Modern Divorce - The Do-Over For A Better You

How To Know When To Leave

August 10, 2023 Attorney Billie Tarascio
Modern Divorce - The Do-Over For A Better You
How To Know When To Leave
Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers

Dr. Carolyn Kurle joins Modern Divorce Podcast Host Billie Tarascio to talk about the mental and emotional challenges that come with a divorce, like knowing when to leave, understanding your urge to stay, and when it's okay to let yourself off the hook for decisions made when you first decided to marry.

It's a complicated process, but one Dr. Kurle says is pressured by false stories we tell ourselves. If we can learn how to quiet our minds and listen to our gut level instincts  that come from wisdom rather than outside influences, then we can understand whether leaving a marriage and dealing with the future from this new perspective is something we're ready for.

Dr. Kurle’s book,  The Guidance Groove, teaches how to recognize our internal false stories  so we can learn to discover where they come from and how they breed inauthenticity. 

For anyone who is second guessing their choice to leave a marriage, this podcast promises to shed some clarity on those decisions.

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Hello and welcome to another 

episode of the Modern Divorce podcast.

I'm your host Billie Tarascio from Modern Law, and I am very excited today 

about a different type of episode, an episode that we have not done before, which 

is great because. As we're talking about Divorce, we tend to maybe recycle the same [00:01:00] topics, but today we have a doctor, we have a professor. Her name is Dr. Kurle, and she is here, she's an animal scientist, and she's here to talk about patterns of behavior that we all fall into and that she sees in the wild, and how we can recognize those one patterns of behavior in ourselves, in our partners, and change relationship dynamics. Mm-hmm. Is that right? 

Carolyn Kurle: That's a really good way of putting it.

And it's, it's relationship dynamics and it's the relationship with yourself, which is the foundation from which we move out into the world and create our relationships with other people. Right. So very much so. And. We can talk about it in relation to Divorce and deciding to Divorce and moving forward with your former partner any way you wanna go with it.

But the, the idea of what I'm talking about today is written in my book, the Guidance Groove, and it's all about quieting the stories our minds are incessantly bombarding us with, and reaching into that deeper place that's [00:02:00] less definable and. Provides us with this huge fountain of wisdom. That we can follow our guidance, our intuition, our spidey sense.

Mm-hmm. Whatever anyone wants to call it. And, and when you're going through something like Divorce, it's really easy to get caught up in the stories of they're bad, he or she is bad. My kids need to be protected. All the stories that go on in our brains and, and the work that I do with my students at University of California, San Diego and, and in this book is just to quiet those stories, question those stories.

Love those stories and then let them go and go into a deeper, more, more wise, less false place, if that makes sense. Yeah. Mm-hmm. It does. 

Billie Tarascio: It does. Um, but one of the things, so I, I kind of heard you talking about two different competing things. Your, your positive instincts and how to tap into those and let those guide you.

And also quieting [00:03:00] those sort of negative things that are also instinctual. How do we determine what's what, right. 

Carolyn Kurle: Right. So, so I'm gonna just take away those labels positive and negative, right? To, in my experience of moving through the world, everything is welcome because everything is there to help us sort of, um, learn something new, right?

So, so let's take it to Divorce. So, so I'm just gonna tell a tiny story. When I, when I first met my former husband, so I've been through Divorce, um, I had this really strong intuitive sense. This person pay attention. This person is someone you are going to have something meaningful with. And we were together for a little over 10 years.

Um, it was very difficult to at first, um, even though I had this extremely strong, intuitive feeling, this person. Is supposed to be important to you. And it turned out he was, we had a child, we had a marriage, and then some, you know, at some point in our marriage, about seven years in, I had the [00:04:00] same intuitive feeling, okay, now it's time to leave this marriage.

And it, and it was that clear. And then, but if I had listened to the stories that were going on in my head, I would never have married him. So I, he wasn't, The, um, the typical physical type that I go for. We had a, we had a terrible time getting together. We fought all the time, which was good and positive because it got us to therapy.

It got us to learn how to communicate, how to be in relationship together, which I had never explored with another human that deeply. And then fast forward to whenever, you know, however many years later when we got divorced, we had that whole foundation. To work from when we were working our way through Divorce and creating a new vision of our family.

