Thursday, February 10, 2011

Detach with love...

Recently I have been privileged to companion a much younger friend as she agonized over whether to divorce her husband or not.  I was clear that I would support whatever decision she made.  Her process has been valiant and honorable; she has looked hard at her situation and herself.  She has been counseled; she has prayed; she has read a multitude of books; she has stared into the abyss.  She wants a divorce.  I support her.

Imagine my surprise yesterday, when after she declared her hatred of her husband, I heard myself actually say to her, with great intensity, “you can divorce him but how can you say you don’t love him?  He is not a jerk!  You are not a better human being than he is!”  Uh oh. 

More than 35 years ago I was in her shoes.  How well I remember the agony and the defeat; the relief and the freedom.  At the time I thought I despised my first husband, convinced he was the source of all my guilt and pain.  He was a failure as a husband and a father; how could I have been so stupid to marry someone so dense.  With my guilt buried deep inside, my self-righteousness overflowed.

Yesterday, in a split second, my role shifted from supportive companion to judge,  one who was deeply invested in someone else’s process.  When I stepped back, I saw that I did not want her to make the mistakes I had made, but even more I did not want her to remind me of the mistakes I had made.  All those years ago I had shut a precious human being out of my heart, blaming him for my self-hatred, and I clung tenaciously to my victimhood way too long.

I did not belong with that good man; our adult children today are amazed that he and I ever got together – we are not a good match.  At the time I could not conceive of divorcing someone with love.  I had to declare him a villain in order to extricate myself, and set him free. 

Today I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that when I shut someone out of my heart, when I declare someone to be unlovable, I am out of step with Truth and will suffer as a result.  In AlAnon we talk of “detachment with love.”  What a profound concept.  Most relationships are not life-long.  People come into our lives for a season, and most go on their way.  We make promises we find ourselves unable to keep.  I just wish I had known then what I know today, that we can detach with love and gratitude.

I apologized to my friend for transplanting my regrets on to her current life.  She must find her own way, her way.  I am oddly grateful, though, that my old regret rose to the surface for me to revisit and forgive yet again.


  1. Robyn,

    I am so blessed to have you in my life as a teacher, mentor and friend. It is, it seems, so much easier for me to see the "truth" for another, than for myself. I am grateful to be a hearer of your blurted truth, and to hear of the concept of detaching with love. Given the way I define love, detaching with love could seem an oxymoron, but, for me, one well worth exploring.

  2. Robyn, this is beautifully, beautifully said. When I look back to my first divorce I realize, as you did, that I left a wonderful man behind. He was not right for me but he was still a fantastic human being who was intelligent and loving.

    With my second divorce, I was not so quick to blame him for everything--or for anything. I still love him and he still loves me. We can't live together but we made a child together and have loved each other for over 27 years. I wouldn't throw that away for anything.


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