Make sure you completely let go of the past attachments so you feel free and content on your own. A divorce is often connected to heartbreaks and hurt feelings. Most of the time one partner is more determined to divorce than another. If you are the one who is still holding on to your ex and resisting a divorce you are probably experiencing a heartbreak, fear of loss and refuse to accept the reality. Living in denial, resisting to accept somebody’s free will and sabotaging the process can cause a lot of suffering and bring up a feeling of unworthiness.
As part of our series about the “5 Things You Need To Know To Survive And Thrive After A Divorce Or Breakup” I had the pleasure of interviewingLana Elco.
Lana Elco is a transformational relationship coach & intimacy expert, speaker, the founder of the Empowered Woman’s Club. She offers a conscious and graceful solution for women and couples who are facing divorce and separation. Lana has been working with cross cultural couples and women on their relationships for more than a decade and helped many couples to create loving & lasting relationships. You can learn more about Lana’s work here: https://www.lanaelcocoaching.com
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would like to ‘get to know you’. Can you tell us a bit about how you grew up?
I grew up in Ukraine and witnessed my country going through a radical transition when I was in middle school. It wasn’t just about political and economical changes the whole belief system had collapsed. I remember I was surprised how quickly people could change their beliefs. It made me feel really disconnected from people and my environment. I felt a bit lost. However that experience inspired me to search for my own answers within myself. I started to read books on spirituality and personal development and practice meditation. I was a socially awkward child and didn’t have many friends.
My parents were struggling to survive through these chaotic times. The government failed. My father lost his job. He was an engineer. My mother discovered her entrepreneurial gifts and became a provider for our family. My parents used to fight a lot. Their relationship seemed to be extremely dramatic however they’ve never divorced and stayed married. As a teenager I decided I didn’t believe in marriage because I didn’t see any value in it. I did want to experience romance and intimacy though.
Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
Since a very early age I have been struggling with a feeling of non belonging. My biggest challenge was relating to other people.
As a young adult I had a hard time with my romantic relationships. I had a desire for a deep intimacy and connection but I couldn’t find any inspiring role models. In my early 20s I started my own dating agency focusing on helping cross cultural couples create loving relationships. It was back in the 1990s and the idea of online dating was very new.
Later on in life, after exploring other careers and my own relationships I started my coaching business with a focus on women’s empowerment, intimacy and tantric practices.
My journey brought me to California where I studied transpersonal psychology, Tantra, non violent communication, psychodrama and authentic relating.
My coaching business is a summary of my personal and professional growth that is aligned with my soul purpose and who I am.
My partner and I have created an authentic relationship model that works uniquely for us. We believe in “walking our talk”.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started this career?
The first thing that comes to my mind is when one of my amazing clients discovered her freedom and stepped out of the mainstream relationship paradigm. After the long years of an unhappy marriage she wasn’t sure how to approach a modern dating world and what she wanted from relationships with men in general. I helped her define her unique desires and boundaries and she rocked it.
She became a powerful intimate leader in her new relationships and also managed to build an amazing support system that is much more authentic and sustainable than a mainstream relationship model.
Honestly I had a similar journey myself and wanted to help women listen to their desires and be creative with their relationships.
We are so conditioned to follow the rules and try to fit in into the same relationship model even though we don’t feel good about it deep inside. That’s why when we, women, give ourselves permission to create a unique relationship model that works for us specifically instead of doing what we “should do” we feel extremely liberated.
Witnessing my clients on this journey of self-expression and creativity is the best gift for me. I often receive lots of gratitude from their partners as well because they can also relax and don’t feel pressured to meet all the needs of another person.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
The funniest mistake was the biggest mistake actually. At the very beginning of my career I was trying to fit in into cultural and societal expectations of what relationships should be. I felt pressured to perform in a certain way and really worried to disappoint my clients if my own relationship “failed”.
I find it extremely funny because I have a completely different perception right now.
Like every couple, my partner and I went through different relationship bumps and sometimes we felt we wouldn’t “make it”. I was afraid to break up with my partner and admit to my clients that my relationship didn’t work out. Now I understand where this fear comes from. It comes from the old belief system about what relationships should be and what is a failure when it comes to our relationships.