Right? And again, when, when it was time to Divorce, if I'd listened to my brain, you can't leave you. It's gonna have to, all this stuff is gonna happen. It's gonna blow everything up. You have a child together who's only seven. If I'd [00:05:00] listened to that, it would've been worse. For our family. But I listened to my guidance, which was so strong to it's time to go.

And I told my former husband, I said, I can't be married for one more minute. And thank goodness he also listens to his guidance and was able to quiet immediately, quiet his stories of rejection, and she's leaving what? And within a half an hour we were in a place of how do we do this moving forward in a way that's good for you, for me, for our son.

And it was that ability to quiet the stories almost immediately and go to what is true for us. I love you. I love our son. I love me. Now, can we put all that love together and move forward in a way that has an outcome that's for the best and highest good for everyone involved? Does that make sense? And, and so I'm gonna, I'm gonna say one more thing.

I am a scientist, [00:06:00] scientist. I'm a conservation biology professor, but I'm also this person who lives in integration. So I love my logic. It solves all kinds of problems. It writes science papers. It manages a huge lab of grad students, teaches classes. But I also love when I can recognize when that part of my brain is, can I swear, is bullshitting me and, and telling me garbage.

I can. My logic can help me question those stories. Why get them down so I can go to what's deeper, what's actually true facing me? And when you're in the process of trying to figure out if you should get a Divorce from this person that you're with or how, how it's gonna look moving forward, like I said before, it's really easy to get caught up in those false stories of I'm gonna be screwed if I don't fight for everything.

Um, they're bad. So I better punish them for doing whatever they did that erupted the [00:07:00] marriage. I'm gonna take away their kids, punish them or whatever, and go Quiet those stories. Is it true? Is it true? Is it true? And you can keep asking yourself that over and over again until you distill down to what's actually driving your motivations, which is this deeper unattainable, excuse me, un um, definable.

Voice of wisdom that I keep coming back to this guidance, this guidance groove. And, and so, the thing that I encourage people to do, whether it's going through Divorce or any big life experience, is to really consciously question those, those stories that are constantly coming up. And in my book, I, I've categorized them as four unproductive grooves where you can get stuck in

an idea of being inadequate or obligated or unworthy or, um, the other one, the, the final one is scarcity. We get these mentalities of scarcity. So I have to grab, and I think a lot of people who are in a, [00:08:00] in a marriage that may feel inauthentic to them, they have, they're stuck in obligation. I'm obligated to be here.

I made a commitment. I'm obligated to my kids. I'm obligated as the sole breadwinner or whatever it is. And it's getting out of that story of obligation and what's actually true for you. What would be the best thing for you and your partner and your kids? Maybe it's not being there. And to quiet that obligation story and really go deeper and feel what's actually true.

And so it's just a constant. My book, the guidance groove is nothing new. It's just another way of saying what's been around in Buddhism and all kinds of, Popular culture forever and ever and ever is quiet. The stories go to what's true and then make your decisions from that place, or at least give your intuition and your guidance an equal seat at the table as your intuition and logic.

Does that make sense? Bring them together, allow it, trust it, bring it in more and more, and, and look to it for guidance [00:09:00] so that you can have all of the data present when you're moving forward in these big decisions. 

Billie Tarascio: Oh, there was a lot there. That was, that was, that was a lot. That was a lot. Mm-hmm. Okay.

But, but I am, I'm stuck, um, as the Divorce attorney who's watched, yeah. Thousands of people get divorced. I'm stuck on how you and your former husband were on the same page so quickly because I do not see that. What I see is usually they're in one person in the couple, is on a very different grief journey.

A very different acceptance journey. Yeah. Even if both of them know the relationship is bad, how was that luck? How did that work? 

Carolyn Kurle: There's a couple things that come to mind when you say that. First. Look, let's go back to the very beginning of when my former spouse and I met. Yes, we knew immediately something important was supposed to happen between us and then we proceeded to fight.[00:10:00] 

Like I've never fought with anyone before. It was miserable and I remember being, what the hell am I staying here for? But again, that weird, I would say weird 'cause I don't know how to. I can't define it, but that that voice inside of me was like, you have to stay here. This is very important. You can't leave like all the other boyfriends you've had.

And we, I remember having this exceptionally terrible fight and finally just sitting down on the couch and saying, fine. We can go to therapy. 'cause he'd been trying to get me to go to therapy for like six months and I was like, no wait. Therapy is for broken people. I'm not broken. Of course we have all these old fashioned things that hopefully we don't think anymore.

