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How Do We Understand Family During Divorce?

Rachel Alexander Jan. 17, 2017

{4:18 minutes to read} How do we understand family in a way that’s useful during divorce?

First, it’s helpful to deconstruct and decide exactly and specifically what family means to you. When you spend some time “asking into” your initial wants, you can unearth your root values.

For example, is it important to you to sleep under the same roof as your children? Of course that’s understandable, but what if we look further into it?

Gurumayi from the Siddha Yoga tradition teaches that by asking “why” of the same item again and again, we uncover its essence. That is, asking of oneself why do I want to sleep in the same home as my children? And then asking “why” of your answer, again and again, maybe a dozen times or more. Perhaps what is wanted is the experience of closeness, or of protecting, feeling safe, necessary, loving, loved…etc. Perhaps there is a wanting to be there when your little one wakes up and needs comforting. Perhaps there’s a concern for your children being soothed during the night.

Ask Yourself

Some of what is discovered in this exercise can lead you to core things that are important to you and those that hold meaning for your family. For example:

  • Family might be a sense of belonging, feeling wanted, feeling like you’re an important component in a system that depends upon you for its completeness.

  • Family might mean protecting, loving and growing.

  • Family could be tight or spacious, safe, fun, challenging.

How would you describe your idea of family?

  • If family was a room in the house, what would it look like?

  • If it was a town you are visiting, what are the laws, the atmosphere? If you were Mayor elect, what would you do for this town of yours?

What does your family already have that you value and don’t want to lose?

  • What is your family like when it’s at its best?

  • What is everyone doing, saying, wearing, discussing?

  • How are you interacting and what are you like when you are most connected and fully yourself?

Divorce presents the opportunity for determining what family can be for you. Rather than being confined, even tormented, by ideas unconsciously inherited, why not proactively choose the family you want to be!

Avoid getting fixed on what isn’t, because you may miss what is, and what is emerging.

Ask the Kids

Perhaps ask your kids what family means to them and what is most important and how they’d like it to be now, given the new situation. How would you like it to be when mom and I are at soccer together? What would you love for dinner when you’re at dad’s? What would make bedtime at mom’s more enjoyable?

Focus on what is wanted, not just what is not wanted. It will be more powerful and helpful. If the conversation turns to sadness and lamenting what will not be (and likely wasn’t the experience of the recent years either), make space for those feelings too, but refocus this talk on what is wanted. This conversation is useful to have again and again over the coming years, as things settle and expand from immediate needs for security to greater possibilities.

Define family now for yourselves. Do this with your mediator and co-parent. Do this with your children.

Architect your new family. Create! Build!

Good luck and be well.