Now I don’t even use the word “break up” anymore because in my world I don’t even believe we have to break up.
When we build a really strong and authentic foundation for our relationships we can completely transform the way we live and relate to others. It does require a higher level of consciousness, inner work and communication skills though. Instead of breaking up with somebody we claimed to love we can simply adjust our relationship with them in a way that serves both of us. We constantly change and grow. We need to understand that our relationships need to be adjusted to every change and transition of our personal evolution.
Now I give myself permission to adjust my relationship in a way that serves me and my partner. I stopped worrying about people who can’t understand these innovative ways of relating.
Do you have a favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Do you have a story about how that was relevant in your life or your work?
Yes, absolutely. My favorite Life Lesson Quote is
“Our deepest desires are hidden behind our deepest wounds.”
It directly relates to the more commonly known quote “We teach what we want to learn.”
When I was a teen/young adult I was a very socially awkward person. I had a hard time relating to people. I only started to date when I was 21 and felt very inexperienced. At the same time my deepest desire was about intimacy and I always had a dream to experience an extraordinary connection and love.
Of course, after doing a massive amount of work on myself, going through a divorce and experiencing my own personal transformation, I wanted to share my insights and my method with others. Without knowing how it feels to be in my clients’ shoes I wouldn’t be able to help them the way I do.
Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?
Yes, I am. I am working on creating the next level of my Tantric program for women. After learning and experiencing different modalities, approaches and practices I developed a new approach to Tantra with a major focus on female sexuality and female consciousness — Femme Tantra.
In my work with women we rely on nonverbal experiential practices and integrate 4 major tantric elements: breathwork, body movement, voice and bodywork. We often work in expanded states of consciousness by using our breath.
This is the most powerful experience I have ever created for my clients because it helps them to feel their truth and desires instead of just thinking and talking about ideas.
Ok. Thank you for that. Let’s now shift to the main part of our discussion. Can you tell us a bit about your experience going through a divorce, or helping someone who was going through a divorce? What did you learn about yourself during and after the experience? Do you feel comfortable sharing a story?
Yes, absolutely. I am very transparent when it comes to sharing my story because I believe many people can relate to honesty and vulnerability.
In fact I did experience a divorce myself and chose to become a single mom who decided to move to California with her 2 year old daughter. My own experience empowered me to support many women who were going through a divorce as well.
Beforehand I think my biggest strength was my mindset and my beliefs about divorce. When I made that decision I knew that it was based on my truth and my desire to move on. I was in a cross-cultural relationship and I wasn’t quite integrated into American society at the time. So it wasn’t an easy change to make.
I remember that was the time of my deepest personal transformation. I had done lots of inner work and discovered my true passion in life. My ex wasn’t on the same page at all. So we had been growing apart for a while before I made a decision to divorce.
I told him that I wanted a divorce and planned to move to California. Of course, he didn’t like it. Communication was a challenge, but in the end we agreed that it would be the best if I followed my dream and moved to California. Our daughter moved with me and we slowly developed a friendly and positive relationship.
I know that many women ( and men) feel trapped in certain places and can’t move because of their children. This is a very common story many of my clients can relate to. But I truly believe anything is possible. It is a matter of honesty, integrity and authentic communication. We don’t need to sacrifice our lives and our dreams because of our divorce. And we can make it work for our children and their happiness as well.
I have helped lots of women going through divorce find the way to reshape their relationships with their exes and reinvent themselves again. It is important to create an internal transformation so we don’t follow the same pattern in new relationships.
In your opinion, what are the most common mistakes people make after they go through a divorce? What can be done to avoid that?
The most common mistake is seeing everything as “black and white” and allowing societal beliefs about marriage and divorce to affect our well-being. I really believe it is a good idea to investigate our beliefs and make conscious choices from the place of our own truth.
What are our own beliefs about marriage and divorce? What does work for us based on our real life experience and what seems to be a societal fairytale?
These are very important questions to ask ourselves even before we decide to marry somebody. This is what I ask my new clients.
The biggest challenge I see here is that we don’t have any educational foundation of how to build authentic and real relationships. Nobody teaches us. Besides that there is a layer of societal conditioning about what happy relationships should be. There are not many relationship models that are available for us to learn about and choose from. So most of us just assume that the mainstream relationship model is the only one possible.
