lessons learned from divorce

July 26th, 2010 by Kawika Heftel

EDIT: I’ve read over this post since writing it and changed some things to be more fair to Shanae.  It was pretty one-sided before and I’ve tried to make it more fair.

Broken HeartThere is only one person who is responsible for your happiness.  It is not God, it is not your parents, it is not your friends, it is not your significant other – it is you.  I am a firm believer that others can help, and that good friends are vital to our well-being as we go through life, but ultimately, when it comes down to brass tacks, every single one of us are responsible for our own actions and our own happiness.

The application of this knowledge does not come easy for me.  I often look to other sources for my happiness in life.  I look to entertainment – movies, books, television and video games.  I look to work – professional projects that take much skill, time, and exertion to complete.  I look to people – parents, friends, relatives, spouse.  But ultimately no one and no thing can make me happy.  I must choose that for myself.  At the end of the day, every day, I find myself alone with my thoughts and feelings.  If I do not like myself, that alone time is feared and dreaded.  On the other hand, if I do like myself, then that time becomes a set of happy bookends around my day.  I look forward to being alone with myself.

Before my divorce, I often relied on my wife to make me happy.  I did this far too often, pretty much constantly.  I defaulted to her on the smallest and dumbest of decisions.  In doing so, I was not a man, and I often hurt her as she waited around for me to become a man.  If a person is not looking after his/her own happiness, then nothing anyone else can do will be enough.  There will always be a lack, an insatiable hunger, because the person is not self-sufficient, and does not have enough warmth inside to sustain himself.  On the contrary, if a person knows deep down inside that he is responsible for his own actions and his own happiness, then anything else that comes into his life is a blessing and serves to enrich a life that is already pretty damn good, a life that already has meaning on its own, even in the absence of care or love from others.  In that case, there is enough and to spare.

Each person in this life must learn to be his/her own best friend.  No matter where you go, you will always have to live with yourself.  Or to put it another way, you always GET to live with yourself.  I do not know exactly why my dear wife decided to end our marriage after three and half years, but I have a good idea.  I know I did a lot of dumb things that hurt her immensely.  I wish so many times that I could turn back the clock, take back things I said or did.  The last thing I would want from anyone reading this post is to have any negative feelings for her.  I sometimes find myself asking the rhetorical question “WHY?”.  Well, I know why.  My actions did a lot to drive her off.  I often find myself regretting mistakes I’ve made and thinking about what I could’ve done to keep my marriage alive.  I made some really stupid decisions during our time together, and my mistakes have ultimately cost me my marriage.  My biggest regret in life is the dissolution of my marriage, my part in that, and the pain and suffering that she is still recovering from.  But, unfortunately, these thoughts lead nowhere, it’s too little too late, and she’s already gone.  Nothing I can do at this point can win her back.

I have slowly learned through introspection and conversation with trusted friends that I have been punishing myself, blaming myself, shaming myself for letting her go.  And there is my opportunity for peace.  I did not leave; I let her go.  I did not give up on our marriage – rather, I was ready to fight to the death for it.  I will go to my grave with the sure and comforting knowledge that I did the absolute best that I could in my marriage, that I gave it my all – time, talents, financial resources, even my whole soul and all I possessed – to make my marriage work.  Sometimes, because of my weaknesses and flaws, my “best” was far less than it should have been.  I look back and my puny efforts seem pitiful.  But I can still say I held back nothing.  Now, she didn’t hold back anything either.  She gave her all and more for the marriage, and fought like a lion for it.  She tried harder to make it work than most others would have.  In the end, I let her go because I loved her enough to let her go.  I let her go so she could be happy.  I have been laboring under the assumption that because I did that, I am somehow a bad person.  I have been beating myself up for not stopping her, when she made it clear she could no longer be happy living under my roof and being my wife.  But in doing so I have made a serious error in judgment.

