A mentor of mine once told me never to write about something as you are going through it. Wait until you have lived through it entirely and gleaned the necessary lessons before you decide to share it with others. And so, one year from its legal end, I am finally talking about my divorce.
I held myself back from even creating this website and starting this blog for months after my ex-husband moved out because I was afraid. The story is mine, but it’s also his. What if he reads this? What if his friends and family see it? What will they think? I was already carrying so much guilt over the fact that this was my choice, I couldn’t stand the thought of taking on the role of the bad guy publicly.
Oh well, girl.
I thought about ending my marriage for the better part of a year before I finally did. I had conversations with close girlfriends and struggled with my thoughts before bed every night. I cried myself to sleep more nights that not. I loved this man. I loved his family and friends. I didn’t want to fail. But I wasn’t happy. I was full of resentment and a feeling of being held back and stifled from becoming the person I wanted to be and living the life I now wanted which was so different than the one I had previously created for myself.
After attending the Radiance Retreat in March of 2015, I knew what I wanted and what needed to be done. He was back home with his family dealing with his father’s illness and I was selfishly enjoying the time I had to myself without the weight of the guilt of having these feelings and trying to pretend that I was still involved in this relationship. He was scheduled to return, which he had major qualms about given the state of his father’s health, and my plan was to tell him upon his return that he should go and be with his family. That there was nothing left here.
Just typing that immediately brings me to tears…
I had no idea how severe his father’s condition was, or that my then-husband wouldn’t be returning home yet because his father would pass away only days later. And now I was feeling like even more of a selfish asshole because this horrific turn of events had thrown a wrench in my entire plan. I couldn’t be the woman who left her husband at the same time his father died. I had to be the woman who went home to be by his side through the hardest thing he had ever experienced in his entire life. All the while I wanted to be anywhere else.
This horribly unfortunate turn of events provided an amazing opportunity, however. I took that opportunity after we returned to Southern California to finally address all of the reasons I wanted to leave. With him. I told him I was just days away from ending things when all of this happened and then we openly talked for hours about the reasons why.
For the first time in 4 years of marriage and 7 years of a relationship, we had our first vulnerable and productive conversation. We shared our frustrations, our fears, gave each other the chance to explain why we tended to do certain things or respond in certain ways, and ask for what we needed of the other. It was so beautiful. But it was entirely too late.
Six months later not much had changed, including my feelings about the relationship being over. I came home from work one day and when he asked me what I wanted to do for dinner, I said, “I don’t want to do this anymore.”
In my head, I told him this and he packed up some stuff and drove back to Sacramento to be with his family and we just dealt with everything as needed. In that fantasy world, I was finally free of the guilt I had been carrying and could close that chapter and move forward to a world of new possibilities. But reality was a whole different experience.
He stayed for a month.
It was the hardest month of my entire life, but a month of significant growth for both of us. We decided to move through the entire experience with love and grace and compassion for each other. Although I have never experienced this, I liken it to living with someone who has a terminal illness. We used that time to ask questions, reflect on our relationship, own our pieces that contributed to its demise, figure out how to be better in the future, and drink a lot of wine.
It was hard, awkward, terribly sad, but entirely necessary, and I am beyond grateful for that entire experience.
“Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle” – these words I’ve seen a thousand times had never resonated so deeply as that last month together. Walking out of the house every day seeing someone (and being someone) so broken and then having to go to work and pretend that everything is fine. Walking down to the bluffs each evening to cherish every last possible sunset together and seeing people so in love while your relationship is falling apart all around you.
You really never know. Be kind.
Your story creates your reality, and it’s never as bad as you think it is. The stories we carry from childhood are just that – stories. These stories are so powerful they control everything we do. But the great thing about stories is that they can be re-written.
My fears of abandonment and needing acceptance and approval from men bled into my relationship and made me tell myself that it wasn’t safe to ask for what I needed or set boundaries for myself because it will be uncomfortable or make him mad and then he won’t love me anymore and might leave.
In reality, the conversation would have been uncomfortable, sure, but definitely a lot less uncomfortable than the entire ending of my marriage.
Ask for what you need. For many reasons I have discovered over the last year, I was unable in many situations to ask for what I needed (see above). Or I would ask for what I needed and when I didn’t get that, didn’t want to hold him accountable because we would have to have another uncomfortable conversation that wasn’t productive and would leave me feeling abandoned an unloved (again, my story, not necessarily reality).
When we ask for what we need we give the other person the opportunity to show up for us (or not). Then we can also choose how to respond and move forward.
Who you were is not who you are or who you are going to be. Another one of those stories from childhood about going to college, having a career, finding a partner and starting a family. Checking off all the boxes for that sense of accomplishment and success. But what happens when you do all of those things and wake up one day only to realize that you aren’t happy?
I spent years of education and tens of thousands of dollars on a career that for me was a square peg in a round hole. I married a wonderful man, but had I been honest with myself all along, I probably shouldn’t have married him. The common denominator in both of those things is awareness. Had I dug in and asked myself questions about what I really wanted from each of those things, I might have made very different choices.
And maybe those things were what I wanted at that point in time, but just like our body regenerates itself every 7-15 years, we can’t expect to be the same person mentally. If we are constantly learning and growing, the idea is that we are working toward our peak potential.
It’s only natural that the things we need and want will change with that. And that’s fantastic. But being aware of that, being honest with yourself about it, and doing what it takes to get there might get a little uncomfortable.
Do you. It’s very easy to get caught up in other people’s expectations of us. Maybe you do want to get married and have the same job for 40 years and raise a family in the suburbs. But maybe, just maybe, that’s just what we have been programmed to think we are “supposed” do for so long.
It’s easy to just turn on the cruise control and roll from one expectation to the next checking the boxes. It’s harder to stop and ask yourself what it is you really want, especially if the answer is going to ruffle some feathers with people like your parents and grandparents and best friends.
In the end, those people should ultimately just want you to be happy, whatever that looks like for you.
“Doing you” ends up becoming its own vetting process for the people that belong in your life because once you start living the life you really want, the people that don’t need to be a part of it will fall away and the ones you need/want will appear.
When I finally realized what I wanted, it looked nothing like my current life. In the past 2.5 years I have relocated, ended my marriage, and shifted careers. I have increased my awareness and am no longer willing to ignore conversations or activities because they make me uncomfortable. Now I do my best to welcome this discomfort because I know that on the other side of that is growth and being one step closer to the next level of my peak potential.
One year later I cannot say that I have learned all of the lessons my marriage and divorce will teach me. I feel like I learn something new about myself in regards to that relationship almost every day.
This also happens to be 3 days past what would have been our 6th wedding anniversary, which I am kindly reminded of each year by our wedding highlight video popping up on Facebook memories. I feel grateful to be able to look at that video, photos or old status updates and feel love and joy and happiness for that time of my life. It helps me see that although towards the end I felt so far from the person who wrote them and the couple we were, it was never a lie, and it certainly wasn’t a failure.