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Table of Contents
Relationship Survey xi
Client Successes xv
Compassionate Communication Begins with You
Chapter 1: Connect to Your Highest and Best SELF 1
Chapter 2: Understand and Love Your “Parts” 25
Chapter 3: 5 Steps to Get What You Want and Need 55
Chapter 4: Experience the Miracle of Empathy 63
Become Your Own Best Advocate
Chapter 5: Explore All Your Options 95
Chapter 6: Learn Your Rights 111
Reduce Your Stress with Exquisite SELF-Care
Chapter 7: Tune In To Your SELF 143
Chapter 8: Let Go of Limiting Beliefs 169
Chapter 9: Unburden Your Inner Child 183
Make Decisions from Your Highest SELF
Chapter 10: Add Passion to Your Relationship 189
Chapter 11: Add Compassion to a SELF-Led Divorce® 199
Chapter 12: Compassion for All 229
“Love and compassion are necessities, not luxuries. Without them
humanity cannot survive. I truly believe that compassion
provides the basis of human survival.”
—Tenzin Gyatso, the XIVth Dalai Lama
“Should I Stay or Should I Go?”
How many times have you asked yourself this question—over how many days, weeks, months, years, even decades? Do you feel like your relationship is difficult and don’t know how to change it? Have you had marriage counseling that didn’t work? Are you too “checked out” to try again?
Have you ever considered the possibility of divorce, but were not sure what to do next? Are you too scared to even discuss it? Maybe you’re reluctant to talk with an attorney because that would make the situation “real.” Or perhaps you’ve threatened to leave the union for so long now that your partner doesn’t believe you anymore.
Right now, you may be suffering in silence or engaged in all-out battle. Or you might be separated from your partner and each trying to live your own lives without a clear sense of direction for your relationship. But it doesn’t have to stay that way.
When a marriage is in crisis, you suffer from unmet expectations, dashed hopes, stored resentments, quiet desperation or even overt war. You may have created an “impenetrable wall” around your heart as a way to “manage your pain” and protect yourself from more hurt and disappointment. You may have erected “filters” through which you see your partner, clouded with judgment or blame for what she/he did or didn’t do. (“She always does this, he never does that.”)
If you feel you’ve reached the end of your rope—that you can’t go on this way any longer, that you’re at a crossroads and don’t know which way to turn next—before you take a step in any direction, it’s time to come home to your SELF.
My Heart Goes Out to You
You may be reading this book because you are struggling with indecision, trying to decide what to do about your relationship, your family, and your future. You’re likely experiencing many emotions—from sadness, anger, hurt and betrayal, to frustration, guilt, confusion, and a sense of being overwhelmed. I know this is an extremely difficult time because I’ve been there myself.
I was once where you are now, and it’s a painful, lonely place. I discussed my situation with friends, family members, therapists, and loved ones. Ultimately, however, no one could make my decision for me. There were moments I was clear and determined, but more often, I was trapped in a state of limbo, unable to leave but unhappy in the marriage. Because I have experienced divorce firsthand, I have much to share about what to do—and what not to do.
I was happily married to my college sweetheart, but after twenty years together, we were looking at the possibility of a divorce. I worried about my children, my family, our future. I loved my husband, but we had reached an impasse about what was important to each of us moving forward in our lives. I was unsure what was the right thing to do, and in my uncertainty, I stayed stuck.
For years, I asked myself, “Should I stay or should I go?” In the decade it finally took me to decide, I took the pain of my own failings and missteps and turned them into lessons learned and methods developed that are now helping others succeed.
As I struggled with my own marriage and emotions, I returned to school to study psychotherapy, earning my second graduate degree and becoming a licensed clinical professional counselor, as well as a mediator and attorney. Surely, I thought, as a lawyer, mediator, and therapist, I could get us through our divorce as smoothly and painlessly as possible. But trying to mediate your own divorce is like trying to deliver your own baby. It may be remotely possible, but ultimately, it’s much too difficult.