'cause therapy's a fabulous, fabulous tool. But anyway, so finally I got to that breaking point and then we spent a couple years in this amazing. Therapy every week we'd go to this woman who transformed how I view relationship and how we talked to each other. We [00:11:00] also used the tool of nonviolent communication, which is the wonderful tool from Marshall Rosenberg.

He developed it years and years ago to help with, um, high level talks between Israel and Palestine. Oh, ways of communicating. So that you're actually communicating from what I call heart space or whatever, you're not stuck in your stories, but you're really trying to stay in that connected place. So we learned all these tools before we were even married.

Then we got married and we had all of these ways to connect with one another that we had developed over two or three years of working hard to get to that place. So then our marriage. We had a, we had this child and it turns out that's why I think we were supposed to be together. We had this amazing child.

Um, side note, I'm completely infertile, so it's really weird that we even have a child. I have no idea how it happened. But anyway, so we have this child and our marriage became more and more of a [00:12:00] friendship. And so at some point it just became really clear. We're not supposed to be an intimate partnership.

And I was riding my bicycle in Australia, was there for a scientific meeting. And it just hit me. You can go now. Where does that voice come from? Who knows right when, when Anna in Frozen two is wandering the cave after she thinks her sister's dead and, and the snowman has melted, she sings the song, hear the voice, make the choice, do the next right thing.

It's that intangible thing that we're all supposed to be doing, and I followed that voice. I went home, I talked it all out with my mom. I used my logical brain to talk it out with another human who I trusted. She left, went home and I sat down with my husband. I said very simply, I can't be married for one more minute.

That's what I said. And he said, should we go back to therapy? And I said, no, I can't be married for one more minute. And we had done so much [00:13:00] work that he trusted me. He trusted that was my truth. And he recognized it. It was his truth too. But he just hadn't got in there yet. 'cause he was afraid and. All of the stories and the fear that's, that are constantly driving us.

Right? And so we did a lot of work at the very beginning that made it so when we were at that place of dissolution, we could be in the same page within literally a half an hour. And it took six more months of, of living together and. Finding a place for me to move and logistics and we, you know, deciding how we were gonna tell our son and, and then even another year past that of the actual logistics of divorcing because it takes a while to figure everything out.

But there was never a time when we weren't heart connected because we knew the new iteration of our family was going to be one of love and differentness, and we live two blocks apart. We see each other almost every day. Our son is now 16. He was seven when [00:14:00] this happened. Um, and we just created a new vision of family and we consciously set aside the idea of we're gonna go to war, we're gonna fight each other.

I'm gonna get the kid you're not, or we just consciously put that over here and decided we are not doing that. We are staying heart connected. And we joke about this all the time. His name is Christian. We love each other now more. I mean so much more than we ever did, even at the very beginning of our relationship.

We just love each other as family. He's my family. Mm-hmm. And I think that's, it's not necessary for everyone to do that when they Divorce, but if you have children, it makes it so much more easeful and content and peaceful if you can be in that space. And it really requires you to question. He's bad.

She's bad. Is that true? I'm obligated to stay here. I'm [00:15:00] obligated to do this. I'm obligated to fight for that. Is that true? Resources are scarce. I better grab everything I can. Is that true? And if we co, I'm inadequate to this. He doesn't love me, she rejected me. I'm done. I must be inadequate as a sexy, lovable, attractive human.

Is that true? I'm unworthy. I'm unworthy to be in a, in a beautiful relationship. So I better stay with this unhappy one because I'm never gonna find anything. Is that true? And the answer is always no. It's, no, it's not true. So find that beautiful spark that we all are, and act from that place. Maybe you have to leave the marriage.

Maybe you actually don't have to leave your marriage. Maybe you can come to that connected place again. But if you're going from a head space without connecting it to the heart space, for lack of a better term, you're, you're operating in the world as a half human and you're, you're, you're making these decisions [00:16:00] with, you're leaving half the data on the table.

When we go out into the field, we do conservation biology work, so we go out in the field and collect data from animals and habitats and ecosystems. It would be like just leaving half the data that I collected in the field and or on the ship where we just were, and not analyzing it by leaving all of that heart connected, intuitive guidance, spirit, whatever you wanna call it, leaving all that emotion, feeling whatever out of your decision making is leaving a huge chunk of data out of science paper you're writing.

