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What My Divorce Taught Me About Self Love
by Chenoa Maxwell
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September 25, 2019

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What My Divorce Taught Me About Self Love

After a suicide attempt as a teenager and a divorce that left her heartbroken but free, Chenoa Maxwell began a journey that would force her to face her soul’s truth and would ultimately gift her with the limitless life of her dreams. And now, she’s telling you how you can, too.

Chenoa Maxwell
Photography by Leslie Hassler

Divorce is not failure.

Let’s be abundantly clear about that. No one gets married with divorce as their final destination. I’ve never met anyone with that intention or thought. The decision to move into divorce is deeply personal. It is deeply unsettling in the balance of life.  And sometimes, it is deeply necessary.

Now, let’s journey through the process of realization that lead me to understand that divorce was not only the last option for me but the best option for me.  

In my last BlackLove article, Childless by Choice: A Powerful Act of Self Love, I wrote about the life I was living blurring the lines of distinction between self care and self love. In spite of the picture perfect image of what my marriage looked like from the outside looking in, I spent the last few years of my marriage masking the confusion, hurt, emptiness, and rejection I felt in my heart and spirit with “stuff” and “things.” This “stuff” and these “things” many of us consider as self care — spa days, mani/pedis, shopping, relaxing baths, vacations. They are meant to take care of our emotional needs, but often just end up being distractions and temporary band-aids that mask the deeper need for more self love in life.  

This is the trap so many of us fall into when we move out of alignment with our “True Heart.”

Our “True Heart” is what I call the compass we should be navigating within the journey towards (true) joy and fulfillment.  

It is a virtual autopilot to living a truly limitless and magnanimous life. I explained in Childless by Choice that I had veered off the path of my True Heart when I pursued having a child with my ex-husband, and I described the downward spiral following that inauthentic choice until I listened to my True Heart and turned that ship around.  

Amongst other things, my True Heart let me know that I had abandoned my emotional needs and had begun dishonoring my values. It was in turning back to self love that I was then able to quiet the external noise long enough to examine my authentic core desires, my integrity, and my partnership.

When moved back to my True Heart, I realized my marriage had run its course.    

Maintaining integrity and partnership alignment is a practice necessary every single day in maintaining and evolving a satisfying, fulfilling, and holistic union. To align with your partner, it first takes individual alignment. It takes referring back to your True Heart.

For myself and my ex-husband, it became clear that we fell out of that alignment around seven years into our marriage, individually and as a unit. Although heartbreaking and disappointing on so many levels, the path I needed to take in following my True Heart became crystal clear the moment I stopped trying to close the emotional gaps and allowed myself to get brutally honest — with myself and with the reality of my partnership. It was time to strip away the “stuff” and “things” masquerading as self care rituals and happiness and examine the bedrock.

When you strip away the “distractions” and “things” built around your life, you begin to see the underpinnings of the foundation you’ve built your partnership on.

For some it is kids, businesses, homes, friends, financial security, and even a sense of ego. And like I said, no one gets married thinking they will ever divorce, so it becomes even more important to maintain the appearance of a successful union.

Photography by Leslie Hassler

Thus, the slippery slope begins. Marriages don’t break; they erode over time. Each time a partner fails to identify and tend to an emotional need or core desire of the other, a little bit of the bond that holds the couple together washes away. Each time a conflict is avoided, or a spouse numbs what they need, resentment is built and erosion accelerates. Through the erosion of partnership sometimes there is sexual deprivation or a lack of intimacy because one of the partners feels emotionally disconnected, inadequate, insecure or emotional disengaged. Once this begins, it’s easy for personal integrity to fall by the wayside. For me, it was my decision to stop the soul-wrenching, painful, selfless, and emotionally isolating attempt of conceiving a child for my marriage and my husband.  That, combined with the aforementioned examples of erosion, led to the breakdown and ultimately dissolving of my marriage and partnership.

This is where divorce became a serious internal discussion for me. As I stripped away the things built around our union and realigned my True Heart, steeped in authentic self love, I saw very clearly that neither of us were living in our life’s greatest joy. I knew we had come to the end of our purpose together when we were no longer conduits of each other’s divine purpose.