I thought that by staying together, our family was “intact.” But we didn’t have the tools to have all the conversations we needed to decide together the best road for each of us and our children. Although we stay married for a long time, there were years of pain, fear and indecision that affected us all.
I believed I was being helpful to my children. I thought I was keeping both parents available, even though we were separated. I finally realized that my ambivalence, vacillation, and procrastination created more harm than good. I often felt lost, alone, and didn’t know what I needed to do next.
There Has to Be a Better Way
Years later, when I was sitting in a courtroom for a pre-trial hearing, with my estranged husband on one side and me on the other, I looked into my heart and I figured there had to be a better way. I watched the man who had been by my side at the birth of our two beautiful daughters, the guy who had been my best friend for over twenty years. His gaze avoided mine as we both sat on opposite sides of the room, feeling hurt, angry, afraid of the whole process we were in, and unable to re-connect. It was my worst nightmare come to life. Our marriage was ending, but did it have to end this way?
There has to be a better way to get divorced, I told myself. There has to be a better way to disconnect from someone you once promised to love forever. I wasn’t sure how to make it better for myself, but I knew I wanted to help other people avoid the pain we were both feeling.
For most of my life, I have tried to see a divine plan in the experiences that I have been given. For over 30 years, I have tried to live a more spiritually based life instead of an “ego-based” life. When my ego takes the lead, as a way to manage the fear and uncertainty of the present or future, I have a need to control and judge and have my mind create expectations from my self (small ‘s’). In my attempt to lead a “spiritually based life,” I do my best to communicate from my heart (where I connect with my higher SELF) as I stay open to what the Universe (or God) has planned for me.
I like the scholar and author Brené Brown’s description of spirituality. She said, “Spirituality is recognizing and celebrating that we are all inextricably connected to each other by a power greater than all of us, and that our connection to that power and to one another is grounded in love and compassion. Practicing spirituality brings a sense of perspective, meaning, and purpose to our lives.”
My own personal belief system is foundational for how I got to where I am. You do not have to have any of these beliefs to benefit from the tools I’ve developed for Compassionate Mediation®. Compassionate Mediation is based on the concepts of Compassionate Communication—or SELF-leadership—along with informed and empowered choices.
Whatever your individual belief system, I hope you will take what you can from this book and use it to help yourself heal and transform your relationship and your family. I know that this process has helped thousands of men and women, and I believe it can offer you some tools to use in your life now.
I agree with the message of Debbie Ford, who wrote in her book, Spiritual Divorce, “Divorce can be a spiritual wake up call during which we have an opportunity to explore our inner world and begin the process of becoming intimate with our entire self—divorce brings us back into the presence of our highest self and heals the split between our ego and our soul.”
After years of working with individuals and couples who were considering or going through a divorce, I created the process of Compassionate Mediation to help you bring your highest and best SELF to your current situation. Then you can make your decision from a more expanded and loving state of awareness.
You will become more conscious of your own thoughts and behaviors. You will learn the skill of Compassionate Communication, in which you drop down from that egoic, judgmental, blaming mind and you drop into your heart, which is filled with love and compassion. The secret to receiving more compassion is learning how to be more compassionate. To paraphrase Gandhi, “Be the change you wish to see in your relationship.” It starts with compassion for yourself, and then extending your compassion to your partner. You can then safely discuss your feelings, expectations, hopes, dreams, and possibilities as you create something new and better together.
Sometimes Compassionate Mediation is something only you will learn because your partner may not want to participate. The process of Compassionate Mediation allows you to accept your circumstances with peace, with forgiveness, with understanding and compassion.
I never wanted my divorce to create the pain and suffering that I had witnessed others endure. I procrastinated for years, as I learned to mediate, meditate, journal, do yoga, talk, get therapy, write, cry, pray and offer counsel to others. I realized in working with my clients that I had developed a peaceful and respectful process that would ultimately be a healing experience as two individuals who once loved each other and created a family together, learned how to respectfully go their separate ways. I wanted to do this for my husband and myself, but especially for our two daughters, who were 8 and 12 when we separated.
