How to Move Forward from a Divorce or Separation

“Whoever is the experiencer of love is the creator of love. You don’t get love from another person.”

Thom Knoles

A quick scan of the internet tells us that divorce and separation rank highly for most people as far as stressful events go, often coming second only after the death of a loved one.

This is not surprising, given how much weight is put into the idea of committed relationships being permanent in most cultures around the world. 

Thom reminds us in this episode that, given that change is always occurring, perhaps our expectations of permanence in relationships are unrealistic in the first place. 

With that being the case, he offers up an alternative perspective, one that recognizes and honors change and which allows us to decouple progressively and without unwanted stress.

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Episode Highlights


It’s All About Happiness



Reframing Relationships and Life Changes



Change and Renewal in Relationships



Relationship Expiry and Transitioning to Happiness



Contemplating Divorce (for 60 Years)



Experimenting with Happiness



A/B A/B Design to Be Happier



No Mistakes



Separation as a Catalyst for Personal Transformation






The Unfair Advantage of a Vedic Meditator



Harnessing the Power of Baseline Happiness



Change Ownership: Embracing the Unpredictable



The Aftermath of Change: Crafting a Positive Narrative



Bring it On.


Jai Guru Deva


How to Move Forward from a Divorce or Separation

[00:45] It’s All About Happiness

Jai Guru Deva. Welcome to my podcast, The Vedic Worldview. I’m Thom Knoles.

My team has received quite a number of inquiries for me to speak on the subject of how to move forward after divorce or separation. And what I have to say about it is what I hope is typical of what you might hear from me, completely outside your wildest expectations.

To me, the word marriage means happiness. The word separation also means happiness. The word divorce also means happiness. What do I mean by this? What can Thom possibly be referring to?

Happiness. Divorce is supposed to be this horrible bugbear, the thing that we’re all terrified of. Separation, oh, terrible. In fact, I would say there are as many people on the earth who look at the word marriage as terrifying and frightening and want to run from that too.

Transition. Transition from a less happy state to a more happy state. This is supposed to be what marriage means.

Or, if we’re not formally married with all kinds of pomp and ceremony, then living together, living together in a relationship where you enjoy each other’s company. The whole idea of agreeing to such a thing is that it’s going to feel better than living by yourself and not in the company of your favorite person.

Being in the company of your favorite person, the idea of making the transition into that is supposed to make you happy. And people don’t do it, you never hear anyone say, “I’m going to get married so that I can be unhappy.” Or, “I’m going to get married. I’m bracing myself for the unhappiness now.” It’s all about happiness.

[02:50] Reframing Relationships and Life Changes

And this is why we have celebrations where the community feels invited to share in what is an already existing relationship. The relationship that occurs after a marriage is not invented by the process of the wedding.

The wedding, basically, is a way of creating a social contract where everyone in the society is informed, more or less, that these two are going to do their best to live at the same address, under the same roof, for as long as they can.

And, since we’re all the well-wishers of this couple, it is incumbent on us not to put trials and tribulations on that thing that they’re trying to do. In other words, you can’t call them up and ask them out on dates anymore. You can’t try to hook them up with friends of yours.

Those days of trying to find someone for one of these two who are in the couple who are being wed, those days are over, and now are the days of giving support to their attempt to wake up at the same address every day.

[04:09] Change and Renewal in Relationships

And waking up at the same address every day and living under the same one roof, it has great joys for a period of time. And after a certain period of time, if there’s not revitalization, renewal, if there’s not creativity, if there’s not adaptability in the process, it can begin to lose its charm.

And there are all kinds of ways of maintaining the charm of it, which I talk about elsewhere, particularly in my lectures on the subject of love, to have a proper understanding of where the love is coming from. It’s not coming from anybody else; it’s coming from you.

Whoever is the experiencer of love is the creator of love. You don’t get love from another person. Love is not something that is capable of traveling across space. You can either experience love or you don’t experience love.

If you’re not experiencing love and you feel as though, circumstantially, there’s something going on in your environment where there’s no shared experience happening anymore, except perhaps a shared experience of misery, then comes the big decision, separation.

[05:27] Relationship Expiry and Transitioning to Happiness

Sometimes people say to me, “We’re getting separated,” Or “We’ve decided on a separation,” either experimental separation or a permanent separation, at least it’s idealized as being permanent.

