Excerpts from The Good Karma Divorce by Judge Michele Lowrance
How did I end up in this nightmare? I am a stranger to these dark
emotions now living inside me. Who am I? When did I cross over the
line, and will I ever cross back?
From across the bench I hear the whispers from their hearts. Beneath the ﬂuorescent glare, the parties appear hostile, their arms tightly folded
as if in straitjackets. A deputy stands behind them, menacingly, with a gun.
These two people, who had once ﬂirted, courted, and exchanged wedding vows, now seem to regard each other as kryptonite. I can see their hands
trembling; my black robe often has that effect. Each comes to court with
an agenda. Each seems determined to achieve vindication by convincing
me of the other’s loathsomeness. Then, and only then, can they ensure that
the court punishes the guilty party for the personal wreckage they suf- fered. With the steam of hatred coming off their bodies like smoke from a greasy hamburger, they will attempt to raise children together.
What did I want for this couple? I wanted them—a husband and wife
who had damaged each other,
who had even devastated each other—to
realize their anger would destroy them and infect every aspect of their
future. I wanted them both to realize that this was what was happening.
It ﬁ nally struck me: they did not yet realize this. They had no idea of the
extent to which their anger and resentment would injure those around
them, as it damaged their own hearts, souls, and destinies. They had
relinquished their strength by relying only on their attorneys and the
court system to determine their future, oblivious to their own power
over this potentially treacherous divorce process. There, in that forty-
foot-square courtroom, this couple would either fuse with their anger,
resentment, and bitterness or follow a path leading to peace through
wisdom, understanding, and eventually forgiveness. They were facing
a fork in the road that would change their lives forever.
The couples I see in my courtroom are desperately searching for
emotional release; they smuggle their pain into their testimony, even
when it is not relevant to the topic. They do so at every opportunity,
hoping that somehow the court will know how to lessen their agony.
In the end their desperate emotions remain unattended and unsatis-
ﬁ ed. The sight of couples who participate exuberantly in a demoli-
tion derby always disturbs me. In an attempt to alleviate pain, even
though the pain is transitory, they lash out, and irreparable damage
is done. The court system was not built to house these emotions, and
attorneys are not trained to reduce this kind of suffering.
In many ways
my job is not just to decide futures or manage chaotic emotions, but
to construct a master plan for broken families. What is the best ap-
proach to this process that is ultimately life-changing? How could
it be shifted from a life-destroying ordeal to a more positive, trans-
formational process? My professional and personal experience with
divorce, combined with my studies in Eastern philosophy, led me
to consider the law of karma and how to effectively apply it to the
breakup and divorce process.
The Creation of a Negative Story Line
My early experiences have dominated my personal and career choices.
Though I was not even three, I vividly remember hearing my parents
speaking from the next room in a Miami hotel. They were getting a di-
vorce and had just confessed to each other that neither had any interest
in raising a child. “I don’t want her,” was followed by, “I don’t want her
either.” I burst into their room and with angry tears said, “I don’t want
you either!” My mother and father were very young when I was born,
and of course I didn’t understand the stresses of being young parents—
I just thought I wasn’t worth sticking around for.
I don’t need Freud to crawl out of his grave to explain why, when I
sense trouble or abandonment in a relationship, whether real or per-
ceived, I pull out the old familiar menu. The appetizer consists of cre-
ating emotional distance. By the entrée, I’m gone. My defenses, minted
at an early age, are alive and well, and even though I understand this, I
have overcome my history only with considerable effort and experience.
Often a couple in my courtroom is ﬁ ghting over who gets the children—
unlike my parents, who were ﬁ ghting over who wouldn’t. In the end, the
result is the same: neither couple is in the right mood to raise a child.
In some Asian philosophies, a destructive event or experience is
often considered the prerequisite to the attainment of enlightenment.
The crisis presents the opportunity to remove a blockage impeding
your life’s purpose. A Japanese proverb says, “My barn having burned
to the ground, I can now see the moon.” Believe it or not, sadness and
even despair can have a positive effect, if those feelings ultimately
loosen your attachment to a relationship that cannot bring you lasting
peace and happiness.
You may think you are permanently leaving your spouse behind as
you move forward into the next phase of your life, but the truth is that
nothing—and no one—really gets left behind in an absolute way.
