowledge and acceptance, two words which seem a long way from the word "love" per se. This interpretation involved knowing one’s self, the good and the bad, the strengths and the weaknesses and accepting them. (Yes, you do your best to improve but some things you just have to accept. I’m bald.) You were neither narcissistic or self-loathing. By knowing and accepting yourself, you were better positioned to love somebody else, to focus on somebody else, and to look outward because you were not focused on yourself.

It was the article "Relationships are the glue for the lesson" by Mastin Kipp that got me thinking about this. The author started by saying that you can only be loved by someone to the same degree that you love yourself and you can only truly love someone to the degree that you love yourself. He was commenting on his own divorce and realised that by stepping back and truly looking at his Ex, there was a lesson to be learned. Faults in the relationship were in fact his faults. That is, the anger he felt for her actually stemmed from his own shortcomings. By recognising this, he was able, as he put it, to move beyond the resentment, anger, and sadness to love, gratitude, and forgiveness. His Ex had actually provided him with a lesson which made him a better person.

Mr. Kipp did however remind me of the concept of making amends. We do something wrong; we hurt someone. We then fess up, admit it to the person in question and apologise. We atone for our sins; we make amends. In looking up "making amends", I ran across the 12 step program from Alcoholics Anonymous.

Step Eight – Made a list of all persons we had harmed and become willing to make amends to them all.

Step Nine – Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.

Mr. Kipp wrote of resentment, anger, and sadness. Such emotions are destructive. They eat away at you. You never find peace. Of course, isn’t divorce probably the most emotionally charged experience of anybody’s life? It’s easy to talk about things like Zen and whatever cute quote you may have from Deepak Chopra or Leo Buscaglia but when you feel that your heart is being ripped out of your chest, thrown to the floor, then being stomped on, it may excusably a tad difficult to see anything clearly.

In "How Did I Get a Peaceful Divorce?", Molly Monet describes some strategies she used to arrive at her "peaceful divorce". Right off the bat, with a nod to Cathy Meyer, I want to emphasize Ms. Monet describes what she did in her circumstances and does not in her blog ever suggest that she has a one size fits all approach to divorce. Nevertheless, her own story provides useful lessons for all of us. What is the ultimate long-term goal? If there are children, co-parenting comes to mind. If there aren’t, heck, you may never have to see one another again!

I think, though, there is a middle ground in all this. Ms. Monet had a good divorce. Cathy Meyer, from her story, seems to have had the divorce from hell. So, what’s the middle ground? I reflect back on the words of Michele Weiner-Davis, (see my blog The Divorce Buster), a counselor who feels that more marriages could be saved. In her mind, hopelessness is the number one killer of marriages. She admits that not every marriage can or should survive, but does say that many more would survive if couples can be given hope for a future where things can be different.

I find this a curious statement: hopelessness is the number one killer of marriages. If I think about it, I’d be inclined to say that hopelessness is probably the number one killer of anything. Without hope, what’s the point of continuing? We might as well curl up in the fetal position and die. With hope, we can face any challenge; we can face any hardship. And I suppose we could add divorce to the list. "If couples can be given hope for a future where things can be different…" As with Molly, would we be more inclined to seek a peaceful divorce? As with Mastin, would we give up the resentment, anger, and sadness for love, gratitude, and forgiveness? If there’s no hope, do we all act badly and react badly?

In my blog Divorce: The first offer is usually the best, I talk about Adam Galinsky, assistant professor at Northwestern University’s Kellogg Graduate School of Management, and his work in the area of negotiations. Yes, you have two sides trying to win; give a little to hopefully get more in return, but Galinsky adds an important caveat to all negotiations. Any party wants to negotiate a deal which is profitable to them; that goes without saying. However, the negotiations should or must satisfy the other side. You want the other party to respect the agreement and not renege on the deal. After all, who doesn’t want a peaceful divorce? With a little hope, both parties can win.