And my answer to this is, “Oh, happiness. Happiness is here again.”

They’ll look at me quizzically and say, “What can you possibly be talking about, you crazy guru. Happiness is here?”

Yes, happiness is here because I haven’t heard of people who are in a fabulous relationship where they were enjoying every minute of every day whoever decided to separate.

I only heard of people who could see greater happiness in separation than they were having in their togetherness. Perhaps we could think of a relationship as having an expiry date, a use-by date. Maybe it’s 75 years.

[06:27] Contemplating Divorce (for 60 Years)

I did meet a couple once who were married for 75 years. They were in their 90s. They came to see me. They learned to meditate, and they came to see me as a couple. I generally don’t do couples therapy, but I made an exception because of their extreme advanced age.

The male in the relationship was 95. His wife was 93. And they announced to me in their private setting that they were going to get divorced.

And I said, “Really, that’s such an interesting thing for a couple of your age. How long have you been married.”

“75 years,” they said.

I said, “What is it? How long have you been contemplating divorce?”

She piped up first, and she said, “At least 60 years. We’ve been contemplating divorce.”

And I said, “What, what stopped you from going ahead with separation and divorce 60 years ago?”

And she said, “Well, we had a son. But he died of old age. We didn’t want to have to tell our son that we were separating or getting divorced because we felt we owed it to our son. But our son got quite old and died in his 60s. And, now, we feel that we don’t owe it to anybody anymore to try to stay together. So we’re, we’re breaking up.”

[07:50] Experimenting with Happiness

I just thought, wow, what a novel approach to things. But actually, not all that novel when you think about it. For how long are you willing to tolerate tolerating each other? For how long are you willing to not challenge the assumption of the status quo?

When the status quo was yielding nothing but happiness for the two of you, then fantastic! You had a formula that was working for the time being.

And if 50 years into it, or 40, or 20, or 20 weeks into it, or whatever it is, that formula no longer seems to be the evolutionary formula, or things change in such a way that the formula that you originally agreed upon isn’t working anymore, then it’s time to challenge the assumption.

You need to shake it. And shaking it might mean experimenting with happiness to see whether, by being apart, you’re happier than you were when you were together. If that’s true, the only way you’re going to find out is by trialing that, and any good psychologist or family therapist will tell you this.

[09:07] A/B A/B Design to Be Happier

I’m giving you a shortcut. You could have five sessions with someone, or 15, or 20, or 50, and maybe they would eventually say, “Maybe you should have an experimental separation.” If, when you’re apart, you’re both happier than when you were together, then that’s telling you something. That’s good scientific research.

You go apart for a while; you’re happier. You come back together; you’re more miserable. You go apart; you’re happier. You come back together again; you’re more miserable. In science, we call this an A/B A/B design.

We do the science in such a way that we want to apply an intervention. That’s A. And then withdraw the intervention. That’s B. Then reapply the intervention. That’s A. And then withdraw the intervention again. That’s B.

Application of intervention A, in this case, would be spend some time apart. Is there happiness or misery? Has misery increased or has happiness increased?

One of them will have increased by at least increments. And it’s never going to make no difference. It’ll make some difference. So, apply the intervention A. Withdraw the intervention. Get back together again. Apply the intervention again A. A/-B -A/-B, apply, withdraw, apply, withdraw.

If, at the end of a sufficient number of A/-B -A/-Bs, you make the discovery that waking up at different addresses is better than waking up at the same address, you have the new formula for happiness. Let’s see how long it lasts.

[10:48] No Mistakes

The new formula for happiness. And happiness is something which involves you being able, with greater regularity, to have a successful interaction with the needs of the time, when you can have a more successful interaction with the surroundings and the need of the time.

People often say to me, “Does that mean it was a mistake that we got married.” This is a big thing for people. “Oh, maybe it was a mistake. Ooh, mistake.” Let’s get out of that mentality.

If you start looking at it that way, everything you ever did in your life was a mistake. The fact is there are no mistakes. What there are, is takes. There are takes. And these takes, you have a take on a thing, “I’d like to do this for a while.” And you do this for a while, and if it works out, beautiful. But there’s no one approach that works out forever.