That is your life, right. Does that make sense? What I just said does, 

Billie Tarascio: it does. And you talked earlier about wisdom, and I think you said that wisdom is the combination of yes. Your truest like emotional, like intuition plus your logical data. And I just loved that, right? Because we know that, we know we all have [00:17:00] wisdom.

Yes. Even when we go back, and also, even when you're talking about your marriage, I think most people who end up divorced do look back and they're like, why was I with this person? Why, why did I do that? I knew better and, and, and many people who are divorced knew better, sort of like you described. I knew this wasn't a great relationship and but what you have been able to do and through your story is really reconcile that.

Yeah. Yes. It didn't make sense. Yes. But somewhere, my wisdom told me this is what I needed to do and I did it. Yeah, but it doesn't mean it's that way forever. It doesn't mean it was supposed to be perfect. Right? 

Carolyn Kurle: Yeah. And, and I tell this great story in the book the, I opened the book with this story from my dear friend Chris, who's a former Navy Seal, and he's spent.

He was in Iraq and he spent this whole day defending one of the US bases from this attack. And I said, well, how did you get through that day? And he said, I just followed my spidey sense is what he calls it, my intuition. I just, I didn't think I [00:18:00] followed my intuition. We all got out alive, people shooting bombs, like it was terrible.

And then fast forward and he, and then he talks about a relationship where he met this woman who's beautiful, she's wealthy, she's just so this great package, right? He really wanted to be in relationship with her, but he knew, he said, I knew at the very beginning she would never learn to trust me.

That was my intuition, but I, but I went for it four years later. She still had never learned to trust him there in this middle of, you know, breaking up. It's terrible. I said, why did you follow your intuition when people are literally bombing you and shooting at you, but you didn't? When it comes to relationship with a, with a woman?

And he said, well, I, I wanted to, my logical brain was attracted to her. My physical biology was attracted to her. I wanted it to work, so I quieted and squashed that little voice. And, and it doesn't mean it's a mistake that that four years he spent with her was a mistake. None of this is a mistake. This is, This is what Byron Katie calls Earth [00:19:00] School.

Right. We're learning. Yeah. So it's not a mistake to ignore your intuition. All it is is giving you data. Now, you know. Oh, right. I knew four years ago that that was not gonna work out. If I had listened, I would've maybe not learned this lesson that I, now, I know. Maybe it'll take four months next time.

Maybe it'll take four weeks, or four minutes or four seconds. Mm-hmm. To listen. Remember? Oh, yeah. I can trust that voice. Mm-hmm. Doesn't lead me astray. Or maybe it'll take four years again, and then you'll have to learn it again. No big deal. You, you, I don't view life as a mistake or bad or good. It's just what is in front of you right now.

Right now I'm talking to Billy. That's what's happening right now. It's not a mistake. It's not good or it's not bad. It's what is, and if it's happening to you or if you've made those decisions, that's perfectly exactly what should have happened. Do not spend one minute saying, I should never have married him or her.

I shouldn't have done it. Yes, you should because you did. It's what [00:20:00] happened, right? But now you're here and what's the thing can you do now? Right? That will, will make the experience the most enriching and rewarding. Uh, what, what makes the experience glow with goodness And not beating yourself up for what you should or shouldn't have done, but taking as data so when you move forward with the next step.

You now have that as part of your toolkit, as your arsenal. Now I know a little lesson because I learned it in my marriage. Does that make sense? And it just kind of reframes viewing all of the experiences we have in our life. Oh wait, that wasn't a mistake. I just missed the mark. Now I'm gonna make another choice and we're gonna try this direction with new data that I just learned from my quote unquote mistake.

Yeah. Does that make, does that work? Yeah. 

Billie Tarascio: . It definitely does. And what you're talking about is, is really what I'm hearing is just removing judgment. Yes. As scientists, we remove judgment. Exactly. [00:21:00] We observe. Yep. We collect data. We then curiously approach that data to see what can we learn. Not going into it with a preconceived notion, but.

Maybe there's a hypothesis, right? Maybe I thought I would learn Fs and did it work or not? And then just, just being open to learning. Yeah. Like how freeing is that? Yeah, that's, I love what you said. Believe the curiosity. 