Final Word
I’m sorry, but I can’t resist making reference to that amusing line where the man says something like, "I’ve forgiven the bitch" or the woman says, "I’ve forgiven the bastard." Brother, are we going to live through this? (a divorce)

Love yourself—accept yourself—forgive yourself—and be good to yourself, because without you the rest of us are without a source of many wonderful things.
– Leo F. Buscaglia quotes (American guru, tireless advocate of the power of love, 1924-1998)

Anybody want to punch Leo in the nose? Reminds me of the joke where somebody says, "Have a nice day" and the other person responds, "Don’t tell me what kind of day to have!"

All kidding aside. Acceptance. The sun is going to come up in the morning, and there’s nothing you can do about it. The sooner you accept that, the sooner you can move on to things you can do something about.

Mastin Kipp? No doubt his Ex could have been as messed up about the whole thing as he was. By recognising his own limitations, he seems to be more forgiving of those limitations in others including his Ex. Love yourself? Well maybe instead of the word "love" we should say something like knowing yourself and accepting yourself. Surprisingly enough or maybe not surprisingly at all, we are just people trying to figure it out and get along.

If we withhold love from anyone, we withhold love from ourself.
– Deepak Chopra.

I don’t know. Are these quotes sometimes corny or annoying?

I close with Chopper Papa, "A Divorced Parent – the best of both worlds?":

I look at my own divorce as if I was presented with a Divine reset button. While I was married I had become someone else. I had turned into an egomaniacal, materialistic, ungrateful know-it-all who because of a bit of financial success felt that he was the balls. I was convinced that I had created this life and perfected this image and therefore was willing to do whatever necessary to keep it that way. As I type this now it’s embarrassing to know that I drank society’s kool-aid – flavored red for pride.

Where it not for my divorce I would have never met my Queen and finally understood what it’s like to be in a relationship with a woman who makes me want to be a better man.

Hopefully we will all get it right before we die.

References

The Daily Love – May 10/2011
Relationships are the glue for the lesson by Mastin Kipp
…you can only BE LOVED by someone to the same degree that you love yourself AND you can only truly love someone to the degree that you love yourself.

The Bible Sherpa – Feb 14/2009
Love Lie #5: You Can’t Love Someone Else Until You Learn to Love Yourself 
The Verdict: While low self esteem will affect your relationships with others, a high self esteem is not the solution. Whether it is low or high, self-esteem is still self-centered. True love is others-centered (you may notice this is becoming a common thread here in our love lie countdown). The kind of esteem you really need is God-esteem – to see yourself through God’s eyes.

Chopper Papa – May 10/2011
A Divorced Parent – the best of both worlds?
As strange as this is may sound, I feel blessed to be a divorced father. I’ve been given the opportunity to have an special impact on my kids lives that most married dads could never appreciate. I have the chance to make a second run at parts of my life and do them better. And all of that has led me to a point where I can accept, appreciate and love myself.

Psychology Today – April 29/2010
Loving Yourself—How Important Is It? by Mark D. White, PhD
…to discuss some problems I have with the idea that you have to love yourself before you can love somebody else…

Psychology Today – April 29/2010
Comments on "Loving Yourself—How Important Is It?"
Self-love might mean acceptance
I believe you are misunderstanding what the aphorism points to by speaking of "self love". Pointing it like an exercise of repetitive narcissistic thoughts or actions may be misleading. I think it really means: "I’m ok. I can accept me".

my blog: Divorce: The first offer is usually the best
Raoul Felder, an American lawyer famous for high profile celebrity divorces, writes in his book "The Good Divorce: How to Walk Away Financially Sound and Emotionally Happy": The first offer a woman gets when divorce negotiations begin is usually the best.

my blog: Marriage doesn’t have to last forever to be good
Marriage is wonderful when it lasts forever, and I envy the old couples in When Harry Met Sally who reminisce tearfully about the day they met 50 years before. I no longer believe, however, that a marriage is a failure if it doesn’t last forever. It may be a tragedy, but it is not necessarily a failure. And when a marriage does last forever with love alive, it is a miracle.- Peggy O’Mara, Mothering, Fall 1989

Click HERE to read more from William Belle
 
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1 Comment

  1. As always, I love your overviews on the divorce blogosphere. As corny as it sounds, hope and self-love, or at least the ability to feel whole alone, are two pretty important qualities for a happy life.

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