God is the judge of every soul.  We are commanded to not make final judgments about anyone, in scriptures laced with words such as “Judge not, that ye be not judged (3 Ne 14:1).”  In assuming that I was a bad person for allowing a failing marriage to finally end, I was usurping God’s authority to judge, and condemning myself.  All of a sudden I had the feeling, “what if I am being harder on myself than God is?”  This question changed my whole outlook.  I started praying fervently.  I poured out my whole soul to God.  And, I learned today that God does not condemn me for the fact that my marriage ended.  In fact, He has an enormous amount of love for me, as He does for every one of His children.  And then I had the thought – “if He does not condemn me, then why the hell should I condemn me?”  In that moment, I decided to stop beating myself up.  This will be hard, because I am used to being hard on myself and not used to loving myself unconditionally.  It is much easier for me to love others unconditionally than to love myself.  But I will try.  Because I must try.  I will be alone with my thoughts every morning and night for the rest of my life, as I have been every morning and night for the past 27 years.  It’s about time that I start enjoying my own company!

All of the foregoing does not mean I am not sad about my marriage ending.  I feel an immense amount of sorrow over the loss of a person so precious in my life that I promised before God’s holy altar to cherish her for eternity.  I feel extremely sad that our forever died before four years ran their course.  I have had at least as much to do with our marriage dissolving as she did, and probably more.  But I learned today that there is a big difference between sorrow and shame.  Sorrow expresses loss and is a natural part of the grieving process.  It eventually gives way to comfort, wisdom, and joy.  On the other hand, shame does not heal.  It labels the person as bad and ultimately creates a vicious cycle by making you believe that you can never do any better than what you just went through.  And so right here, right now, I commit to stop shaming myself.  Because I don’t deserve it.  Because I am a good person who makes mistakes.  Because I deserve to find happiness again.  Because I do not wish to be forever stuck in old, incorrect patterns.


Shanae, I truly wish you the best.  You will be missed immensely.  I do not condemn you for what you did.  I know that you had your reasons, and I am trying to accept the fact that you are really gone.  I sincerely hope that no one reading this blog post will condemn you either.  One day this mess will heal for both of us and we will be able to be happy again.  I am sorry for the way things turned out between us, and I would still like to be your friend.  I am sorry for the things I did that hurt you and contributed to the end of our marriage, but I no longer blame myself for everything that happened.  I am off on a journey – a journey to get to know myself and become my own best friend.  A journey to learn to love the person that I will spend the rest of my life with – myself.

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6 Responses to “lessons learned from divorce”

  1. Wow, Kawika, you just poured your heart out in a way few people can do. Thanks for your thoughts, for they help me as well. Best of luck with everything. Have joy on your journey!

    --Daniel, on July 26th, 2010 at 7:35 pm
  2. Wow, Kawika–I had no idea you were going through something so tough. It’s amazing the opportunities that the Lord uses for us to better understand His love for us. I have felt it in some of the darkest times of my life. I’m sorry things ended like this for you–but in spite of the difficult times, there are STILL good things to come.

    At one point, when I read that you’re 27, I thought, “What? No way! He’s still a 19 year old missionary!” LOL Even seeing you at BYU while my husband was there, I think you’ll live forever as a youthful elder in my mind. :)

    --Amanda, on July 27th, 2010 at 2:39 am
  3. Kawika, it was so good to see and talk with you a couple of weeks ago. Thanks for being willing to share some of the personal lessons and insights that you’ve picked up along the way. You and Shanae are both in our prayers. Embrace this opportunity that you have to get to know and love yourself. I know you have great things ahead of you!

    --Melissa Eggertsen, on July 27th, 2010 at 5:16 am
  4. Amanda, thanks for your comment!! Yeah, it’s been a rough time. But I have felt the Lord’s influence lifting me up.

    It is amazing how time flies. You have what, 3 kids now? I saw their pictures on your blog :) .

    I don’t know if you’ve seen the pictures of my recording studio yet, but you should check out http://www.heftelstudios.com and http://picasaweb.google.com/kheftel/HeftelStudios. Hard to believe I’m all grown up! I still FEEL 19 half the time. LOL.

    --kawika, on July 28th, 2010 at 12:33 am
  5. Melissa, thanks for your kind words. I will be sharing more feelings, thoughts and lessons on this blog as time goes by, so stay tuned! I’m glad to count you and David among my friends!! It was awesome as always to see you guys!

    --kawika, on July 28th, 2010 at 12:34 am
  6. Hey Daniel, Thanks so much for your comment. I will try and share more insights I have on this blog as I go through the healing process. I am glad my thoughts can help anyone else!!

    --kawika, on July 28th, 2010 at 12:41 am

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