Carolyn Kurle: That's the whole reason I became a scientist. I loved being in nature and just poking around in nature.

I was curious, what makes all of this work? How does it, how does it tick and, and what you said about Yes, you go in with a hypothesis. My whole PhD, I had one hypothesis. I go out and collect my first year of data, and it was looking at the impact of Innova invasive rats on island systems in the Aleutian Islands in Alaska.

We had one hypothesis. I go in, I collect my first year of data. Totally didn't support the hypothesis. My PhD committee said, are you sure you analyzed it? Right? And so it, that's, that's a very good example of, I had a [00:22:00] preconceived notion. The data did not support. It turns out a whole new different, more exciting thing was actually going on in the system that we hadn't even thought of.

Right. But if I hadn't had that curiosity, if I'd left half my data there, if I'd listened to the, the men at the table who were telling me, are you sure you analyzed that? Right. You know, all of these things come into play when we're just living every day of our lives. You know? Um, what's my preconceived story?

Be open, like you just said. Be curious what, what is actually being shown to me? What is reality showing me that's counteracting. The false story that I'm constantly looping in my head, or the million. And one more thing about that. It's not your fault that you have these stories. We are conditioned from age zero.

To make shit up about the world we have around us. 

Billie Tarascio: Right, right, right. And, and to make commitments. Yes. So I, and this is something that I grapple with this [00:23:00] concept of commitment and marriage. And is marriage good and is marriage bad? And, you know, you make, you get, you get married and you make vows. They're, they're, and, and this tradition of marriage and making vows and publicly committing is as old as time and in every culture, except for in the animal world.


Carolyn Kurle: Well, some animals do make for life, but Yeah. Mm-hmm. 

Billie Tarascio: But, and then, and then there are many times when it does not work. Yeah. And there is obviously, and understandably, so much guilt and failure because you said you would. 

Carolyn Kurle: Yeah. And I go, I go back to the beautiful thing about being alive, okay? In my view of the world, we are, we are all the same spirit in different bodies.

You're in Billie's body and personality. I'm in Carolyn's. And as we move through the world, what's happening right now for us is true for us. So when you got, when I got married, I [00:24:00] loved standing up in front of all of our family and friends and saying, I choose you. You choose me. We're in this, we're getting married.

I do. Right? Because at that moment it was true for me. At that moment, it was true for me. And who knows, what were we vowing to? I'm still with him in a sense. I have a delightful, wonderful sweetheart of six years who I love dearly, and I'm into my, that's my intimate partner, but Christian is my family partner.

So when we married each other, we joke like I, he's my husband in the sense we are family. I committed to him as my family. I didn't leave him behind when we divorced, we just changed the, we don't live together. We changed how we are with each other and the definition, but I still take those vows really seriously, but, but I'm not in the traditional sense married to him anymore.

And you have to also remember, these are human constructs, [00:25:00] right? So again, back to societal programming. Are we really obligated if we stood up and if we spent $10,000, instead, everyone had said this, and then six months later it feels bad to be in that marriage. That means you're in the obligation groove, my friend, and, and you've got to look in deeper and forget that your parents spent all this money.

Forget that you said what you said. What's true for you right this minute, and then the next minute and the next minute. And can you. Quiet the obligation story and find what's true. Find your courage to make a different choice, and, and that's what's, what's most important is not a commitment you made at a different time in your life, but what's the commitment to you and your truth and the best and highest good right this minute?

And then the next minute, what's the best for your children and you? What's the best for your husband or your wife? And you people [00:26:00] think, I'm obligated to stay here because it'll be terrible for them. Well, now you could be giving them the best gift of all. And you don't know that that's, you don't know that you leaving is bad for them.

You is. Is that true? It might be the best thing you could ever do. Christian says to me when you sat down, when we sat down on the couch and you said, I can't be married for one more minute, my initial response was pure fear. Mm-hmm. Oh no. What? What? Now it's gonna be so different. Then he was able to quiet that fear, get to that place of understanding, and he's told me so many times, you gave us such a gift by being brave and conquering your fear of staying or going and coming to me.

