Should a family show solidarity around a loved one who has been wronged by a marriage partner, or be free to maintain their relationship with the person responsible for the wrong doing?
Before anyone tells you their opinion on something like this, let’s take a deeper look at the various levels of this question and see if we can get to the real heart of it.
Anytime we find ourselves asking a “should” question, what we’re really wondering is, “What will other people think?” and “How might others punish or reward me if I do this?” In other words, we’re not wondering what is in alignment with our own inner truth, we’re wondering what’s in alignment with the social group that’s most affected by our choice.
There was a time in human history when complying with the group was needed for our most basic survival. Even today, it’s instinctive in us as children because we are so dependent when we’re young. It’s a large part of how we become socialized and what bonds us to our families, friends, and other community groups. This socialization is how we come to know how to treat others, what’s expected of us so that we can make friends, get jobs, and live in the world.
The need to belong is fundamental to being human. It’s not “good” and it’s not “bad”. It’s just there, and worth being aware of. The weight you put on what others think, and what kinds of consequences you’re willing to deal with for the choices you make, depends on which values you prioritize.
We each carry within us a unique set of values. These act as the driving forces behind our decisions throughout our lives. They can and do adjust as we face situations that challenge us to think and respond differently. For example, we may not realize how important family is until we lose someone we love. As a result, we may decide to spend less time at the office and more time with our loved ones.
Through both my coaching practice and personal experience, I have learned that if you want to know what someone’s values are, watch how they spend their time and money. If what they say about their values and priorities match how they spend their time and money, they’re living an aligned life. If not, they’re not in alignment, which can lead to other challenges. Before judging anyone on this though, be aware that we ALL move in and out of alignment at various times and for various reasons, so it’s wise to make sure to look in the mirror often.
If we’re really committed to living in alignment, we can choose specific values to live by. For example, I may choose to be “authentic, self-expressed, and kind.” By choosing one to three specific values to focus on, I now have a gauge by which I can measure my personal success and character each day that has nothing to do with anyone else’s views, opinions, judgments or expectations (aka the “shoulds”). It’s inner focused and totally within my control whereas the “shoulds” are externally focused (in others) and outside my control.
With this understanding of the “shoulds” and the role they play in our lives, coupled with the inner compass of our values, and knowing that we can choose who we want to be in this world, let’s take another look at the original question.
The Underlying Truth
The fact that’s it’s being asked at all tells me that there’s a part of you that wants to remain friends independently of the situation that’s resulted in the divorce. Yet, you’re equally aware that doing so is not something others would think is appropriate, and it feels as if there’s the risk of being ostracized or judged harshly by others.
The truth is: at the end of the day, our choices are ours to live with and no one else’s. Each and every one of us only has ourselves (and our higher power, depending on your beliefs) to answer to. There is absolutely no one else who can ever spend 100% of their time with us, nor ever fully understand the depth or complexity of our needs, desires, motivations, or choices. No one. Ever.
The other bit of hard truth is that there will always be someone who judges us for our choices and actions.
When we look back on our lives, it’s far more common to regret the times when we made choices that were out of alignment with our personal truth than any other choice. In other words, it’s more common to regret doing what others think we “should” than it is to regret being true to ourselves. Why? Because others get to judge and walk away, but we must continue to live with ourselves.
So, my advice in this situation is to stop worrying about what you “should” do and start examining who you choose to be. Then, make the choice that best expresses who you choose to be.
It’s entirely possible that there may be a both/and solution as well. In other words, consider the possibility that allowing time to pass while the divorce is fresh may honor the family. Then later, reconnecting with the other partner to re-create a new friendship will carry different dynamics.
A great question that has helped me through difficult decisions is: How can I walk through this so that when I look back at it in 3 to 5 years, I can still live with who I chose to be – regardless of the stories, beliefs, or judgments of others?
What’s right and true for you may become clear immediately, or it may take days, weeks or even months to emerge through self-examination and exploration. Either way, you’ll be glad you took the time now rather than waking up down the road, looking back, and feeling regret.
The Bottom Line
Being compassionately honest about who you are and the choices you’re making – first with yourself and then with others – is the path that is most likely to have the fewest regrets long term.
So, who do you choose to be? And, how do you choose to walk through this situation so that you can live with yourself for the rest of your life, regardless of what others think?
Lori Anne Rising is the international award-winning author of “You. Rising! Reclaim Your Life. Live Your Purpose,” an intuitive channel, and host of “You Rising!” the podcast for women seeking to answer their inner call. Her work challenges old paradigms, and reconnects women with their Wise One Within to empower, inspire and reawaken their life’s purpose and passion.
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