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Making the decision whether or not to
leave a relationship may be the most daunting
part of the divorcing process; at least it is
the one filled with the most anxiety. This is
partly because divorce is a choice made of our
own free will, and we sense the enormity of
this responsibility. Also, confusion and
indecision are uncomfortable for most of us.
We want this initial stage to be over, so we
can move on. At the same time, we realize that
our choice will affect our partners, our
families, and our friends; it will be a
decision we must live with all our lives. We
want to choose carefully.
One of my workshop participants, Marion,
whose husband initiated their divorce,
comments, "At first, I didn't want the
divorce, mostly because of the children, and
my fear of being on my own. But with therapy,
I realized I hadn't been happy for years. Deep
down I knew I needed to leave, but I just
couldn't do it myself." And so, when
contemplating a divorce, intuition and
intellect can help us make a decision. If we
feel unsure about our choice, we need to trust
that the answer is already inside us. All we
have to do is listen to our intuition, think
about our choices and their consequences, and
decide the next course of action.
The choice to stay or leave begins in
"the gut." Eileen, a former client, points to
her stomach when she says, "I knew something
was wrong months and even years before I left
each of my relationships; I felt it in my gut.
I didn't always take action as soon as I
should have, but my body knew."
I, too, felt the misgivings about my
marriage in my body. These first warnings came
on my wedding day, but I didn't heed them.
Standing in the shower, the ceremony an hour
away, my heart pounded and my head hurt. My
body knew I felt unsure, but it was too
terrifying to bring to consciousness. He was
my dear friend, and I respected and trusted
him. Our guests waited at the church; a white
satin dress and gossamer veil hung in the
closet, and bridesmaids laughed in the next
room. But I ignored my inner voice that knew I
was uncertain, and, instead, I married for
security and companionship. My body knew the
truth but swallowed its secret for more than
When my husband was away for three
months and I had the space and silence to
breathe, I finally allowed this realization to
surface. I wrote in my journal, "I'm glad he's
away. I'm free to eat and sleep when I want,
to write all night, to completely be myself
for the first time." In trying to be the
perfect wife, I adapted so thoroughly to my
husband that I lost my own artistic nature.
Guiltily, I dreaded his homecoming and going
back to a false life, but this time I couldn't
return. Like Pandora, I had removed the lid,
releasing the honest feelings inside my body.
Finally, after two decades, my real self was
out, and not only did she not fit in the box,
she was unwilling to go back.
During this period of discovery, I
attended personal-growth workshops and spent
time alone thinking about my life and writing
in my journal. These experiences helped
fine-tune my intuition, which had been dormant
since childhood. As children, our intuition is
very present. If we don't want a certain food,
we refuse to eat it; our bodies and minds know
instinctively if we're hungry and what it is
we want. We say exactly what we think. We know
if we like the color red, if a shirt is
scratchy, and we won't wear it even if Grandma
gave it to us.
Children listen to their inner voices on
a moment-to-moment basis, unlike adults, who
eat by the clock, wear fashionable,
uncomfortable clothes, and say the right thing
in order to please other people. As adults
leading busy lives, we get caught up in what
we should be doing to be successful, and don't
always stop to listen to our intuition. This
may continue until a crisis occurs in our
life: a family member dies, we are injured or
seriously ill, or problems occur in a
relationship. Then we are forced to pay
attention to our true feelings.
Accessing the Intuition
Intuition comes from the Latin verb
intueri, which means "to look or to know
from within." It is immediate insight or
awareness of what is true that comes as an
inner voice. No one knows exactly where
intuition resides, but it seems to come first
from the body and then from the mind. For
centuries people have said, "Follow your
heart; listen to your gut," and have used
expressions such as "heartfelt" and "gut
reaction." In my experience, I first feel a
knowing in my stomach, a hunch or hint about
an issue, and then a word or phrase comes into
my mind; it is instantaneous, and at times
defies precise tracking. Remembering Ashley's
Hierarchy of Love, from the introduction,
listening to the intuition is about loving
yourself. It's about trusting the voice of
deepest truth and wisdom within you, first
asking for guidance from Highest
Consciousness, then lovingly following the
voice and message you hear. Even if your
intuition is dormant, it can be awakened with
practice, trusted, and heeded. More
specifically, accessing the intuition can help
you decide whether or not to divorce.
The following intuition exercises can be
written in a notebook or journal. I suggest
keeping a journal during the decision-making
process. It might seem unnatural at first if
you've never written in a notebook or diary.
Trust me. Writing in your journal will be a
creative and emotional outlet. It will be your
friend. It can save you thousands of dollars
in therapy bills. Please, just do it.
When you are ready to begin, use a
stream-of-consciousness approach: try not to
think too long, and instead, write quickly
what comes to mind. First thoughts or feelings
are often the deepest, most truthful ones. If
you spend several minutes going back and
forth, trying to decide what to write, you
might record what should be believed or done,
perhaps from society's perspective, rather
than what your own true feelings tell you to
do. It is important to be alone and have
plenty of time to do these exercises. Once
you're settled comfortably, take one or more
deep breaths. Imagine inhaling positive
energy, especially love, and exhaling all
negative energy, especially fear.
Close your eyes and relax. Sit a few
moments in silence, listening to your breath,
quieting your mind and body. This is the
process in Zen Buddhism called beginner's
mind, in which the mind is like an empty rice
bowl. When it is truly empty, it is open to be
filled with insight by unconscious knowing. If
you meditate or pray in a specific way, do so
before beginning to write. The point is to
clear your mind of all distractions, to feel
relaxed and open to all possibilities.