He goes, I would've wasted who knows how many more years, because I didn't have the, the chutzpah or the guts or whatever at that moment to do what needed to be done. So maybe if you're feeling like I can't leave because they'll hate me, or it'll be terrible. Question that [00:27:00] story. And you might be giving everyone involved the biggest gift of your life by wanting to leave or by saying, I'm not happy.

For me to be happy and be content, we need to make changes. Maybe that's what needs to happen. And then being really honest. There's another thing I talk about in the book and, and it's been a process for me, is coming out of hiding. So in relationship to ourselves and others, we're frequently hiding things and we, we do that because we're taught from a young age that it's not safe to say what's true for us, right?

It's not safe to say what's true for you. When you come out of hiding from yourself and admit the things that aren't feeling well or, or causing you distress, when you admit those things to yourself and then have the courage to admit them to the partner that you're with, you're coming out of hiding.

You're, you're revealing yourself. And the truest part of yourself is revealing itself to the truest part of that [00:28:00] person you're revealing yourself to, and they will notice that and respond. You, they can't help it. And if they, if they don't respond, if they can't get there with you, then you just have to turn back to yourself and keep coming out of hiding to yourself and finding and revealing.

What's true for me? What's true for me, what's true for me? And if it's not true for them, if they won't join you in that journey, then that might be another piece of data that you're ready to move on and be on your own. So this is all, it's just this constant process and in the book, the Guidance Groove, I, I help people just recognize when they're telling themselves the full stories and help them recognize how to constantly just quiet that and tune in, and tune in and tune in so they can interact.

With the world from that more whole place. Well, 

Billie Tarascio: Dr. Curley, this has been a wonderful episode. I have really, really enjoyed it and I'm gonna read the book and I, I know our listeners are going to read the book. Can we find it on Amazon? 

Carolyn Kurle: Yeah, it's [00:29:00] on, it's anywhere you can buy a book and then, um, You can go to guidance

Mm-hmm. Um, and or even Carolyn Curley, it's k u r l But guidance is easier and um, yeah, I just, I. I know a lot of the people who probably listen to your show are in the middle. I love all of the shit and I just wanna reach out to them. I saw my parents get divorced and it was a very different situation from mine.

Mm-hmm. But in, after a, a certain number of years, everyone did get to that place of, of loving and recognizing it as learning and this amazing journey of Earth School, like this huge. Terrible lesson that Earth School kind of throws at you. So I just wanna extend my empathy to everyone who's going through it and grappling with these decisions and, and just also say that you have a part of you that is super, super wise.

Everyone has it, everyone has the spark. Sometimes it gets cluttered [00:30:00] up with our stories and junk, but you can excavate it, you can reach it, you can find it, and you can go to that place when you're feeling. Most overwhelmed, most confused, most filled with shoulds and this and that in your brain. You can quiet all that down and go to that place and it will not lead you astray.

It just won't. It won't. And hug your children and just think of them and do the best for them as well. Yeah. It's been really good for our kid too, that we're all so connected. 

Billie Tarascio: Absolutely. Mm-hmm. I mean that, that we know. If you're able to have a relationship with your ex that is positive. Yeah. And everybody can get there right away.

But I, um, I agree with you. I really do think of my ex as extended family. Yeah. I would, I would not say that we like, like each other all that much, but it's fine. It's fairly healthy. He's family, you know, you show up. He's family. Exactly. His family is still my family and you know. Yeah. It just, [00:31:00] it is. And so you wanna have the healthiest possible relationship you have with your family, even if, because they're always gonna be your family if you have children together.

Carolyn Kurle: Yeah. Yeah. You're gonna share grandkids, you're gonna share weddings and graduations and it's so sweet. and plus they're the only other person on the whole planet who loves your kid like you do. Right. And so to have that connection and to call them, you know, when you notice something or did you see Jeremiah did this and they're the only other person on the planet who cares?

Like even the grandparents don't care that much. So it's just so sweet to have that, that loving connection. Yeah. Yeah, absolutely. 

Billie Tarascio: So. As I said, this has been fantastic. If you all have enjoyed this episode, please download it, share it, rate it. Mm-hmm. Um, get the book and, uh, there's so much here I'd love to have you on for part two.

I really appreciate you coming on today. Mm-hmm. It was great meeting you. Thank you so much. 

Carolyn Kurle: Thank you so much for having me, and I really, really appreciate it. I would come back anytime. [00:32:00] Thank you so much. 

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