You Can Help Your Children
The world needs to be a safer place for marriage and divorce. Children should be shielded from the shrapnel of their parents’ animosity. Compassionate Mediation offers a new paradigm for couples at a crossroads.
The more experience I have, the more compassion I have for the profound sadness and fear underneath my clients’ resentments or rage. No matter how far apart a couple can become emotionally and physically, their children are caught in the middle and continue to feel the strife.
I believe families need not be “broken,” but can be peacefully and respectfully “re-structured.”
It’s Never Too Late
Often there is one member of a couple who feels it’s “too late” to save the relationship. However, if just one of you will learn a new way to communicate, miracles can happen and a new and better union can emerge.
I often tell my clients: “This current marriage is ‘over.‘ It’s not about ‘fixing’ or ‘saving’ it or ‘settling’ for what you have. You can create a new and better relationship that is based on who you both are now, what’s important to you, and what you are willing to give to the other of what you each want and need.”
Your children will only have one biological mother and father, no matter how many other partners are introduced into their lives. Children of all ages seek on some level to have a “happy family.” If you can’t find a way to live with the other parent, you can find a way to connect or disconnect with civility, courtesy, and even kindness. Healing can happen, and it starts with you.
Often imagining what the end of your relationship would look like will motivate you and your spouse to try to heal your relationship instead of leaving it. If you’re feeling stuck or unsure about your relationship, or unable to communicate effectively, you can create a more peaceful and respectful connection with Compassionate Mediation. You will be able to make changes before divorce becomes your only option.
You will have a safe forum to talk about everything that has caused you pain or conflict. The conversations will cover all areas of contention or impasse—money, parenting, extended family, work, responsibilities, and even sex. You will be able to discuss everything in a whole new way. Whenever you communicate with more confidence, clarity and compassion, it is possible to create a new, enriching relationship with your partner. Or you can make a peaceful, conscious decision to separate or divorce.
You’ll give yourself the necessary time it takes to focus respectfully and honestly on potential, positive outcomes rather than making a unilateral or irreversible decision to end your marriage. At the same time, however, the sooner you begin the process of Compassionate Mediation, the sooner you’ll begin to make the changes that will heal your family, no matter what form that family takes in the future.
Love is the Answer—and It Starts with Loving Your SELF
Compassionate Mediation is an opportunity to talk about everything that has been a problem, and a chance to create a new marriage to the person you’re living with now.
You begin to love yourself enough to do the work you need to heal the burdens from the past. You learn how to let go of any limiting beliefs that keep you from being open to new possibilities. You connect to your heart, your higher SELF, your witnessing awareness and your wisdom, and then you bring that energy back into your relationship. This book will give you the tools to put these ideals into practice, including links to my website for more support and a deeper dive into your own personal healing and transformation.
Looking at an ending can help create a new beginning. Compassionate Mediation is a short-term process that helps you bring your best SELF to your relationship so that you can co-create a new and better relationship—no matter what form it takes.
You can take the time you need to learn more about Compassionate Communication, Compassionate Relationships, and Compassionate Mediation. You will see that if you’re going to make the decision to get divorced, you can create a compassionate and SELF-Led Divorce®, in which you’re communicating from your highest and best SELF for the benefit of all concerned.
The Stress of Uncertainty
Divorce is one of life’s major stressors, but perhaps “wondering if you should get a divorce” can sometimes be more stressful than actually making a decision and moving forward. When you finally decide whether to stay or go, you can confidently move in that one direction. When you are not sure what you want to do, life becomes a series of vastly different possibilities, each with its own set of fears and concerns.
You might wonder, “What if I stay and it never gets any better?” You then project a lifetime where you are stuck in a relationship that doesn’t meet your needs and brings out the worst version of your self.