I have learned that if moved through with authentic intention, understanding, and levity, divorce is rebirth.

But that, my Lovelies, is the catch 22. Divorce is eviscerating. It magnifies the inequities of a partnership with the lens of a NASA super telescope. I don’t care how amicable the two parties believe they will be or are, there will be blood on the walls and wounds left to be tended to. In my private practice, this is a very important and life aligning junction. For clients that arrive there, this is the first and most important conversation I have with them, followed by this one very important question — How deeply do you love yourself?

Courtesy of Chenoa Maxwell
Courtesy of Chenoa Maxwell

It takes a mountain of courage to admit, communicate and activate the conscious dismantling of a marriage.  It is shattering, and there is no way to lessen the gut-wrenching process of arriving at that reality. Divorce is devastating. Everything will change. Life as you know it will be turned upside down. Emotions will run high, and decisions will be reactive instead of grounded and rational. Friends will pick sides.  Family, attorneys, and even strangers will have opinions and advice for you, and inversely for your ex to-be, that will just create more issues in the process. Again, the undertaking will be gut-wrenching and neither side will come out of the process without wounds that need tending to. Believe me, they must be tended to in order to move your life forward.

But, you see…

Loving yourself authentically takes even more courage and bravery.

It means living and operating from a place of strength and faith, not fear. It means identifying what your life’s joy is, and then operating in blind faith and fortitude every day to move towards that joy whether it is supported in partnership or not.

When you commit to the process of loving self and understand that you are more important than anything in this world, there is nothing, and I mean nothing, that will separate you from your divine purpose and the joy in life prescribed by you and for you. This is when the instant change occurs. This is when you step into the extraordinary life that you are meant to live. This is what it takes to truly be your best self and live your best life.  

If divorce is even a remote option floating around in your heart and mind, it means your spirit has already subconsciously begun moving into the understanding that self love is the necessary ingredient to thrive in any type of love. It is the required component that keeps you emotional clear, focused, and connected to your divine truth. Grinding through the process of understanding if divorce is truly the only option left is now the work you will endeavor to discover.

When this choice is activated, you will be amazed at how people will begin to show up differently for you and how you begin to show up differently for them. If you have children, the example of self love in action will be infinitely more valuable than any single piece of advice you will ever give them. Your family and chosen tribe will begin to recognize and respect the place of strength and faith from where you operate. It will define boundaries that will offer direction to those around you, and, most importantly, you will begin to attract and move closer to a truly limitless and joyous life. This is something I not only see in my practice and work as an emotional intelligence expert, but I am a living example of this.

It was a difficult decision. It was a painful process, but I listened to my True Heart. I chose self love and made the decision to activate divorce. This is why defining and understanding self love is so important. You cannot be your best self or live your best life without identifying that.  

Loving yourself means that you take loving action for yourself and your needs — emotionally, physically, spiritually, relationally, financially, and organizationally.

Knowing this and identifying this, in turn, creates the possibility for a joyous life — an authentic full life.

In the single act of defining, claiming, and activating self love, the doors to my limitless life flung open and offered me a truly connected union steeped in love, passion, and partnership with the man of my dreams; truly authentic friendships of support and understanding; an expanded community that I love; a sense of fulfillment and purpose in my life’s work; and a deep, beautiful, and sustaining inner peace.

Divorce equaled self love for me.

Chenoa Maxwell
Photography by Leslie Hassler

And self love has been the foundation on which I have built the life of my dreams. I invite you to examine your life after you conclude this paragraph.  Are you following your True Heart? Is there a place where self care is masquerading as self love? What changes do you need to activate to truly give yourself the love you deserve? If you don’t know what loving action to take, begin by carving out five minutes every day to get silent and connect with your higher power. Then, simply and sincerely ask your spirit, “What is loving to me right now?” Allow the truth to come to you.

Take time to listen to your True Heart by answering these questions and following through with action. This is what leads to a fully limitless life. It did for me and it will for you.

Trust in the power of self love.

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