To avoid confusion and disappointment we need to become aware of what is our own truth and desires when it comes to relationships and what actually works.
To make this more tangible for those who are actually going through a divorce I would like to give example.
In Western society when people marry, they mostly rely on each other to meet all the needs and provide all the support. It creates lots of pressure and drains our vital energy. We need a more extensive support system besides our spouse. So if you are considering or going through a divorce start thinking about how to rebuild your extensive support system so you don’t feel like your entire world is collapsing.
The second tip for avoiding the most common mistakes is to change your mindset and beliefs about divorce. Instead of seeing it as an ultimate break up and an end of a relationship, focus on adjusting this relationship in a way that fits your current reality and desire.
If you have kids together it means you will have a relationship with your ex whether you want it or not. Focus on how to make this relationship positive, beneficial and respectful.
People generally label “divorce” as being “negative”. And yes, while there are downsides, there can also be a lot of positive that comes out of it as well. What would you say that they are? Can you share an example or share a story?
“How can I make it a positive experience that helps me grow and understand who I am better?” Asking yourself this question is the best way to start changing those old “black and white” beliefs about a divorce.
Because of our beliefs about marriage and it’s value, divorce might feel like a death/rebirth experience for many people. It is also true on the emotional level. A divorce might feel like an ultimate loss because this is how we perceive it.
I asked one of my clients: What is the worst part of your divorce experience?
She said: “The loss of my dream.”
This is when we need to discern a heartbreak that can be caused by a divorce and a lifestyle change that comes with it.
It takes time to heal the pain that comes from the loss of somebody’s dream. It takes time to re-discover somebody’s identity if their identity was strongly attached to their marriage. And usually it is a good idea to focus on healing, do inner work and receive professional support while going through divorce. Going through this alone can bring even more pain, create more confusion and cause more damage to a relationship.
Practicing self-compassion is central during this process.
This is when it is important to remember that our rebirth is usually happening after “the death” and a new dream (usually more authentic and powerful) can be born out of loss.
Another way to look at the positive sides of divorce is to see it as “ the right of passage”. This can apply to people who married at a younger age and didn’t know what they were doing.
When they gained their own experience and learnt what didn’t work for them they have an opportunity to reconnect with themselves and become aware of what they really want their relationship to be. It’s an opportunity to start fresh, be wiser, seek innovation and creativity in their relationships and let go of social conditioning.
Most of my clients feel excited about their new life after a divorce. They feel liberated and free. They usually want to explore their own passions and desires without a need to always check in with their spouses. They feel like they are reborn and activated. They start doing new things and seeing new opportunities. They commit to their own truth and build firm boundaries in their new relationships.
This is the most exciting time in our history when we can question old rusty beliefs about how we should “do our relationships” and become creative.
In my tantric approach I help couples create a sacred union as an alternative relationship container with a clear definition of what we are actually creating. I also often use the term “exploration partnership” as an alternative to mainstream dating.
If you are going through a divorce and see it as “an end” try to focus on an opportunity of a new beginning instead.
Some people are scared to ‘get back out there’ and date again after being with their former spouse for many years and hearing dating horror stories. What would you say to motivate someone to get back out there and start a new beginning?
Starting to date again can be an emotional challenge. And of course, there are lots of negative stories about dating. I would recommend starting with mindset and inner work. It is ok to take your time and be single for a while. There is lots of value in being single especially if you were married for many years.
It is important to rediscover yourself and become clear about who you are, what your values and desires and relationship standards are. I would also recommend working on self-worth, releasing social conditioning and becoming aware what kind of a relationship container will work for you the best.
When you are ready to date again it must feel exciting! Otherwise what’s the point?
We usually see what we choose to believe. If you start dating believing in those horror stories you might create one yourself.
I usually help my clients to create multiple filters to avoid negative experience and confusion around dating. Applying these filters and being selective of who and how you meet can save you tons of time and energy as well.
Focus on positive dating stories. There are many people out there. People find love through online dating all the time.
I would only recommend using online dating if you are positive about it. There are many ways to start dating these days if you keep an open mind.
What is the one thing people going through a divorce should be open to changing?
Their mindset and beliefs about a divorce. There are lots of limiting societal beliefs about life after divorce especially for women.