All of your shared experiences with your spouse—from tears
of joy to tears of sorrow—make an indelible mark on your soul like
a handprint in wet cement, whether you want them to or not. There
are billions of people on earth, but you will come into contact with
only a handful of them and have deep relationships with just a few of
those. If you see yourself as a planet, whoever comes into your life is
part of your solar system. A spouse with whom you share your life, for
however long, is a major part of that solar system. Pain and suffering
result when you tell yourself that the memory of your former spouse
has no signiﬁ cance in your current life. The soul and the heart both
know better, and in this tug of war peace may be elusive. Even long
after you separate and divorce, this person and you will share a cer-
tain gravitational pull, and any children you have together will be
permanent ﬁ xtures in your shared solar system. You can’t ﬁ ght that,
and you may not be able to quiet the negative feelings that come up
whenever you orbit too closely to your former spouse (even if you live
thousands of miles apart).
Can you say unequivocally how your life is going to turn out? Isn’t
it possible it may turn out differently than the lamentable predic-
tions made during this difﬁ cult time? Can you say your story line of
the breakdown of your marriage is absolutely accurate? You can navi-
gate crisis in a way that is life-enhancing, productive, and optimistic.
To emerge from your breakup with this result, you will have to choose
the road less traveled, to be different from those who experience
divorce as complete destruction.
My second husband and I decided to separate in the April rain
on a Friday afternoon. By Saturday morning, like Scarlett
O’Hara when she made her famous proclamation never to be
hungry again, I made a vow. No matter what turn my case would take(I now was also a case), I would handle myself differently from the many couples I had seen both in and outside of my courtroom. I had seen the
ravages of the divorce process carved into their war-torn faces. Over time their skin had grayed, and even their hair hung sadly. I have seen people behave in ways they would later tell me they were ashamed of.
I knew what was coming for me; the temptation to be petty and
vengeful would be immense. I wanted this life crisis to be deﬁ ning for me. I wanted to be proud of how I acted, and I didn’t want to whine, weep, and wilt. I wanted to show grace under pressure. It was my job to be the cartographer, to map the person I was going to be when this was over. Poet and critic James Russell Lowell said, “There is no good arguing with the inevitable. The only argument available with an east
wind is to put on your overcoat.” I wanted to ﬁ gure out what kind of
protective gear I would need to construct. Like it or not, I put on that overcoat every day. Sometimes I would feel warm and sheltered, and at other times the overcoat felt like a straitjacket.
Every monumental journey requires enormous courage and inner strength to deal with the onslaught of fear, doubt, and uncertainty.
Because divorce is experienced as an avalanche upon the soul and the
people move directly into survival mode. In survival mode
we try to bury the pain, and in so doing we also bury good memories
along with the bones of the marriage. Now any remnants of affection
must be buried alive, still twitching. This is the time when there is
often devotion to any propaganda that devalues our spouse. Although
survival mode has short-term utility, it can be destructive if sustained
for extended periods of time.
The breakup did not happen overnight. A thief did not steal your
love in the dark. Brick by brick, the house of love was dismantled.
One brick was trust, a second was loyalty, another was sharing core values, and so forth. Compounded and repetitious negativity has become so
dominant that we fear we are losing the person that we know our-
selves to be. Most of us know ourselves to be kind, but now we are
having trouble accessing and maintaining our true self. When the
mind is crowded by negative fears and thoughts, it soon takes on the
character of that negativity. As a society, we have embraced all things
green. We now abhor waste—we recycle everything from cell phones
to the cardboard core inside a roll of paper towels—and we think
twice before we throw something away. Are broken marital relation-
ships the one area of life exempted from the concept of recycling?
Are we so obsessed with hiding evidence of this so-called failure that
we have no choice but to throw out the good with the bad? Through
negativity, are we ready to exclude a former spouse from any further
Recycling is a philosophy—that in everything there is further pur-
pose and possibility. Is it possible that this also applies to a former
spouse? As we shall see, he or she may well turn out to be our greatest
You may inherit money. You may win the lottery. You may ﬁ nd love
at ﬁrst sight. But when it comes to wisdom, there are no shortcuts.
