A friend of mine recently divorced, and she claims that she loves her ex-husband more now than she ever did when they were married. Maybe you're thinking the same thing that I am; doesn't the "D" word mean that the battle armor has been assembled and you're preparing for war? Despite the societal norms and expectations related to divorce, these exes communicate practically every day, texting good mornings and good nights with smiley face emojis and updating one another on what's happening in their day. Their relationship dynamics got me to wondering how they were able to become better friends after divorce?
First, in studying the work of marketing professor and sociologist Morris Massey, I learned that they SEE things differently. Massey uses the acronym 'SEE' to represent a Significant Emotional Event, which is a substantial occurrence in our lives that shape our identity-the strongest force in human nature. These events can be as happy and joyful as graduating from college, having a baby or getting married, or as traumatic and devastating as experiencing the death of a child, losing a job, or divorcing.
Learning how to navigate through these "make-or-break" significant events in life is one of the ways that Growth-U helps to facilitate personal growth for its community.
Through my association with Growth-U, sharing these valuable life lessons with my friends and clients has also become one of my greatest passions. Helping others to approach their SEEs in an objective and empowering way inspires me to make a positive impact on the world.
In my friend's case, it was the near death of her step-child that sparked the power of love to transmute the end of a marriage into the beginning of a beautiful friendship.
Only one week before her step-daughter became critically ill with pneumonia, she had told her husband that she wanted a divorce. In short order, she packed the essentials and moved out, ready to start a new life in a new city.
That was the time that tragedy struck with her step-daughter on life support, in an induced coma for weeks, and teetering between life and death.
With multiple SEEs occurring simultaneously, my friend was faced with having to make logical decisions while in complete emotional upheaval. What then? Should she leave her husband in his time of need, keeping her plans for her new life, should she stay to support him?
Although her decision to leave her marriage was the same, she made an objective decision to stay by her husband's side during this tumultuous time.
The weeks that followed were spent with endless hours at the hospital, preparing for the worst-case outcome, and gathering all the powers of the universe to heal this very sick child, and it was done in togetherness. This was a significant emotional event that bonded them rather than breaking them.
How did this traumatic SEE end in love and, not hate?
Here's my take from what I've learned in my own personal development journey:
Marriages often end in divorce from a traumatic SEE because one spouse becomes the emotional anchor of pain for the other.
An anchor is just another way to describe a strong emotional reminder of a significant event or time in someone's life. It's kinda like when you smell perfume and it reminds you of your grandmother, and all of a sudden a rush of memories flood your thoughts.
When one person becomes an anchor to another, it can go both ways; they can be perceived positively, as a safe haven, or they can serve as a reminder of the pain that accompanied the SEE. It all depends on how each individual emotionally internalizes and attaches to the event.
With regard to relationships, there are a few common combinations of anchors.
Combination one: Both people anchor negatively and agree to break-up.
Combination two: Both people anchor positively and support one another, either within the same relationship or in a new one. In the example of my friend, they still divorced, but they have a very healthy relationship.
Combination three: One person anchors positively and the other anchors negatively. This anchor combination often results in a split if strong communication skills have not been developed. With one person feeling more bonded as a result of the SEE while the other associates the SEE with pain or negative emotion, it's easy to imagine how the conflict would ensue.
I share these combinations with you because one, getting objective around emotions really takes the edge off so you can actually work on your emotions and two, so you can understand any anchors you might have!
Perhaps just by reading this, you'll recall some experiences when you've created anchors through various SEEs throughout your life, and you'll be able to release some of the stuck, negative emotions associated with them!
Once you've identified what combination of anchors is present in your relationship, you're ready to work on building communication.
The most important type of communication is called intrapersonal communication-the communication between you and you! It's your internal communication that will empower you to feel good in just about any situation and help you to influence the other person who has experienced the same SEE.
Start by asking yourself how you feel about this situation. How do you think your partner feels? In what ways might you be acting immaturely? Are you seeking the best outcome for everyone involved? Are you able to look at the situation objectively from all sides?
We need to remember that as humans, we are emotional beings, and what we feel impacts how we come to conclusions about life. When we can understand how SEEs lead to anchors, and anchors are emotional, then we can use this knowledge to change our internal story about the event when we are in the midst of heavy emotions.
As you become clearer on what you feel, why you feel it, and what to do with it, your communication with your partner can improve.
A good exercise is to try putting yourself in the other person's shoes and ask the same questions that you asked yourself. When you understand their perspective and you have stabilized your role in the event, you are in a position to communicate in a way that the other person can actually hear you!
There might be instances where you feel neglected, taken advantage of, and misunderstood. When those feelings arise, you can immediately shift by remembering the inner work you've done. Even though the situation isn't ideal, you can still find peace within the storm by coaching yourself, moment by moment, to become a positive anchor of support and trust.
Let's do a quick recap:
- 1. A SEE happens
2. Positive or negative anchors are associated with the SEE
3. We objectively seek to identify the emotional ties to the anchors
4. We modify our communication with ourselves and others in an empowered way