“It’s really hard to find a committed and loving man if you are a divorced woman with kids”
“Age is our enemy when it comes to dating and romantic relationships”,
“Divorce is something to be embarrassed about because it is a failure”,
“Something is wrong with me because I couldn’t make my marriage work.”
Your mindset and your belief system is the foundation for your exciting and fulfilling life after a divorce.
What about a positive statement?
“I am so excited to be single again and explore new opportunities.”
“I feel whole and love my own company”
“ From now on I will create a life I truly desire for myself and won’t give in to anything less than that”
“I am vibrant and hungry for new experiences.”
“ I am free and don’t need to ask for permission to do what I want”.
“I am following my wildest dreams and I don’t care what others think or believe”.
Ok, here is the main question of our discussion. If you had a close friend come to you for advice after a divorce, what are 5 things you would advise in order to survive and thrive after the divorce? Can you please give a story or example for each?
1) Practice self-compassion and be loving to yourself. Acknowledge what you went through emotionally. Give yourself time to heal and center yourself.
There is so much judgment and negativity associated with divorce in our culture. Many people tend to take it in and judge themselves. It is normal to see people blaming each other or themselves when they go through a divorce. While it is important to take personal responsibility for our life and relationships we have to be compassionate with ourselves when we go through a divorce. Our society doesn’t provide enough education to help people build healthy and authentic relationships. We still live in the world of double standards and each individual finds their own way to navigate this world. Many times people show up in their relationships mimicking their own parents because this is all they know. Even if we have done something we were not proud of it is important to learn the lesson and forgive ourselves.
The practice of self compassion was a game-changer for one of my clients. She stopped judging herself for “not being enough” for others and started to focus on being enough for herself. Self compassion helped her to accept all her emotions, love her own inner child and let go of a need to please people and explain herself. It was a very powerful way to reconnect with her own heart and truth.
2) Make sure you completely let go of the past attachments so you feel free and content on your own.
A divorce is often connected to heartbreaks and hurt feelings. Most of the time one partner is more determined to divorce than another. If you are the one who is still holding on to your ex and resisting a divorce you are probably experiencing a heartbreak, fear of loss and refuse to accept the reality. Living in denial, resisting to accept somebody’s free will and sabotaging the process can cause a lot of suffering and bring up a feeling of unworthiness.
It is important to acknowledge this internal experience and accept it first. This is also a great example when self compassion is needed. However it is important to avoid external reactions and attempts to change your ex-partner’s mind.
Letting go is the art of healing. If you can’t cope on your own it is a good idea to ask for support. I used to receive messages from heart-broken women asking me if I could help them bring their ex back. I always say “No”. Because relationships don’t work this way. Free will is the very foundation of healthy and authentic relationships. If we try to break the law of free will we are the ones who will suffer the most.
Energetically it takes time to completely detach from your ex. It is a process. It requires time and commitment to heal.
3) Change your mindset and beliefs about a divorce and become aware of all the lessons you learnt about yourself, your unique personality, needs and desires. See your divorce as an opportunity to be reborn, transform yourself and start fresh.
Changing your mindset and beliefs about a divorce is a crucial part of your transformation and healing. I know some people who used to feel embarrassed and ashamed of their divorce. I remember my friend told me that his divorce felt like a failure. It makes sense because we are taught to see it this way.
When we marry we exchange vows to stay together for a lifetime. When we get divorced we break that promise. When do we act out of integrity?
This is when I see an opportunity to work on your personal beliefs about marriage and divorce.
What does marriage mean to you? Are you giving yourself permission to change your mind? What do marriage vows mean to you? If you were to make these rules based on your own internal integrity how would you do it?
Most people live on autopilot. They just follow societal and cultural traditions and rules. When their own personal experience is in conflict with those rules and traditions people tend to pretend, hide, find excuses or rebel. It would be much easier if we investigate our inherited beliefs and choose what works for us and what doesn’t. This is how I encourage my clients to create their own relationship agreements and design their own relationship models.
4) Be open to receive professional support and guidance while going through a divorce.
