Cutting the Knot: Handling a Pagan Divorce
by Freya Ray
Whether it’s three months past the handfasting or twelve years past the wedding, there comes a point in the lives of many pagan couples when it’s time to give it up already. You’ve tried everything you can think of to save the relationship, you’ve both been depressed for far too long, you’ve flailed around and dragged half your friends inside your mess and none of it has done any good.
Then a moment of clarity descends. This relationship is not going to be fixed by couples counseling, karmic clearing rituals, better feng shui or some new sexual interests. You’ve had it, or they’ve had it. Someone has made a simple, clear decision that it’s over.
The absolute first thing you need to do is find some alone time to cry and rage and feel sorry for yourself. If you’re still in shock and it hasn’t hit you yet, you’ve got two options. One is to soldier on like an automaton, waiting for the freight train of your feelings to come around a corner and flatten you. The other is to create enough alone time with no distractions when you can invite your feelings to come up to the surface so you can deal with them. It’s a personal choice. Some people need to get things handled before they break down. Just make sure you create time to fall apart at some point.
The emotional basket-case period will vary in length, depending on the relationship, how long you were together, how shocking the end of it was to you, how much control you had in the decision, how badly you were done wrong or how guilty you feel for doing wrong and how much you still love your soon-to-be-ex-partner. However long it’s going to take you to get over it, you still need to find a clear moment in which to make some triage decisions.
When you get to a good break point in your weeping and wailing, dry your eyes, take a long walk and come back to get settled in a quiet, meditative place. What you need to do now is try to project yourself forward. Right at this moment, you’re feeling a whole host of conflicting things, or even worse, one overriding, immense emotion. These feelings are going to control the actions you take in the next few hours and weeks if you don’t make some higher-level decisions.
Setting aside the emotional crap you’re going to be wading through for a while, ask yourself the question, “What kind of relationship do I truly want to have with this person a year from now?” Sit with that until it’s clear to you. Are you “doner than done,” and you’ll never want to see your ex’s face again once you get his or her crap out of your house? Are you going to want to have a caring friendship? Are you still hoping you can get back together and work things out?
Now you have a vision, a dream. The next question is even more important. “How likely is my soon-to-be-ex-partner going to be to participate in this vision of mine?”
Be honest with yourself. At this point, if you’re calling this a divorce, you’ve been together long enough to have seen this person’s shit. Let me tell you, in case you haven’t figured it out yet, he or she is not going to become a nicer or better person during the breakup. It’s never happened. Not once. So if you know he has a tendency to shut down emotionally, or she’s not in touch with any of her exes, or he lies sometimes, or whatever, that trait is going to be worse from here on out than it was when she was still trying to impress you on some level.
This estimation of what’s possible reuqires taking this into account. You take your optimism, your spiritual idealism and then you temper it with a healthy dose of realistic pessimism. It’s okay to gamble on a long shot. Just know you’re doing it. If you want to be friends, and he’s never remained on speaking terms with anyone he’s ever dated, you’ve got a very slim chance of pulling it off. Any effort you expend that direction needs to be effort you can give freely, even if nothing comes back from it.
Actually, that’s a pretty good rule for wherever you want to end up. A breakup is about sorting out stuff, including energy, so that everyone walks away (hopefully!) with what is her own. Don’t keep giving him energy you’re going to need. Give her what you can spare, and let her carry herself the rest of the time.
But I jump ahead. Right now, you’re figuring out what your intent is, your goal. You might even write this down, because I guarantee you that your resolve will be tested.
Quite often, I decide that I am absolutely, given the slightest opening, going to have a nice, friendly, flirtatious, comfortable friendship with an ex. Unless he’s done me country-song wrong, in which case I pick another intention. But if the breakup was due to a more blameless sort of incompatibility, I really want to remain friends with someone I’m no longer dating or living with.
This requires stubbornness after I’ve ended the relationship. Ego is hurt, feelings are hurt, he doesn’t want to see me because he still wants me, he doesn’t want to be near me because he doesn’t still want me, whatever. I have to remain unruffled by attempts to push me away. If I get defensive and hurt, then we’re having drama, and it’s not bringing us closer to being friends. If I wait it out, processing my own hurt on my own time, and holding a friendly open space for him whenever he’s ready to step into it, I’ve got a shot at finding a friend in a few months.
In order to be patient, when he’s saying offensive things or seducing a twit in front of my face, I need to have a clear intention. This anchors me, so my efforts remain in line with the results I wish to produce.
No matter how hurt you are right now, there will be results you will wish to have produced, a few months or a couple years from now. Be clear about them so you don’t slash and burn while you’re upset.
Okay, so you know what you want, you know how likely you are to get it, and you’ve formulated a clear statement of intention. Now you need a plan that’s in line with your intention.
If your intent is to never speak to her again, well, start protecting yourself. I’m sure you have good reason not to want her as a friend, and that means you don’t trust her to make decisions in your best interest during the separation. Don’t be cruel or unfair, but don’t leave all your money in a joint checking account either. Make the material plane decisions as quickly as possible. And be prepared to chew off at least a few toes in order to get yourself free of the trap. Act decisively.
If your intent is to remain friends, start acting like it now. At least when you’re with the new ex. When you’re with your friends, vent all you like. But when together with your ex-partner, be friendly, work toward compromise and offer some peace-treaty gifts. Give her a shared item she enjoys, or even an item of yours she enjoys. Offer to help him move. Call mutual friends and let them know about the breakup, and ask them to provide emotional support to your ex-partner, who really needs it right now. Act like a friend.