Perhaps you worry, “What if I leave and I’m all alone and broke and without my children?” You begin to picture all the horrors that are possible, and turn around and vacillate some more. The stress of indecision and procrastination, feeling stuck and overwhelmed is often worse than making a choice. Author Anais Nin has said, “And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.” You have your own choice to make. You can stay where you are or you can explore the possibilities of change.
The constant uncertainty, vacillation, and ambivalence make it hard for you to be present in a calm and peaceful way. You are constantly worrying about your future, concentrating on what is wrong with the present, and ruminating about the pain from the past. All of that behavior increases the feelings of stress that affect your emotional, psychological and physical health. Divorce is almost as stressful as the death of a loved one. It is a different kind of death—the death of a relationship, the death of a marriage, and often the most difficult, the death of a dream.
Explore All Your Options
Compassionate Mediation is a process that helps you either add passion to your marriage or compassion to your divorce. You don’t have to spend years “on the fence” in an unhappy or dysfunctional relationship. You can learn how to speak your truth courageously and set healthy boundaries confidently. You will discover what you truly want and need, believe that you deserve to be happy and fulfilled, and learn how to ask respectfully, receive graciously, and share your gratitude. You will begin to experience more love in your life, even if it means you give it to yourself.
You will learn how to become more empathetic and considerate—first for yourself, and then your partner. You will know how to ask for and get your needs met and forgive yourself and each other. You will remember how to be grateful again for what you do share, and learn how to reflect the attention, affection, appreciation, and acceptance you both desire—no matter the outcome.
You will learn that it’s not always what you say but how you say it. You will experience the healing power of “thank you” and “I’m sorry.” You will safely explore all your options to re-structure your family peacefully and respectfully.
Remember Who You Truly Are
The French philosopher Teilhard de Chardin said, “We are not human beings having a spiritual experience. We are spiritual beings having a human experience.” You can always tune in to who you truly are, underneath your thoughts, feelings, and past experiences. You can connect with what I believe is your divine spiritual nature in the midst of your human experiences. You become more conscious, aware, mindful—in other words, more “SELF-led.” You learn how to choose your responses, your behavior, and your future decisions from your highest and best SELF. Becoming more conscious and SELF-led in your relationship allows you to focus on the higher good for all concerned, and then relate compassionately to heal and transform the dynamics between you and your partner.
In her new book of the same title, Katherine Woodard has described her process of “Conscious Uncoupling” as a loving way to end a marriage. When you are in SELF, you can also choose to consciously couple in a way that leads to more intimacy, passion, connection and fun. You will feel more balanced, peaceful, openhearted, open-minded, and present. This book will help you bring your best SELF into all your relationships.
How to Use This Book
I’ve divided the book into the following sections. Reading them in order gives you a step-by-step guide, but you can go to any section that calls to you first. There are questions for you in many chapters, and the more you answer them, the more inner guidance you will receive.
I suggest that you start a new journal if you’d like, and allow yourself to start the next chapter of your life now as you take the steps to confidently, courageously and calmly explore all of your possibilities.
SECTION ONE: Compassionate Communication Begins with You
Compassionate Mediation begins with learning the skill of Compassionate Communication. Connecting to your best SELF—as you let go of limiting beliefs, heal burdens from your past, and relate from your heart—is the foundation for Compassionate Relationships, Compassionate Mediation, and Compassionate or SELF-Led Divorce®.
As you become more compassionate with your SELF, you will become more willing and able to extend that compassion to others. Your new way of communicating will be evident in the speech you use, your tone of voice, and how you respond. You can unburden your pain from the past, stay “in the now”, and relate in a non-blaming or non-judgmental manner.
Compassionate Communication is a conscious, higher-SELF directed way of relating to others that invites empathy and understanding. Instead of building “walls” around your heart, you create healthy boundaries. You begin to recognize the influence of your Family of Origin and take care of your “Inner Child,” which may be holding onto pain from your past. You learn a new way to communicate that peacefully resolves conflict as you heal wounds from the past and stay present to create a better future.