There is no easy advice, and by the time you are done with your divorce,
you will not be the same. But depending upon how you go through your
stages, you can affect your desired outcome. You don’t need a book to
tell you that you are having a difﬁ cult time, but you may need help ﬁ g-
uring out how to make penicillin from the mold. Suffering, unfortu-
nately, is integral to ﬁ nding out your life’s purpose. Without suffering
you may never do the work required to align yourself with that pur-
pose. When you can give meaning to your suffering and acknowledge
its transformative powers, you have changed your relationship to the
life process. By now you know that life always contains suffering, and
A Flood in the Mouth, a River with No Banks
an you remember, however vaguely, during the blissful days of
your marriage, the ﬁ rst time you felt the cut of criticism deliv-
ered by your mate? You were probably shocked as you heard the
crunch of an apple in your Garden of Eden. You had done a slow emo-
tional striptease in front of your partner but now receive no applause
and you thought you heard a “Boo” in the back row.
Hadn’t you chosen your mate because this was the one person in the
entire world who made you feel so good? The person you once could trust
your heart to now, with the precision of a heart surgeon, had the ability
and apparently the desire to cut yours out. The partner with whom you felt
so secure has now woven your security blanket with broken glass.
In the beginning, we know that our mate is not perfect. But we
also know that a little understanding and gentle nudging can help
him or her aspire to what we believe is a better path. Of course, our
mate may feel exactly the same about us. As we start to notice that
our gentle nudging doesn’t seem to be making a difference, we upgrade
to more direct criticism. We tell ourselves we are only doing it “out of
love.” We say things like, “My darling, I wish you wouldn’t eat so much
at dinner. You know you have a blood-pressure problem, and I worry
about you so.” The idea that what we are saying is done “for their own
good” is nothing more than an attempt to put a silk blindfold on your
partner so they won’t notice it is really criticism.
Criticism may start out as an act of love for many well-intentioned
reasons, but like a lion cub, so cute in the beginning, it eventually
becomes deadly. We have all done it; we have all felt to our core that we were trying to help our partner.
After all, in marriage or a com-
mitted relationship we have hitched our wagon to our partner’s. We
have interlocked destinies; in essence, if our partner is harmed, we
are harmed. But when we criticize, we slip into potential quicksand.
Although not meant to hurt our partner in the beginning, even gently
delivered criticism, after a time and with repetition, hurts and causes
the recipient to become resentful. The recipient criticizes back in self-
The Stains of Heartbreak
Hot-, Warm-, or Cold-Blooded Anger
Anger is the garbage of all emotion, but it takes garbage to
make compost, and it takes compost to make a ﬂ ower.
—THICH NHAT HANH
ou never could have known that the fate of your marriage was
being cast at the same time you walked down the aisle on your
wedding day. The sanctuary created by marriage insulated you
from your most primal fears: abandonment, danger, even insecuri-
ties about food and shelter. Now that all seems like an illusion, and by
the time you separate from your spouse, you don’t know which part was
fantasy and which was real. You tell yourself that if it were real love,
estrangement could have never happened. You ask yourself whether
you should have seen it was a mistake from the beginning. You want
to believe that, no matter what ﬂ aws have been revealed over the years
and even though you are headed for divorce, the one you married still
has some tenderness for you. But when that hope melts away . . .
Anger is the harvest of failed expectations. THE STAINS OF HEARTBREAK 67
The emotion that masquerades as power and counteracts this feeling
of powerlessness better than any I know is anger. This emotional phar-
maceutical masks the pain while simultaneously producing an endless
supply of energy. It feels better to be enraged than impotent. Although it
later shows itself to be an imposter, the feeling of power we derive from
anger is irresistibly seductive. Real power comes with wisdom and an
understanding of the source of our fears, but when wisdom and insight
seem unavailable, the deceptive power of anger substitutes for them.
Once a cycle of resentment is formed between two former loved
ones, they are locked in a ghastly psychic waltz. The music is a broken
record, and they spend excessive time circling meaninglessly in a
shared and empty mental ballroom, thick with the dust and grime of
recrimination and bitterness. As in a Twilight Zone episode, time stops
and so does learning, as the grim and silent dancers glare at one an-
other across the years.
hen we ﬁ nd out our spouse is having an affair, we invariably
believe that: Betrayal is a crime against the soul; it has a persistent
quality that maims the spirit. Although other injuries may heal, this
one cannot, as it has burrowed like an alien into our heart. There is no repara-
tion to our memories, and this kind of scar can never be resurfaced. Our psyche
had sustained damage beyond compensation.
