How your best intentions affect your struggling marriage or divorce.
Over the years, it has become clear that there are powerful connections between marriage and divorce, hope, expectation and intention. I'll come clean upfront. I am not a fan of hope or expectations. Many of our divorcing clients share a similar story; they hoped that if they could reconcile with their spouse, their marriage would have turned out differently and their spouse would see the fallacy in his/her thinking and change his/her ways. They expected life to be different and their spouse to be someone other than he/she turned out to be.
Hopes unmet and expectations unfulfilled lead to painful and often devastating results in relationships. Those considering divorce who pull back from the brink or go over that brink with far less pain and animosity find another approach, the approach of intention, to be significantly more rewarding. Hope is defined as "a feeling of expectation and desire for a certain thing to happen" as well as "wanting something to happen or be the case." Hope is passive. Hope leaves the outcome desired with mysterious external forces.
For a long time, one of our clients hoped her spouse would change as a parent and financial provider. She did not approve of his choices, criticized him for his failures, and resented his lack of enthusiasm. As long as she hoped or expected he would change out of her "guidance" or disapproval and saw no change, the more convinced she was of the necessity of divorce.
Expectation is a "a strong belief that something will happen or be the case in the future." Expectations come loaded with judgements; shoulds, shouldn'ts, right, wrong, good, and bad. They are assumptions about how reality "should be" mistaken as fact. To expect is to put the power of creation outside of one's responsibility. Expectations ran rampant with this client and because of this, she was angry at everything.
Intention is defined as "a course of action one intends to follow" and "an aim that guides action; an objective." Intention is active. Intention is creative. It assigns considerable responsibility for the desired outcome to the individual intending. That same client, once she created an intention of economic prosperity for her family and a positive, supportive, co-parenting relationship with her spouse, designed an action plan that included acknowledging her spouse for his parenting contributions although they were not how "she would do it" and supported him in seeing his strengths in the face of his "failures." The eventual outcome was a lift in his spirits and enthusiasm, a family business that made a around, and a healthier and happier relationship. They have been closer and happier than they have been in decades. Divorce is off the table.
Intention has an immense impact in situations when a marriage is beyond resuscitation, as well as when a relationship is simply on the skids and can be rerouted. Too often powerful intentions are used to the detriment of the divorcing couple or family. The intention may be to make the other suffer, to punish him or her for the pain being experienced and the social, emotional and financial security lost. While these powerful emotions are understandable, when individuals act out of a desire to punish, pain and suffering are perpetuated. When intention is used in this way, the parties involved get increasingly locked into their positions; the pain, confusion and uncertainty for children and extended families is prolonged, and vital resources are squandered in legal bickering.
Intention can be used to accept what is, surrender judgement while retaining clarity, and create the best possible relationship with the ex going forth, especially when children are involved. Another client, in what has been an extremely contentious divorce, is using intention to create a warm inviting home for his newly formatted family and achieving as equitable a divorce settlement as possible. Now that his intentions rather than his hopes or expectations are informing his actions he is finding increased peace, clarity, efficacy and pleasure even during the process of working out their agreement.
Whether it is your relationship, marriage or divorce, how would it benefit you to leave hope and expectations behind and utilize intention to be more focused and powerful in creating the best possible outcome?
This article was originally published at Journey Beyond Divorce. Reprinted with permission from the author.