If your intent is to get back together, work toward that. Suggest a separation rather than a final decision. Suggest counseling for the both of you. Start counseling yourself. Suggest you pay for him to go to Peru and hang out at a spa getting therapy every day until he feels better about life. If none of these overtures meet with a receptive welcome, consider revising your intention. Your partner might not be open at all to trying it again. But if you’re still intent on your long shot, keep treating this person with love. Wait patiently, periodically testing the waters, seeing if a door opens. Do your emotional work to process the separation and deal with your feelings, so that if that door does open you don’t walk through it saying, “And how dare you shut me out of our own home!” or words to that effect.
Now let’s talk about the energetic and spiritual work that needs to be done with each of our three breakup plans. Any couple is bound by a whole mess of connections, at various chakras and in various stages of health. During a breakup, you need to decide which ones you sever and which you leave in place.
The hostile divorce is the easiest one to handle. Energetically, you slash and burn. Visualize the cords between you and your partner. Visualize a pair of scissors or a knife. Midway between the two of you, cut through the cords. Let her energy go boinging back to her, while yours rebounds inside your own energy body. Do a vacuum maneuver, where you suck up any stray energy that belongs rightfully to you. Do an expulsion, where you send back to him any energy that rightfully belongs to him. Make it clean, decisive and karmically correct.
You might need to repeat this maneuver, as sometimes it will take several separation ceremonies to clear the crud between you and the ex. Enmeshment can go very deep, because of an intense or long relationship this life, past life entanglements, karmic obligations or perfectly matched-up psychological and emotional wounds.
You might discover you’re uncomfortable keeping all your energy for yourself, that your habits of taking care of this person extend to a constant energetic feed heading their direction. You might discover you’ve been receiving a constant energetic feed from your ex, and by cutting the ties you feel depleted, adrift. Either way, it’s better to wallow through the withdrawal period than it is to allow the messy connections to remain in place. Cut the cords.
You should also have some kind of ritual where you release this person from your life, and release each other from any further karmic obligations toward each other. Burn stuff that reminds you of the relationship, chant your intention to be finished, move, something. What you do doesn’t matter, as long as you do it with intent. Use some external event to symbolize the end. Past here, we are no longer partners. In the hostile divorce, you do this ritual by yourself, and she does whatever she does on her own, and you start learning not to care what’s going on with her.
Take some time to put up protection. Surround yourself with white light, get a restraining order, change the locks, put up a send-back spell, whatever feels appropriate for the situation.
Be decisive, get it over with. It is done, it is done, it is done.
A friendly divorce is handled a bit differently. Energetically, you don’t want to cut all the cords in an indiscriminate knife-slash. You wish to leave some of them in place, and cut or diminish others. Visualize the connections between you, and ask which ones are appropriate for the relationship you wish to have now. Leave those, and cut the others. You might leave a strong connection at the heart and decide to sever the rest at least temporarily, allowing the ones that need to be there for your friendship to grow back. You might suck all the sexual energy back into your root and navel, leaving the rest of it alone. You might figure your partner has done enough slashing of connections already in his anger, and not do any more separating, instead feeding energy into a strong, clear, loving line between you.
Trust your intuition to guide you. Remain true to your intent. If you wish to be friends, and you or she are not equipped for casual sexual relationships, than no matter how juicy and delicious the sexual energy is between you, you need to let it go. If the spiritual bond was what drew you together, and on the material plane you drove each other nuts, perhaps you will choose to snip the crown connection for a while, to find out what sorts of connections are possible for you as friends when you’re not blinded by white light.
If your ex is amenable, it can be nice to have a closing ritual together. Plan a symbolic way to officially release the partnership relationship between you. Plan it together, enact it together and then invoke your mutual intention for friendship. If you have a partner you can do this with, you are truly blessed. Treasure that friendship.
For the still-hanging-on divorce, well, the energetic work you’re going to want to do and the energetic work you should do are probably going to be two different things. Your instinctive urge will be to cling with all your might, leaving all connections in place, tugging on them as hard as you can and sending your ex tons of energy as you think about him all the time. Don’t do that.
Basically, you need to clean up whatever the mess was that caused you two to separate or divorce. This means letting go of the icky-sticky codependent connections and doing your own personal work so you’re ready for a healthier relationship. The good news is that whether you and your ex get back together or not, you need to do this work. The bad news is that you will have no guarantees of getting her back after your interior makeover, even if you’re still convinced she’s your soulmate.
Force yourself. Visualize the connections, and be very honest about which ones are healthy and which ones are enmeshed. Have a ritual where you release the karmic obligations between you, where you release the unhealthy habit patterns between you, where you release any connections that are no longer appropriate between you.
Do this right. Be open to the possibility that the two of you really are done. If you find Spirit is telling you to let it all go, let it all go. Sometimes the phoenix cannot rise until things have burned themselves fully down to ash. Whether the phoenix will be a relationship with the same person or a new one, you need to let go.
With any luck, whichever type of divorce you’re going through, cleaning up the energetic and spiritual connections will take you further along the path of healing from the loss. Be gentle with yourself as you get used to life on your own again. Do your own work, and then, when it’s time, believe in a new beginning.
Springtime always follows the winter. Always.