From the moment you learn your spouse has been unfaithful, you
lacerate yourself with questions: “Shouldn’t I have known?” “This is
my life partner—did I allow the betrayal through some failure or mis-
take?” “Does this new love somehow know or understand my spouse
better than I do?” “Shouldn’t I have known from the beginning that
my beloved was capable of deception?” As you spiral down through the
pain, you backtrack through every incident that told your gut some-
thing was amiss. Then you blame yourself for ignoring your instincts.
In your heart you believed that the relationship had ﬁ nally ripened to the
point where you didn’t have to be on guard. With trust you thought you could
relax; you did, and it was delicious. And now it feels as if your life has been
stolen from you when you were asleep. You could have defended yourself, had
you only known. Now you know the truth. Betrayal is a secret battleﬁ eld you
are unaware of until you are defeated.
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Becoming Sherlock Holmes
Trying to ﬁ gure out what is and is not true as a result of your spouse’s
affair is like using carnival mirrors to get an accurate picture of your-
self. You can no longer be sure when you were loved and when you were
not, when your spouse was or wasn’t where he or she was supposed to be,
or what the tipping point was that left your spouse vulnerable to temp-
tation. The past cannot be calculated or measured; you don’t know when
you were loved 95 percent of the time or when it dropped to 60 percent.
To survive, we attempt to reconstruct an ordered and accurate pat-
tern of facts about what really happened. Reeling and still in disbelief,
we try to piece together a new reality. We want to establish a reality that
is so accurate we can almost see it with our eyes—then we can create our
“theory of the crime.” In so doing, we embark on a circular and painful
endeavor, as this information cannot be captured in time or space. It is
as if, while walking in the dark in a familiar place—a place we know as
well as the back of our hand—we stumble and fall down a staircase we
didn’t even know was there. We try to make sense of every dot on this
pointillist canvas, hoping to reduce the pain. But the dots are in the
millions, and the search takes all the energy we have.
Maybe you can remember the day you fell in love, but it is almost
impossible to pinpoint the day you fell out of it. In your desperate and
frantic attempt to catalogue emotional history (which deﬁ es measure-
ment), you can drive yourself into a state of constant mental agita-
tion. You may ﬁ nd one answer, and in an hour that answer changes.
And when your bearings are lost, the thing you cling to should not be a
thought process that contains inaccurate facts arranged in a fractured
picture. Once you begin re-creating the crime scene, there are unlim-
ited kaleidoscopic realities, leaving you with blurred vision and optical
As you come to realize the difﬁ culty of re-creating the past, you may
crave the truth so strongly that you try to wrest it from your offending
spouse. Beware of this blind alley. A spouse will lie or shade the truth
for any of several reasons. If she still cares for you, she will try to spare
you the pain of the secret courtship. If the betrayal was some sort of re-
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CARNIVAL MIRRORS 87
taliation or was anger-based, he may make the story even worse than it
really was, in an effort to increase your pain. Why allow more power to
be shifted to someone likely to offer answers that can only compound
I recommend an alternative approach. It is the only one I believe
offers a chance to choose the lens through which you will perceive your
circumstances. The elemental power accessible in the case of betrayal
does not come from how well you emulate Sherlock Holmes, but from
your choice of attitude. There is no power to be gained by becoming at-
tached to an inaccurate and incomplete picture of a horrifying reality.
Instead, there is a way to reframe the pain so that it transforms your
present into a platform for growth.
The demolition of your old reality has caused your optimism to
become severely impoverished. But what are you really hungry for? In
truth, it is not answers about the speciﬁ cs of the betrayal. What you
really need is a “superfood” that addresses accessing your own power.
This “superfood” will allow you to detach from negative thought pro-
cesses, unhook from your story line about your devastation, and release
the other person to his or her own fate.
