Welcome to elephant journal’s advice column for all of us who find ourselves lost in love.
I will guide you through the process of making the big decision to stay or leave, separate, divorce and everything in between and thereafter—from navigating a break up gracefully, to co-parenting with ease, and dating post divorce. You ask; I will answer.
Am I an expert? Am I a therapist? No, but I am aware. I listen and I hear what you are saying under the surface of your question. I hear the answer (you already know), submerged below the doubt.
My purpose is to fish the answer from your heart and cast it back to you. There is nothing I can express that you don’t already know. Sometimes we just need to hear someone else say it, to validate and strengthen our confidence and acknowledge what our intuition has been declaring all along.
I have the most magnificent five-month-old daughter. Motherhood is magical despite the fact that her father and I have just fallen apart. We were in a cycle of love that moved swiftly into the bitterest kind of contempt, contempt on his part. To be with him is too painful, too destructive. We were not together for long, but we did make the choice to have our baby girl together when I became pregnant. Now our love has turned ugly and every meeting includes an emotional blow towards me that pierces me so deeply and depletes me of my life force. Yet, every morning I get up and get on the mat and enjoy every moment with my daughter. He sees his little girl, but is so angry at me now that we have separated. He believes I have stolen his daughter.
We are in the midst of mediation to figure out exactly how and when he will see her. I wish for our daughter to have a father present in her life, but I am so very scared about the future, her future, when every decision and discussion is a fight, a negotiation, a battle. At the moment, she is often a pawn in what he sees as a power struggle, a battle for control. She is too small to know better, but inside my heart sinks and I could cry in despair at times.
Please tell me: How can things possibly get better? What kind of a future should I envisage? I am in the fog of motherhood and for the first time ever I cannot imagine where I will be and how it will be in a few years to come.
You have been given the opportunity to learn a great lesson. How you respond to your present circumstance will determine your future. If you expend energy worrying about the future of what will be, you are distracting yourself from the attention you, your daughter and your life deserve in this moment.
How we act in the present, decides our future.
Devoting your energy to raising your daughter and cultivating patience and kindness toward her father is critical.
Understanding why he acts the way he does is the gateway to moving forward amicably.
He is angry because he is scared. He is terrified. His defiance, bitterness and contempt are products of fear due to this disruption in his life. When a person defines themselves and is influenced by their environment or circumstance, they suffer. He is suffering, and so are you by allowing his behavior to drain the joy of this fleeting time of innocence and wonderment in your daughter’s new life.
We are constantly changing, we know this, and yet we attach to our surroundings and attempt to control everything outside of ourselves. If we attach to someone or something and then it changes (which is inevitable), we crumble.
Change is the ego’s kryptonite; it crushes its illusive perception of control. Change is an ominous force that causes upheaval to our comfort of predictability (even if the conditions in which we live are unhealthy and hostile), leaving us to cower in its wake. When we feel insignificant and out of control, we fight. We get angry.
It is our ego that reacts with fear and restrains our hearts as it battles for command of life’s circumstances and those who exist in it. We perpetually attempt to win our self-inflicted war to dominate the universe. Yet, we continue to lose. In truth, if we want control over our lives, we need to surrender to the moment we are in and accept it, whether we think it is good or bad. We are not defined by the experience. Rather, it is how we respond to the experience that breeds peacefulness into our lives.
When we accept the moment we are in, we can observe all of its parts. Observation leads to understanding. When we understand why another reacts the way they do, we respond equanimously.
I am unaware if your separation was mutual. However, when break ups are not mutual, there is a perceived imbalance of power. When we feel powerless, we act out and claw for something we can tangibly manipulate. He is attempting to control the separation by grasping for what will give him more power than you, custody of his daughter.
You, as her mother and he, as her father, are of equal importance to her life and to her future. Share the responsibility and blessing of raising her. Give him the time he wants with her; don’t fight him. She does not belong to either of you. You both created her, but neither of you own her.
Our children have the freedom to be loved by those who love them. We have no right to say who is allowed to love our child and who is not. To withhold a child from receiving love from a family member (who we may have contention with) only neglects the child of their birth right. Our job as a parent is to guard their purity as long as we can. They should never carry the burden of our fears or fights.
Envision a toddler who is not getting his way. He will throw a tantrum or act out for attention. He will do anything he can, even if it is destructive, to be noticed and heard. I have recognized that the angrier I become when my daughter tantrums, the angrier she becomes. I know her tantrum is not about me; it’s about her and not feeling in control. When I sit down quietly and listen to her and empathize with her feelings, she calms down. She feels validated.
Every tantrum has an end point. When a tantrum is exposed to love and patience, it ends sooner than later. Living in anger is exhausting, at some point, it falls asleep. Anger can not exist in peace. If you are peaceful, the fear and anger will evaporate.
Remember that, we can only be hurt, if we allow ourselves to be hurt. A critical step in revealing peace in your life, is to detach yourself from his pain; it is not yours.
His contempt for you is contempt for himself. He is feeling weak and helpless. He can’t deplete your life force unless you give him permission to. Don’t give him permission. If you no longer allow him to hurt you, you will remain calm. When you are calm, you are clear and you make mindful and rational choices for your daughter.
As a mother, my responsibility is to protect my children’s hearts by loving them and creating a safe environment for them to grow. Protect your daughter by helping her father have the space and time to share in her care. Honor their relationship, encourage it. Communicate with him (even if you don’t speak, call him and leave messages, email, text). Include him in the miracle of her milestones. By involving him, you are showing him you see him as an equal and vital force in her world. As your daughter grows, she will see the unconditional love you carry for her by attempting to embrace her father in her life.
You spoke of the serenity you feel on your mat with your daughter. During the practice of yoga asana and pranayama, the person who breathes the steadiest and deepest uplifts those around her, without compromising the fortitude of her own breath. Through her strength, she empowers those surrounding her. Over time, your daughter’s father will inhale your breath of compassion and the anger will subside.
In honor of your beautiful child, give her father love by giving him what he needs to be the most loving father he can be. Through your love, you will manifest a harmonious upbringing for your daughter and peace will be your future.
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If you have a Lost in Love question email me, [email protected]
Editor: Brianna Bemel