You were a little kid, you wanted the dolly, or you wanted the Darth Vader toy, or something, and you got that, and then what happened? A week later, it was sitting over in a corner with cobwebs on it.

The thing that you couldn’t stop thinking about day or night is now sitting in a corner. Then you wanted a bicycle. Bicycle, bicycle, bicycle.

And then somebody gave you a bicycle, if you’re fortunate enough, or you acquired one or got one somehow. And what happens to the bicycle? You ride, ride, ride, ride, ride.

It’s absolutely fantastic. But I doubt that when you’re 40, you’re riding that same bicycle around the neighborhood, you know, taking your hands off the handlebars and screaming and whooping it up with your buddies. It has a limited lifetime. And so that changed.

[12:28] Separation as a Catalyst for Personal Transformation

And then you wanted various kinds of relationships. That changes. Then you wanted property. That changes. And therefore, it will not be a new change when the present also changes. Change is inevitable.

How do you manage the change? What is your way of managing the change? The idea that change is not going to occur is a complete fantasy. Change is occurring right now.

It doesn’t matter what kind of relationship you’re in. You might be in a deeply happy relationship where you just can’t wait to see your home partner. The moment you see them, you’re just going to be gushing with joy.

And you might say to me, “Thom, this has been the truth for 20 years.” And if it’s true, and if it’s been true for 20 years, it’s because the two of you have accommodated change successfully. You have had a successful accommodation of change.

Whereas when we try to stick with one formula, one style of relating, one particular set of assumptions about who relies on who for what, and it doesn’t change, then what happens is unhappiness. Unhappiness because we’re no longer having a successful interaction with our surroundings.

[13:56] Unwedding

And so then, there may come a point where, ultimately, the partnership has reached its crescendo. And if it has, then there’s one way of finding out, and that is A-B-A-B design. See if things are better without each other. And if they are, that’s pretty telling, isn’t it?

Are we going to be all gloomy and you know, the S word, separation? “Oh. Oh no.” Or the even worse word, which is the D word, divorce.

I’ve never heard of people who are in gushing, happy relationships who decided to get divorced. I’ve never heard two people come to me and say, “We are just so happy. We absolutely adore each other and we’re getting divorced.” This has never happened.

What’s happened is, “Our relationship no longer is working. The way that we have chosen to relate to each other no longer is working. And so we’re now contemplating, telling the community,” and this is what a divorce really is. It’s the opposite of a wedding.

“We’re letting the community know they don’t any longer need to protect that partnership, which we did ask them to protect on wedding day. So wedding day, please protect our desire to live under the same roof at the same address, and we’re going to do our best to get the most out of this.

Now, with the big D, divorce, we’re saying to the world out there, “It’s alright. You can relax all that now. We’re both on a different level of assumptions. And we harvested what could be harvested from the style of relating. We’ve harvested that.”

“And we’ve done our best to find different ways of relating to each other. But it just turns out that perhaps our needs transcend the presence of the other person.”

[16:05] The Unfair Advantage of a Vedic Meditator

So, fall in love with somebody, beautiful, happiness. Decide to move in with them, beautiful, happiness. Decide to separate, beautiful, happiness. Decide to divorce, beautiful, happiness. What’s next?

The question is, what are you doing about awakening the happiness field inside you?

When you’re a practitioner of Vedic Meditation, you have an unfair advantage. And what is that unfair advantage that’s unfair for the rest of the population who doesn’t meditate?

You have the advantage of the bliss baseline. You have that baseline of self-referral happiness, that place which you contact on a daily basis and with which you merge, you become one with that deep inner silence, that one indivisible, whole consciousness field.

Its nature is bliss. And you might be having all kinds of challenges, like, “Oh, he wants this. Or she wants that. And yeah, I don’t want to do this. I don’t want to do that and all that. Okay, okay It’s time to meditate.”

[17:12] Harnessing the Power of Baseline Happiness

And then you sit down and close your eyes and meditate. A little bit of mantra this is what we do in Vedic Meditation. We make use of Vedic Meditation mantras.

A little bit of mantra and the mind steps beyond thought, and there you are, the one indivisible, whole consciousness field, the bliss, where you forget about everything outside, that by which you’ve been giving yourself artificial definition.