When you ﬁ nd out about the deception, you fall into truth. The
truth is that your mate has unknowable, unpredictable, and mutable
parts. In the beginning we all think we know our partner. Betrayal
tells us what we already knew deep down: reality is not permanent,
and for that reason complete truth is unknowable. Yes, betrayal is
the far end of the spectrum of this idea, but it is the perfect vehicle
for exemplifying impermanence. You have now been forced to accept
that impermanence is part of the life cycle of human existence. Per-
manency and loyalty are beautiful objectives, but their loss should
not be a basis for our self-destruction. That would be like destroy-
ing ourselves over the laws of living. You cannot resist those laws
any more than you can oppose the laws of gravity. When you resist
change, more suffering happens. Spiritual leaders tell us to do our
best when choosing our actions and not to be attached to the results.
Betrayal proves—albeit in an undesirable way—the importance of
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The devastating knowledge of betrayal winds its way through every
square inch of the relationship: trust, security, love, meaning of life,
and ego. When you have been betrayed, it is hard to know what to do
or how to feel. To cope with this, you might reach for the heavy artil-
lery. In all likelihood, you will summon commando-grade anger to
feel more powerful, hoping your anger will devour other, more painful
emotions. In this situation, anger is not only abundant, but primitive
and righ teous. Anger is the liquid that pours from a severed reality.
The opportunity for handling anger is now at its highest peak and
its most difﬁ cult. Then, fortiﬁ ed by concepts that underlie the Good
Karma Divorce, you do the unthinkable. You step out of the plane into
thin air, and you believe in the parachute.
Your parachute is your ability to reframe the present. Accept the
facts, but let the importance of your own process be the overriding
factor. Accept that impermanence, randomness, hypocrisy, and be-
trayal are in the world. We are all vulnerable, but we are not doomed.
I will say the word “forgiveness” now, and I will talk about it much
more in subsequent chapters. For now, suspend your disbelief. For-
giveness in this context means letting go, releasing the betrayer to his
or her fate. You have not been asked to be the historian, the reconciler,
the forensic pathologist, or the judge and jury of your marriage. Be-
lieve it or not, the facts don’t even matter much, in the end. Your cir-
cumstances are not terminal. You are not ill-fated, and this is not too
brutal to be borne.
Betrayers’ deception blocks them from attaining peace. This is
true, even though it may be invisible. We imagine that they don’t suffer,
that they are joyous and indulging every desire. And because they seem
to do so without payment, we believe they have gotten away with it. But
no matter how it looks to you, betrayers are the ones who are lost in
confusion, may have guilt forever, and must carry the burden of lies.
If you allow me this anarchistic idea, the real answer to minimiz-
ing the effects of betrayal is compassion. I am not saying you should feel
bad for deceivers or that their struggle should eclipse your own pain,
but there is another way to look at this. Those who spent all that energy
on deception, without the opportunity for healing, are those who may
be marked for life. I have always thought I would rather be the one who
sometimes experienced unkind and destructive treatment than be one
who was unkind and destructive. To be on the receiving end is just a
passing experience, but those who harbor those destructive tendencies
must live with or resist those urges each day. Their misdeeds are the
basis for our compassion. It is our compassion that will disengage us
Forgiveness Beneﬁts the Forgiver
It is easy to see how complicated it is to analyze people’s behavior. You
can shake the kaleidoscope a hundred times, each time hoping to ﬁ nd
the reasons why someone hurt you, and come up with a different pat-
tern each time. With forgiveness you are releasing yourself from hold-
ing on to these questions, the analyzing, the anger and resentment that
keeps you Crazy-glued to the one who injured you. Forgiveness is not
about or for the other party; that person may never know. Forgiveness
is for you. With forgiveness you can go on with your life unencumbered
by ruminative thoughts. You do not have to love the other person again,
you are not reconciling, and you do not even have to like him or her
again—you only have to like yourself enough to let it go. Forgiveness
means you have chosen to let it all go. To let it be. You can now close the
When contemplating forgiveness, we need to look dispassionately
at our heartache and see what part both parties have contributed. We
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are not required to discount what the other person has done or to legit-
imize his or her actions. Our goal is objective reporting. We must con-
sider how much holding on to resentment costs emotionally and even
physically. Holding on to resentment has been known to create ulcers
and increase anxiety, blood pressure, and body pain. In the act of for-
giveness, we can accept that what was done is done; we do not approve
of it, we believe it was hurtful, perhaps intentional, but we have chosen
to not let the pain remain in our heart or body. We can condemn the act
while forgiving the person.
