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Compassionate Divorce



My lifelong effort to understand and practice the art of loving has led me to write two books on the subject. Since it might he assumed that I consider myself an authority on agape, Eros, and philia, it is with considerable embarrassment that I report that my two marriages one of 17 years and the other of 25 years ended in divorce.

I offer these reflections on the possibility of creating a loving divorce not as an expert but as a candidate and a continuing student of the difficulties of loving. You will notice that there are no personal details in the article that follows. You are invited to read between the lines. I hope that, in time, I will learn from the theoretical wisdom and insight of the author of The Passionate Life and To Love and Be Loved and become a better practitioner of the art of abiding love.

This article appeared in the Fall 2001 issue of Spirituality & Health. Divorce is the end of a world. A death in the middle of life. The severing of the bonds that held a dyad, a family, in a shared world of meaning. A personal apocalypse. It was supposed to be forever. After too many lonely nights, too many tentative beginnings of the dating game with its awkward ritual of telling your story (a sanitized version) to a stranger, suddenly, you fell in love. With an intoxicating blend of excitement and comfort, you began to make a hearth for yourselves in the middle of the vast and anonymous world. And, no matter what you feel now, it is important to remember that once it was thick, sweet, verdant, and full of hope. Whether it was your first time, or whether you were a wounded veteran of loving combat, you would not have begun without the promise that the two of you could create a world without end. Gradually, you came to share a life. Whether your bond was bland or bittersweet, intimate or distant, calm or stormy, you were enfolded within a shared story that gave you a sense of belonging a …

Sam Keen, whose Psychology Today conversations brought Joseph Campbell, Norman O. Brown, and other seminal thinkers to national attention, holds two M.A.s in theology from Harvard and a Princeton Ph.D. in philosophy. His books include the best-seller Fire in the Belly, Hymns to an Unknown God, and his most recent, Learning to Fly: Trapeze – Fear, Trust, and the Joy of Letting Go.

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