You’ve been defining yourself by the comments of others. You’ve been defining yourself by events, circumstances, situations. Now you’re identifying with your true nature. Your true nature is unboundedness.

And that unboundedness has a quality about it. And that is that deep inner wakefulness, and when you splash down on that state, one of the consequences is you come out and you are self sufficiently happy. You’re happy from inside. You’re not waiting for somebody else to do a thing, or to stop doing a thing, in order for you to be happy.

It’s an unfair advantage, and we smile about it. At this stage of the popularity of Vedic Meditation, we’re still the pioneers of this. Relatively few people know how to practice Vedic Meditation.

We’re like the people who get up first thing in the morning and go out, and we see the sun rising over the horizon. And there are only one or two other people hanging around who might be witnessing that.

[18:47] Change Ownership: Embracing the Unpredictable

And if you’re one of those, you might look over at one of the others who’s watching the sunrise in the morning, knowing that millions are still abed. Millions are still lollygagging away, drooling on their pillows with their shades pulled down.

And here you are in the fresh air. Watching the sun come up over the horizon. One look at another person who’s having the same experience as you. It speaks a thousand words. You don’t need to say anything. Both of you know, we’re the fortunate ones.

And all of those who will awaken at lunchtime, and stumble out of their beds and see the sun straight up above. It’s not the same. Nobody walks around saying to the other person, “Hey, it’s a fantastic noon, isn’t it? Look, the sun is straight up.”

You don’t ever hear that comment. But you do hear the comment in the morning. “Look at the sun coming up over the horizon. Dark and chilly, and now it’s the crack of dawn. Fantastic. We’re seizing the day. We’re really seizing the day.”

So, as Vedic meditators, we’re in that category. We have the unfair advantage of being the people who know how to awaken baseline happiness. And we do it every day, absolutely religiously.

And by that, I don’t mean as a religion. What we mean by that is we do it unconditionally, non-negotiably. It’s non-negotiable. It’s unconditional.

[20:20] The Aftermath of Change: Crafting a Positive Narrative

Meditate twice every day. Keep that baseline happiness awake. When we keep the baseline happiness awake, we have the advantage of being able to structure our lives in such a way that we give maximum to everyone. And when we give maximum to everyone, we’ll receive maximum from everyone.

So, how to deal with separation with divorce? Deal with it like you deal with everything else as a meditator. It’s an opportunity for greater happiness. Don’t get yourself down in the dumps because of all the advertising about separation and divorce.

“Oh, the D word. The S word. Oh, oh no. Oh no, no.” It’s just one more change in life. It’s a change in life.

The thing is, circumstances do not rule you. Nobody is ever interested actually in what happened to you. This is a very revelatory thing, I’m telling you.

Nobody actually cares what happened to you. What they care about is, how did you take it? That’s what people care about. People hear your story, “Oh, he got married. He got separated. He got divorced.” Or, “He or she got married. She got divorced. She got separated. She got a job. She lost the job.” and all that.

The next question is, “Huh, right, alright. How’s she taking it? How’s she handling the change.” That’s the news. The news is not, the change happened. The news is, how’s she taking it?

[21:57] Bring it On.

If the answer is, “Oh, she’s taking it amazingly. She seems to be thriving,” then story over. “Good, good, good. Life is evolving.”

It may be that someone was expecting a particular TV series to continue on forever. But then they got the news that it was canceled.

Now, somebody might say, “How did she take the news that her favorite television series, which I know she enjoyed every night, got canceled?” If she took the news badly, and went into a deep dark depression because her favorite TV series got canceled, that’s an area for concern. We’re concerned about our friend, who’s not taking it well. “But, how did she take it?”

“Ah, she thinks it’s hilarious and fantastic because something new will come up” Then we know she’s probably alright.

So like that, nobody’s all that interested in stuff that happens to you. What they’re interested in is what is the after effect on you. How are you taking it? How are you taking it? And we need naturally to satisfy that criterion.

The world doesn’t own us. Change does not own us. We own change. We are the owners of change. We make use of change. We’re meditators. We make use of change. “Bring the change to me, and I will forge from it a fantastic life.”

This is the point of view of the Vedic meditator. “Bring the change to me. Bring it on, and I will use the phenomenon of change to forge evolution.” Jai Guru Deva. 

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