Filing for Divorce Is a Good Habit –
Two close friends of mine decided to get married recently and they asked me if I would be willing to speak to the congregation of their family and friends before the official ceremony.
I stood in front of their many guests, most of whom I didn’t know, and suggested that we had all gathered not only to witness a marriage, but also to celebrate a divorce.
I definitely had everyone’s attention at that point but didn’t pause too long for effect since there were four shocked and concerned parents waiting for an immediate explanation. I quickly suggested that the successful union of a couple rested not just upon the strength of shared vows, but also on the willingness to divorce from some old habits.
In a majority of places, the process of getting legally married has the same prerequisite: that you’re not already married.
If you are already married, then you’ll need to file for divorce before being allowed to make a new commitment. When it comes to the institution of marriage, we’re pretty clear on the procedure; however, legal marriage doesn’t always lead to fulfilling or lasting relationship. Achieving that requires a deeper examination of our commitments and establishing some good habits in place of unconscious patterns.
We’re Already Married to Our Habits
We often overlook the fact that we come to any new relationship—whether it’s an actual marriage, a friendship, or a business partnership—already married to a whole retinue of habits. All of these habits are like previous long term relationships that may or may not serve the success of our new union. If we want to share intimacy, trust, reliability and joy with another person, and especially with a spouse or lover, then some of these previous habit-relationships will need to be brought to an end.
I urged my dear friends to consider filing for divorce from any old habits that were formed around silent shame, withhold, or fear of judgment. In particular, habitual thoughts of personal unworthiness, insignificance or being unlovable ought to be summoned to immediate divorce proceedings. These are habits of thought.
Then there are the habits of deed that many of us struggle with in a more visible way. Smoking, drinking, procrastination, complaining, gossiping, overeating, carrying debt, etc.
It doesn’t really matter, however, what the bad habit is. What matters when we’re considering a marriage or partnership is that our current habits are now going to significantly impact another person in a shared, less private life.
Every marriage proposal is really an invitation to join a three-way: “Please, will you marry me and my habits?”
In my remarks to the gathered congregation, I then suggested that the best thing the rest of us could do to support the newlyweds would be to divorce ourselves from any lingering habit-relationships that are less than welcoming of others in our own lives. Our aim could be to surround the new couple with shining examples of the good habits we want them to share: habits of kindness, compassion and generosity as a good start.
My friends are both exceptional individuals. I think they have a good shot at a long and fulfilling marriage (despite the dismal statistics) because they are both willing to invest in good habits and to practice happiness. They are both willing to examine their own tendencies with self-honesty and work at making personal changes that favor connection and love.
Our Story Habits Precede Us
Perhaps you know a couple considering a lifelong commitment, or maybe you’d like to renew your own vows—in a marriage, to a lover, with a friend, to your children, or to a passion, cause or organization. If so, please consider whether there is also a divorce from an old habit that you might need to initiate to make yourself fully available to a present commitment.
I know what I’m talking about. I’m on marriage number two myself and it took a failed relationship to see my own unwillingness to divorce from some bad habits. One of those habits revolves around a holier-than-thou act; a superior attitude where I have used taking the high road as a way to prove others low. It’s a story I carry around that separates me from others, one that especially created division with my mate. Yet the habit was so deep, I couldn’t see it.
I remember one particular argument my ex and I had years ago. I left the house to take a break from the standoff. I got out the back gate and then turned around and headed back to the door to add a new layer to our already broken conversation, thinking it would allow me to prove myself undeniably “right” about my perspective.
Before I could volley the shot, my particularly brilliant and astute opponent, wife number one, uttered four words to me that stopped me in my tracks and that have honestly served me in more ways than most praise ever has.
What she said was, “Your story precedes you.”
My ex was right. I had a story about her that left no room for giving the benefit of the doubt, for seeing her best, for vulnerability, and for humility. The story I wore on my sleeve about our relationship was all about me being right instead of us being related. What she was pointing to was my story-habit.
It’s still painful for me to admit this is true of me. However, I’m far better off acknowledging that my relationship with this false pride is a toxic one than denying it. Knowing that, I can take steps to divorce myself from further involvement.
Self Honesty Is an Indispensable Good Habit
All of our habits are familiar stories. And we all love stories. The problem comes when we hold a fondness for stories that perpetuate our old wounds—stories that justify our turning away from communication, self-honesty, authenticity and love.
Such breakdown in our human bonds can often be minimized or avoided if we’re willing to make boundaries with our old habits. And often those habits are embedded in stories about who we think we are and how we think things have to be.
So I invite you to do two things.
- Name a relationship that is deeply important to you.
- Name one habit, big or small, that you’d be willing to divorce in order to deepen the joy of your connection with that person.
That habit might be something that lives in your mind, like a limiting belief or story. Or it may be something far more tangible like a way you compromise your own health or diminish the sanctuary of your shared environment by filling it with smoke, unhealthy food, litter, or dirty clothes.
What tendencies do you have that might cause your partner distress, worry or anxiety? Do you procrastinate on paying bills and wait until the power is about to be shut off before you write a check? Do you ignore dishes in the sink until there are no clean ones left in the cupboard?
We’re seriously compromising the possibility of joyful coexistence with another person when we ignore the work of creating good habits and force them to point out our unconscious behavior. Charles Munger, business partner to Warren Buffet, has said,
If you want to guarantee yourself a lifetime of misery, be sure to marry someone with the intent of changing their behavior.”
There is a corollary to this that is also true.
If you want to guarantee yourself a lifetime of misery, marry someone who you expect to do your self-observing for you.
To help you do that work yourself, we’ve created a free course and downloadable worksheet called “Divorce an Old Habit” that will help you file for official divorce from those habits that aren’t serving your current life. It’s a fun, useful way of clarifying your intention to practice happiness at a new level; to draw a line with any old habits that you’ve grown apart from at heart and now need to send packing.
The plan is available in the Freedom Vault right now if you’re a free member, and if you’re not, it takes just a minute to become one.