These questions begin generally, and in
the next section, progress to specific queries
about your relationship. The only guideline is
to tell the truth by quickly writing down the
first response that comes to mind. There is no
right answer, only what is true for you. Open
your journal and write "Intuition Exercises,"
then the number, and your answer.
1. What is your favorite color?
2. During what part of the day is your
3. What is your least favorite food?
4. Which season do you like best?
5. What makes you happy?
6. How does rain make you feel?
7. Which holiday was your favorite as a
8. Where have you traveled that you've
9. What is one word that describes you?
10. Do you dream in color?
11. What is your happiest childhood memory?
12. What room in your house is your
13. What do you like most about your body?
14. Who is your best friend?
15. When was the last time you felt joy?
16. What would you grab first from your
17. What two possessions would you want to
have with you on a deserted island?
18. For which parent do you feel the most
19. What is the deepest regret of your life?
20. What is it you have always wanted to do?
Now, look at your answers, and don't
change any. Just read them over. Do any
surprise you? Write down which ones, and your
feelings about these answers. Perhaps
elaborate on your initial answers. For
instance, if you wrote "mother" for number
eighteen, what else comes up for you regarding
your answer? Why didn't you write "father"? Do
you have any feelings about this? Keep
journaling until you feel complete. Do this
for every answer that makes you think or
question something. Overall, write down what
you learned from this exercise. Finally, can
you hear your inner voice or intuition? Let's
proceed to questions about your relationship.
Again, answer the following questions
quickly in your journal, recording your first
thought or reaction. Some answers may require
more than a one-word response. Write the
truth. Trust the process. Take a deep breath
1. Did you love your partner when you
were first married?
2. Why did you get married?
3. Do you love your spouse now?
4. Why are you still married?
5. How do you and your partner get along?
6. What do you and your spouse have in
7. What do you like most about your partner?
8. What do you like least about him or her?
9. How does your spouse treat you?
10. How would you like to be treated?
11. How do you treat him or her?
12. When were you happiest in this marriage,
13. Are you happy in this relationship right
14. What would you like to change or improve
in this marriage?
15. Do you think it's possible to improve
your marriage? Why or why not?
16. What have you done personally to make
your relationship better?
17. What are your greatest fears about
18. What are your greatest fears about
19. Do you have children? What role do they
play in your choice?
20. Overall, what does your gut, or
intuition, tell you to do about your
Which of these answers surprises you?
Write these reactions in your journal. What
are the emotions coming up right now? Feel
them. Write about these feelings in your
notebook. Do this for every question that
seems to require more response. Take all the
time you need. What is your overall
realization? Write one sentence to express
When facing a confusing or challenging
issue, it helps to write down feelings and
ideas quickly without stopping to edit or
question. This keeps the unconscious mind
moving and your beliefs surfacing. Use this
technique in the following exercises to
discover your deepest thoughts and feelings.
Write the question and answer in your journal,
including everything that surfaces, both
positive and negative. Begin with the
expression "I feel . . . ," and if you get
stuck, write "I feel . . ." again and keep
writing. Don't censor yourself or edit your
work. Just be totally honest. Stop when you
feel complete or emptied of this issue.
1. What do I feel about my current
relationship and partner?
In questions two and three, begin with
the words "I want" and write fast. If you
pause or get stuck, just write "I want" and
begin again. Don't worry about practicality or
reality. Imagine that you have all the choices
and resources you need. Just write your
heart's desire about the relationship and the
life you want. When I did this exercise, it
came out as a poem, but the form is
immaterial. The most important thing is to
honestly realize your deepest truth and write
it down. End when it feels complete.
2. What do I want in a relationship?
3. Ideally, what kind of life do I want to
The journal becomes a way to process and
record what may have been stored inside you
for many years. Reading your words becomes a
concrete confirmation that you are beginning
to make a decision that is completely your
own. This discovery can be exhilarating, and
at the same time, frightening. Everything you
have thought to be true may now be in
question. Allow these feelings to surface
before, during, and after writing in your
journal. Notice if your existing marriage has
the qualities you listed for an ideal
relationship, or if it does not. Take in this
Finally, is it possible for you and your
partner to change, for the relationship to
come closer to what you want? Write your
immediate response of "yes" or "no" in your
notebook. Then write quickly how this can or
When finished, reread your response. How
are you doing emotionally? Be aware of your
feelings. Perhaps take a break. Lie down, have
some tea, go for a walk, do whatever would be
supportive right now. Let the realizations
come and go. It may help to say phrases such
as, "Everything I'm discovering is creating my
greatest good. I trust my inner voice and know
all is well."
If your answers to these questions
indicate there are problems in your marriage,
and even that you want a separation or
divorce, you may not want to take immediate
action. It isn't rational to initiate a
divorce based on one questionnaire. What you
can do, however, is think about your
responses, keep writing in your journal, take
the survey again, and see how you feel in a
week or two. In the meantime, you can also
talk with a therapist, a friend, or colleague,
someone who is going to listen attentively to
It helps to process all your
realizations in writing or verbally, and fully
express your truthful feelings. It is also
important to take care of your health,
focusing on proper rest, exercise, and
nutrition. Remember to treat yourself as you
would a loved one or best friend, with kind
and gentle nurturing.
This article was excerpted from
Conscious Divorce. Copyright 2001 by
Susan Allison. Excerpted by permission of
Three Rivers Press, a division of Random
House, Inc. All rights
reserved. No part of this excerpt may be
reproduced or reprinted without permission in
writing from the publisher.
About The Author
Susan Allison is a clinical hypnotherapist, ordained
ministerial counselor, and seminar leader who counsels individuals and
groups on various life passages, including divorce. She is the author of
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