SECTION TWO: Compassionate Mediation to Become Your Own Best Advocate
You can create a new and better relationship, no matter what form it ultimately takes. You get clear on what is important to you, learn that you deserve to be happy, get confident to ask for what you want, become willing to receive, and stay grateful for all you already share. You do your own healing first. Then you will have the tools to create a new relationship with your partner or on your own.
Your relationship begins to change as you do. You will educate and empower yourself with legal and financial information.It is often these detailed conversations that instill a desire to try harder to heal the pain from the past, forgive yourself and your partner, and create a new and better marriage together. When you become fully informed of the financial reality of your current situation, coupled with newfound empathy for the feelings of your partner, you can make changes that can immediately impact your relationship in a positive way.
However, if your ultimate decision is to get a divorce, Compassionate Mediationwill provide the framework for a peaceful and respectful SELF-Led Divorce.
SECTION THREE: Reduce Your Stress with Exquisite SELF-Care
Stress is often due to not getting your needs met, and when there is conflict or disharmony in your relationship, stress is always present. You can lower your stress, by tuning into your SELF with breathing, yoga, meditation, and other modalities. You will also be guided on how to let go of limiting beliefs and heal burdens from your past so that you can feel more balance, peace, and joy. You may believe that “when you make a decision, you’ll feel better.” But the opposite is true. When you feel better, you’ll be able to make the right decision for yourself and your family.
SECTION FOUR: Make Decisions from Your Highest SELF
Will you end up with a new Compassionate Relationship or a peaceful and compassionate SELF-Led Divorce? As you practice Compassionate Communication and discuss your options through Compassionate Mediation, you and your partner can each bring your best SELF into a new and improved passionate relationship. Learning to show compassion rather than judgment makes deeper and connection possible. Your relationships with others will also improve. You will learn how to talk with your children, family and friends as you instill a message of cooperation and friendship to be shared by all.
You may realize that you and your partner have each done the best you knew how to do, that you’re grateful for all that you’ve shared, and yet you realize it’s time to go your separate ways. You can then consider a divorce that is created from your highest and best SELF. You can heal from the past and move forward with forgiveness, friendship, and freedom.
SECTION FIVE: Compassion for All
You offer compassion to your children, your parents, your friends, co-workers, and your extended family. You will become more patient with the process of counseling, mediation, separation and/or divorce, so that you can make your decisions from a place of SELF-leadership and higher consciousness. You will also learn how to be more compassionate with new partners, step-families and everyone touched by your present and future decisions. Your own inner peace is one step in the direction of family peace. Your higher SELF brings you to new heights of consciousness, connection, and compassion for yourself and others.
If couples put as much energy into learning how to communicate with compassion as they have to put into getting a divorce, profound changes can occur within them and between them.
I’m Here to Help
I hope that you will use this book as you would the support of a friend, one who has been there and one who cares. If you are feeling conflicted, uncertain, scared, or alone, take some time to breathe and relax. Life will get better. You will learn a safe way to have those discussions you’ve been avoiding. Compassionate Mediation embraces spiritual wisdom from many teachers to create a new paradigm for communication. You can transform your relationship instead of dissolving your marriage.
While we routinely recognize the pain and suffering from wars and illnesses, I wonder how many other casualties can be attributed to the fall of a family. How many innocent bystanders are harmed by the decision of two people to terminate a marriage? How many generations pay the price of familial conflict?
I know there is a better way. I watch my clients create it. I hope you can change your relationship struggles into an experience that enriches your family rather than continuing on the current pathways that may be destroying it. Should you stay or go? Only you have that answer. Compassionate Mediation can show you how to find it.
I offer you my experience and my knowledge to coach you as you move forward from wherever you are now to wherever you’re hoping to be. I’m here to help in any way I can. From my heart to yours, I’m sending a great deal of love and support.