This is counterintuitive, because the thing you want to do the least
is what helps you the most and is the fastest exit out of the cycle of re-
sentment and blame. There are other exits out of this cycle—you can
disconnect or ignore—but none is as sustaining as forgiveness. With
disconnecting or ignoring you must take care to never see or think of
the other person. With forgiveness it’s all been taken care of—whether
or not you ever see or think of the person again.
The antitoxin of forgiveness does not have to be taken right away,
and it cannot be force-fed. All you have to do is be open to the possibil-
ity, and the inspiration will come when you are ready. The aspiration
toward forgiveness does not require forgetting the past or preclude
learning from it; it gives you control and power over how you will let
the past deﬁ ne who you are in the present and the future.
Victimhood: A Consensual Crime
With forgiveness—for ourselves and the one we believe has hurt
us—we release ourselves from our status as a victim. Seeing yourself
as a victim means, “They did something to me. I couldn’t stop them. I
have no power over them.” That soon becomes confused with, “I have
no power.” But when you forgive, you are no longer vulnerable to them;
forgiveness gives you back your power. The call is yours as to when you
want to diffuse their power.
Your children observe you and model your ability or inability to
forgive. Watching you, they can learn to live a life not controlled by
resentment. They can observe and internalize the process of forgive-
ness. The immediate beneﬁ t of one parent forgiving the other is that
the children’s fear of losing the other parent diminishes. Real healing,
especially when you have children, is recognizing your interconnect-
edness with the other parent and learning to navigate that connection.
By the time you are in the middle of your separation or divorce,
you usually have a ﬁ rm story line about what you believe happened in
your relationship. You have gone over it in your mind often enough, re-
peated it to friends and family, possibly even to a lawyer or therapist.
You may feel let down by the court system and your attorney or even
forsaken by your higher power. You have started to deﬁ ne yourself as
the repository of injury and injustice. In fact, a lot of bad things have
happened to you, and you may be justiﬁ ed in feeling victimized. After
all, remember that the average length of time for a divorce is about two
years. Two years of sustained pain can lurk devilishly to fuse “victim”
to your new identity.
Usually memory is ﬁ ltered through our own personal lens, and
perhaps our memory needs glasses. After all, we are not highly mo-
tivated to rewrite our story line. During separation or divorce, only
a part of us really wants to progress or evolve. The other part, often
the anchoring part, wants to hold on to the story line, because it may
appear to be working for us—that is, until we become more conscious
of how that blaming, nonforgiving story line might be hurting us. Even
as we become aware that our story line is hurting us, we notice that we
are still resistant to change. We believe we are essentially “good”—why
shouldn’t it be our story line? Why should we re-create it? After all,
aren’t we the tree, and everyone else the leaves?
Forgiveness understands that everyone is a tree and everyone is a
leaf. We are all ﬂ awed in some way. To give up our story line requires
true crime-scene investigation that vigorously seeks the truth. Can you
imagine a different version of why your spouse behaved as he or she
did? If not, you might want to look closer at how tightly you hold on to
your story line. Think about how you would feel if you could give it up.
The situation cannot change, but the way you look at it is your choice
when you are determined to become liberated.
With resistance to modifying our story and with repetition, we run
the risk of letting these negative thoughts lay down “tracks,” forming a
brain pattern. The more our brain repeats the story, the more embed-
ded in our thought process it becomes. Other neurons, like good sol-
diers, will enhance these negative patterns and can translate them into
other categories of thought (e.g., “My spouse is out to get me,” becomes,
“The world is out to get me”). It is as if it were contagious. The idea that
we can compartmentalize or isolate negative thoughts about our spouse
is perilously untrue. Scientists tell us that it is possible to undo these
neuropathways once the tracks have been laid down, but over time it
can get more difﬁ cult. Dr. Alvaro Pascual-Leone, in describing these
habituated tracks, says, “These tracks become really speedy and efﬁ -
cient at getting to their goal.”1 We have created a negative set point for
our thoughts and can quickly gravitate to them. Forgiveness can inter-
rupt this tracking when we allow for a different interpretation or story
in which we are no longer the victim.
