Divorce Doesn’t Have to Be Like Boot Camp

It is July now.  The season of the Leo.  The month of my birthday.   The time during which I graduated from boot camp…


One summer several years ago, I thought it would be a good idea to sign up for a long weekend of “Boot Camp for the Mind.”  Because one of my “woo-woo”, “give peace a chance” yoga friends (God love her) was the one who had told me about it, I thought I was in for a few days of opening my heart, group hugs and Kum-ba-ya-ing.  Boy, was I ever wrong.


The fact that I was wrong was unfortunate not only for me, but also for my then-boyfriend (who is now my husband).  Although he really would have rather been working on a car or riding a fast motorcycle somewhere, James signed up to “support” me (i.e., to keep the peace).

Divorce doesn’t have to be like boot camp.
Divorce doesn’t have to be like boot camp.

As I think about it, I do believe the “Boot Camp Weekend” was officially the first time I had roped him into one of my schemes which turned out to be a Lucy-Desi type circus (See also: The Shocking Truth About Diapers and Divorce).


Prior to that July weekend, my only experience with boot camp was watching Richard Gere in “An Officer and a Gentleman” when I was 12 or 13.  I knew right then and right there that I would never sign up for the military because I was too sensitive.  I imagined a softie like me would crack under the physical and emotional pressure if it was anything like Louis Gossett, Jr. was doling out.


As it turns out, arguably, I was smarter at 12 or 13 than I would be 20+ years later because I actually signed up for this “Boot Camp for the Mind.”  Little did I know back in ‘82 or ‘83 that someday, I would volunteer AND PAY to partake in a experience in which I was berated and called names for several days straight.  The worst part about it is though, looking back, I subjected myself (and James) to this for NO real good reason as far as I can see.


Actually, now that I think of it, there is one plus.  I have A LOT of really entertaining stories to tell to anyone who wants to listen.  Oh…and another thing: the experience has allowed me to come to the conclusion that  boot camps and the divorce process often have a lot in common.


They don’t have to, though.


The weekend started off fine enough.  Our trusty boot camp leader, “A” (who was younger than I was at the time and looked like he could have been an Abercrombie and Fitch model), introduced himself and told us about his background.  He claimed to have been raised in southern California by two mental health professionals.  Given his above-average intelligence and ability to articulate, I believe he was telling the truth.


His boot camp platform was based on the fact that he felt each of us are products of our “programming” which was imposed upon us as children.  He believed that most people live their lives operating from within that programming.  In other words, “A” stated that because of this programming, we live our lives without intention, decision or choice.  Put another way, we are each living the program our parents gave us without making the choices we really WANT to make.


According to “A”, each of us has our own, unique program.  He pegged me within 10 minutes of being a whiny victim and as a person who had achieved everything in my life by manipulating with these words and actions:  “Feel sorry for me.” “I’m pathetic.”  “I’m worthless.”  That entire weekend (even when we went out to lunch to eat), I had to wear a name badge pinned to my shirt that said “whiny, pathetic victim.”  Each of the other 8 or 10 attendees had to do the same, only their program names were too vulgar and offensive for me to even write in this post.


The weekend consisted of exercise after exercise of “A” attempting to “break” us of our programs so we could then rebuild and move past our old limits.  Not only did he get in our faces, insult and cuss us out, but WE had to do those very same things to our fellow participants.


In one exercise, “A” had us all lie down in a dark room while he talked us through a relaxing meditation (taking place on a cruise ship) for about 10 or 15 minutes.  Without warning and just as I was falling asleep, he and his helpers started screaming that “the boat was sinking!”  Okaaaay.  Apparently, the boat was sinking!


He flipped on the light and said most of us would die because there were limited lifeboats. Thankfully, we each could take two people on a lifeboat.  Unfortunately, the rest of the people would be left out at sea to eventually drown or be eaten by sharks.  In choosing people who would be allowed on our individual lifeboats, we first had to tell the people we DIDN’T choose exactly WHY we weren’t choosing them.


Of course, for me, it meant everybody (except for James) telling me that I was a whiny, weak victim.  It involved people saying I would serve no purpose on their lifeboats and that they needed someone strong and non-victim-y.  I, in turn, had to tell other people why I wasn’t choosing them.


The things I told the others were some of the worst words I have ever uttered.  To this day, I feel ashamed of what I told them.  What was I thinking?


I still don’t know why I did what I did.  The only thing I can come up with is that I was put in a new, frightening situation.  “A” scared me.  I didn’t feel like I could leave even though I really wanted to run like hell.


During that weekend, I felt like an invader had overcome my body and as though I had no will of my own.  I failed to exercise any independent judgment or common sense.  I did things I never would have done but for that situation.


I think what happened to me is what sometimes happens to people going through divorce.


They are paralyzed by fear and uncertainty.  They don’t know how to act in this “new” situation. They fall into the stereotypical divorce “programming” perpetuated by society.


Divorce can reduce the strongest individual to someone who is too emotionally traumatized to make a reasonable decision.  Every choice is made only from a place of “self-preservation” and not necessarily for the “good of the whole.”  During divorce, the most rational humans sometimes lash out and appear to be crazed lunatics who won’t budge on the “simplest” of things.  The kindest, warmest, most loving person can become a cussing, name-calling boot camp victim AND victimizer.


So, this is where I am asking you to think outside the stereotypical programming when it comes to your divorce.  Divorce doesn’t have to be ugly.  It doesn’t have to be mean.  There doesn’t have to be violent language, stubbornness or the enduring of anything abusive.


The divorce PROCESS itself is what you choose to make it. <– (Click to tweet this!)  You can make it mentally and emotionally agonizing for your ex.  This, in turn, will make it lengthy and expensive.  OR, you can make it a process based on reason and reflection.  This will make it cheaper and quicker.


Which sounds better?


And that leads me to this week’s Hernandez Family Law Blog.  It covers a topic that is, without fail, one of the most disputed and anger provoking subjects of divorce:  spousal maintenance.  Whether you are actually entitled to spousal maintenance or not OR whether you actually should pay it or not, you MUST take a look at S & M (Spousal Maintenance) in Divorce – All Pain. No Pleasure.  It will help you get a leg up and over that wall in the obstacle course you just might have to run through if spousal maintenance is an issue in your case.


And, if you have ever been through a boot camp of any kind (military, divorce, or exercise), I congratulate you.  Boot camps are not for the faint of heart.  You made it.  Help others by spreading the word about how you made it through your own boot camp by leaving a comment below.


As it turns out, “A’s” boot camp was a pyramid-type scheme.  He wanted us to sign up for more and more boot camps and recruit others to come.  He promised that if we didn’t, we would end up in failed relationships, as failures in our work and just as plain failures, period.


Several years later, I’m still here.  I’m not a failure.  I made it past boot camp.  So will you.


Sending you my wishes for a kick-a#$ week, not a week that kicks yours!


All my best,



P.S.  You know that to this day, James (my husband) never lets me forget that he was on EVERYONE’S lifeboat?  Interesting.

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