I find it crucial to be supported by a therapist or a coach when someone is going through a divorce. Most people don’t have skills to navigate a conflict, process emotions and take care of themselves enough without professional support. When two people try to resolve a conflict while going through a divorce they usually cause even more damage instead. A good therapist or coach can help you navigate the most difficult situations, point out your blind spots and process your emotions in a healthy way. It is a good idea to have your therapist or coach assist you when you need to communicate with your ex as well.
Professional support is very different from friend’s help because your therapist or coach doesn’t take sides and helps you see the truth.
One of my clients shared: “Without professional support during my divorce I would have probably gone back to my toxic marriage.” Her ex was trying to sabotage their divorce and she had moments of strong fear and anxiety that could prevent her from moving forward with what she truly wanted.
5) Become aware of all the lessons you learnt in your marriage and after your divorce. It is important to become clear of what you want to experience in a new relationship when you are ready. Be creative. What relationship model would work for you? What are your relationship standards?
This last tip is what we call “ an integration”. Before you jump back into a new relationship it is crucial to become aware of all the lessons you have learnt so you don’t repeat the same mistakes again. That is why it is a good idea to stay single for a while and process all the lessons. Your past experience is the source of valuable information. You can understand yourself better and become clear about your desires, preferences and boundaries. Remember you don’t need to fit into societal boxes anymore. We live in a modern society where we can explore the variety of different relationship models and be creative. If you are afraid of judgments you can still find courage to be yourself and live the way it feels right to you. On this stage you can also benefit from working with a therapist or coach who can help you release social conditioning so you allow yourself to be creative and free.
This is a central piece in my own work with clients. It takes lots of courage, commitment and inner work to shift our generational conditioning about what our intimate relationships should be. This is when I celebrate my amazing clients who dared to create new relationships on their own terms.
The stress of a divorce can take a toll on both one’s mental and emotional health. In your opinion or experience, what are a few things people going through a divorce can do to alleviate this pain and anguish?
1) Beforehand be compassionate and loving to yourself. It is natural to feel hurt and emotional when you are going through a divorce. Our culture promotes “a superhero” archetype but in real life it doesn’t serve anyone.
When it comes to emotional pain the first thing we need to do is to accept this pain and internally validate it.
I love a simple but powerful affirmation: “It’s ok to feel this way. It’s totally understandable that I feel this way.”
Accepting and validating your pain prevents self-judgment and internal conflict.
2) Take your time. You don’t need to go through the divorce process in one day. Break it down and move step-by-step. You don’t need to resolve everything right away.
3) Instead of focusing on your ex and your separation focus on yourself, your experience and your identity. It will help you avoid drama, arguments, blame and complaint.
4) Give yourself a positive experience that nourishes your body, mind and heart. Keep taking care of yourself and don’t let yourself become a victim.
5) Lean on your support system. You don’t need to do it alone.
Do you have any favorite books, podcasts, or resources related to this topic that you would recommend to our readers?
Yes, I would love to recommend a few resources that are more specific and unique.
Since I work with women I believe every woman who is seeking a deep intimate connection with a man needs to read a book by Sheri Winston. Women’s Anatomy of Arousal.
It is a transformational eye-opening book for both women and men.
My second “must read” is Nonviolent Communication by Marshall Rosenberg. The practice and skills of non violent communication is an absolute must for each relationship. This practice and skills can help you communicate with your ex and build great communication skills for your future relationships.
I also recommend the TV Series called The Pyramid Code, especially the episode called “The Empowered Human” where they talk about the balance between feminine and masculine principles.
Because of the position that you are in, you are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
Being a pioneer means creating a new movement. I inspire women and couples to create their own sustainable and unique relationships models. I believe the institution of marriage itself needs to be transformed to meet needs and fulfill desires of modern people. We are evolving and our relationship containers need to evolve with us. I think the container of a traditional marriage doesn’t sustain deep and authentic relationships we desire to build these days.
I also believe in the Femme Tantra movement. We need to learn how feminine energy works and integrate this knowledge into our educational system.
We are very blessed that very prominent leaders read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them 🙂
Charlize Theron. In one of her early movies she inspired me to discover a new wild side of my own personality. I discovered that women don’t need to follow the rules and societal expectations when it comes to dating and relationships with men.
Thank you for these great insights and for the time you spent with this interview. We wish you only continued success!