People often fuse two concepts: that our survival is jeopardized
when we are hurt, and that because anger feels powerful it will pro-
tect us from this hurt and therefore we can survive. During the divorce
we are always looking for strength; we want to feel strong about some-
thing, but we often choose to strengthen the wrong thing. We may
get angry ﬁ ve times a day, so we are quite familiar with that. But the
muscle for forgiveness is quite underdeveloped. The challenge is not to
strengthen the anger, but to strengthen the desire for forgiveness.
When you notice that you have slipped into anger to protect your-
self, you can unlearn this association. Keeping the anger means that
you are emotionally not letting go, and retaining the attachment to
your spouse in the neural pathways of your brain. Once you ﬁ nd out
you are capable of letting go in a way you didn’t know you could, you
will have taught your brain (the old dog) new tricks. Any novel way of
thinking stimulates your brain and upgrades its clarity.
*** Many spiritual leaders have told us it is our “enemy” who is our
greatest teacher. It is our enemy who inspires us to develop the stron-
ger muscles that are needed for patience, forgiveness, and compassion.
The threat offered by our adversary motivates us to do this strenuous
spiritual and emotional work. Once we have begun to go to the deeper
level of compassion that inspires forgiveness, it will become easier to
manage the injustices in everyday life. Each time harm is done to us, it
will not stick like ﬂypaper, because we will have experienced the ben-
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eﬁ ts of release. If we have already done the heavy lifting of forgiveness
with our former mate, we may now move through other wrongs in our
life that have a lighter weight. When we are ﬁ nally able to do that, and
it will not come right away, we will have created a new mechanism for
dealing with the many onslaughts of life. We will have learned a differ-
ent way of looking at the people who have wronged us, knowing we can
manage their power over us. We are no longer obstructed by a road-
block whose sentinels remind us of our injuries.
If we are unable to forgive, our spirit is heavy, even if it is resent-
ment against only one person. We think we have compartmentalized
that resentment, and it isn’t leaking into other relationships. We may
be wrong. If we have resentment in us, it could create a barrier between
us and everyone else. If resentment lurks, we must judge and separate
those who will hurt us and those who will not. We must keep our sen-
sors up at all times as we relate to other people. We don’t just build a
sensor for one. If we install a burglar-alarm system, it is not just to
keep out one person. Everyone is potentially a suspect.
Bathed in the muddy waters of resentment and suspicion it is no
wonder we don’t have crystal-clear communication with others. By the
time you are in the middle of your divorce this muddy water may have
become quicksand. Before moving on to the next chapter of your life,
consider bathing in the clear water of forgiveness.
Once you build a story line to protect yourself, this pattern becomes
entrenched in your brain. You cannot tolerate ﬂ exibility as it threatens
the protective tissue of your storyline. Perhaps this is the most dan-
gerous thing you could ever do, as it makes your brain less plastic and
more rigid. (Plasticity is required for a maximally functioning brain.)
All my life experiences tell me forgiveness is the primary strategy. It
is the one strategy that can manage all your injuries, from the small-
est things to the most gruesome ones; it does not change based on the
crime. Forgiveness is the neurological trafﬁ c director for injuries to
your psyche. It is a way of life. It is not just about your spouse—your
spouse is just the exercise. This strategy is for every slight that the
world throws at you, whether fate, bad luck, or accidents of birth. For-
giveness is one of the greatest tools for redrawing the neuropathways
The question then, is: what meaning can we ﬁ nd in relationships
that did not last? We must ﬁ nd a different way to look at those people
who we previously loved. Sprayed with a mist of obsolescence, our loved
ones appear to have diminished value. Because of the impermanence of
relationships, many ﬁ nd it unwise to allow themselves to be really vul-
nerable with others. When we are guarding our vulnerability, it becomes
more difﬁ cult to attach, but it is vulnerability that promotes attachment.
Ultimately, there may be a part of ourselves that we hold back in a
relationship. I am always asked why I think the divorce rate is so high.
