You said "I do," and you meant it — so does your once-unconditional love for your ex simply disappear after a breakup or divorce? We asked relationship experts Sheva Carr and Matthew Hoelscher to help navigate this tricky question.
Carr begins, "Unconditional love is exactly what it says it is: love not attached to or limited by any external conditions. Whether you are married or divorced, longing for a life partner to fall in love with or glad to be done with one, unconditional love is a state within your own being not tied to your situation. The good news is it is a state that can be accessed and activated on purpose with benefits to your health, your brain function, your satisfaction in life and all your relationships, and much more! And it can be accessed anywhere, anytime."
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How else can you define limitless love? Says Carr, "We don't wait for people to give us what we want and blame them when they don't. We stop trying to milk a silk worm and get silk out of a cow. We appreciate who each person is, without the need for them to be someone else for us. That is unconditional love. That kind of love allows us and other people to evolve, too. It helps us keep our hearts open to see who people are in every new now."
Ultimately, as Carr explains, "The sweet spot of unconditional love in any relationship has less to do with the form that relationship takes — together/apart, married/divorced, lovers/friends — and more to do with the feelings each person experiences within it and the quality of self they bring to it." She continues, touching on some advice that may surprise you: "Divorce can be a choice that allows us to see our ex more clearly, like holding a book at the right distance from our eyes to read the page, rather than smashing it up against our nose. 'Unconditional love' does not necessarily disappear after a divorce; sometimes it can be enhanced by it!
Hoelscher explains this further, using a metaphor: "Unconditional love is not the forest or the trees, it is the life force that causes everything to grow. Often after a good fire, there is lots and lots of fresh new growth. Trees that belong will resist the fire and grow better with new sunlight. The ash provide fertilizer for the seeds, laid dormant for years and now activated by the heat of transformation; they sprout, harnessing the loving life force and begin to grow in the new wide open spaces."
Hoelscher touches on the fact that just because you're married, it doesn't mean your love is automatically unconditional: "When we get married, we have the opportunity to grow and learn with our partners. Either we choose unconditional love or co-dependency. Do we celebrate each other's life and growth, or do we hold on so tight we cannot move? Do we make the partner responsible for fulfilling our lives and purpose and give up our power? If divorce is in the picture, all the unfilled expectations have build up like weeds and vines in a forest."
How you think about your ex after a breakup has a lot to do with how you heal and move one, according to Carr: "Even when we've cut someone out of our life, the feelings we have about them remain with us. If we divorce someone and spend much of our day ruminating about how much we despise them, those judgments create chaos in our own heart rhythms, bodies and minds and compromise our health and future relationships. So it behooves us to learn how to access the unconditional state of love within ourselves even in a divorce or bad breakup, at the very least for our own health and wellbeing. The good news is this: even if after a divorce we are mired in negativity toward our ex, it is never too late to learn the recipe for unconditional love and how to receive its benefits for ourselves by replacing our judgments, resentments and draining bitterness with that optimal state of unconditional love."
Hoelscher acknowledges a difficult aspect of breakups that can make accessing that place of placidity difficult: "Your partner may take other partners as may you. If you have children together, your lives will forever be entwined through the life of the kids. It is often hard to give up a partner, especially if the passion still burns hot." He likens divorce and breakups to the tornadoes and hurricanes that can ravage a landscape: "Divorce can range from a windy day to a raging natural disaster of hail, flood, and fire. It is up to you to decide how you want it to affect your life. How do you want to affect your family and how do you want it to affect yourself?"
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Says Carr, "The capacity to sustain unconditional love in a marriage or in a divorce is really about our own individual emotional mastery, and less about the other person. Emotional states strongly effect perception. This is where sayings like 'Looking through the eyes of love' come from. When we are in a state of coherence or love, the lens of our perceptions focuses clearly and stabilizes so we really see what is there. This is to 'look through the eyes of love'. This is why sometimes the very things we found so cute or endearing about a person we were once in love with we now find repulsive during a divorce. Falling out of love happens not necessarily because the other person became someone else, but because we've met the edge of our own emotional mastery and fallen out of internal coherence within ourselves." Keep reading...
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