Perhaps this holding back is not only a reason for the increase in antago-
nistic divorces, but also one of the reasons for the lack of
of marriages. Without the mortar of intrinsic worth, many of today’s
marriages seem to be built out of Lego blocks that may be snapped to-
gether or pulled apart at will.
Believing that our mate’s value lies only in his or her present func-
tionality to us, we measure people’s worth only in terms of current
value. How, then, do we treasure our time on earth if relationships are
only fragmented and episodic, and have not been woven into the big
picture of our lives? In a world of replaceability, we have begun strip-
ping away a whole layer of human-relationship value that gives our life
meaning and spiritual connectedness. The platinum emotion of love
can turn into tomorrow’s waste material. We are all in peril of being
looked at with the glint of expendability in our beloved’s eye. With this
mind-set, how can we value loyalty and devotion to the family unit or
to anyone? With the increasing number of multiple broken relation-
ships, we have all accumulated a landﬁ ll of human memories that can
be either relegated to waste or productively recycled. The only way to
redeem this landﬁ ll is to upgrade the value of its contents from toxic
Even though we are detaching from our mate, I have given much value
to the handling of our memories. Marriage creates an expansive ﬁ eld
of memories, effervescently rich with the potential to fertilize our new
life. Keeping alive good recollections ensures that our arteries will
carry those memories to our heart, so that our heart will not be de-
prived of nourishment from our past. We know that love can die when
we forget to nourish the source; we have made that mistake before.
Now we know that if we replenish the value of our past, it may feed us in
the present. History is foundational. Our choice is to tell ourselves that
our marital history was always depleted, or that there were, at least for
a time, the creation of valuable nutrients we can still use.
Memory is not only part of the past, it is alive in us now. If its inter-
pretation is negative, it has the potential for self-laceration. Your his-
tory with your former spouse is a joint project. You cannot annihilate
these memories without also killing off meaningful parts of yourself.
You must do something with these memories, as they remain in your
bloodstream. When you accept that you have deposited parts of your-
self in his or her soul, you can comfortably retrieve all the richness of
your experiences, pain as well as joy.
We all have created rooms where our past selves are stored. Do you
want that storeroom to be dark, damp, and without air or usable and
full of wisdom? This book is about recovering something and ﬁ nding
something. It is about recovering the person we know ourselves to be
and ﬁ nding a path for that person to travel on. The memories will have
to be stored somewhere; the trick is to not store them in oblivion. If you
believe that in order to move through the door ahead, the door behind
you must be sealed, you may be entering the gates of prison.
Suffering is the by-product of the divorce epidemic, so the search
is not only for how to live and weather the turmoil, but how to make
sense of it. Friedrich Nietzsche wrote, “What really makes one indig-
nant about suffering isn’t the thing itself, but the senselessness of it.”
As with many difﬁ cult life experiences we ask ourselves, what purpose
does this serve? In the end, the question is: Does this suffering motivate
us to want to change our lives to reﬂ ect our ultimate purpose? Has this
suffering inspired us to ask questions about the meaning of our lives?
As long as we see our suffering as senseless, it is eviscerating. The
Good Karma Divorce way of using suffering will always be applicable,
no matter what the crisis. If we were continually in a state of bliss, we
would never seek answers to questions about the meaning of life, be-
cause we would not want to tip the delicate balance of that state of well-
being. We would always shield ourselves from being penetrated with
life-altering questions. My view of pain is that it is meant to keep the
blood of wisdom circulating. After reading The Good Karma Divorce, it is
hoped you have assembled much wisdom. You now have the opportu-
nity to live that wisdom. Learning from love and the pain of the disin-
tegration of that love is a valuable use of our time alive.
It is never easy being true to the person we want to be or staying true
to our values. There is no place of respite. As soon as we are comfort-
able with a new ordering of our reality, it changes. During our divorce
we try desperately to control our spouse, the system, and our experi-
ences. If we had that much control, we would never choose to be in any
pain. But we are not supposed to have that much control. The better
path is to stay open to all of life’s experiences—that is what liberation is
all about. That is freedom. If you think you have ﬁ gured out the ending
of your current crisis or anything else that happens in your life, then
your projection probably wasn’t “great” enough. You may have limited
your possibilities by trying to control or mold what you think would
happen, positively or negatively. You may have limited your vision and
cut off the chance for spectacular possibilities.