‘Til death — or disillusionment — do us part?

Yesterday I stumbled upon an article that I absolutely love.

The title, “I Didn’t Quit My Marriage. I Survived It.” caught my eye right away. While at first it seemed either a tad dramatic or possibly about domestic abuse, as I began to read it, I found it was neither. Rather, it reflected almost exactly how I feel about my own previous marriage, minus all the stuff about children, as I do not have any. The best part about it, though, was that it very accurately conveyed a lot of how I feel, and even though the author does have children, she was able to make a lot of points that still work even though I don’t.

You can read it by clicking the link above, but I am also going to paste it here with my own commentary.

With the exception of my photo caption*, italic text is from the article and regular text is mine.

I recently read a post by the talented Elizabeth Gilbert of “Eat, Pray, Love” fame. She was offering support to a friend who was struggling through a divorce while at the same time publishing a book about marriage.

Her post was filled with such warmth and understanding and had a strong message of encouragement for women going through a divorce.

 

The support offered called to mind all of the people who reached out to me when they realized that I was getting a divorce. I was private about my divorce during the process. I quietly removed my relationship status on Facebook and did not offer a replacement or post publicly about it.

I relocated my children and never mentioned my now-ex again.

When the situation became apparent, I received an outpouring of love and support, which I will forever be grateful to have received.

However, I often hear talk of how people “just give up” on their marriages. While there are those who treat marriage and divorce casually, I would say that most of us went into our marriages filled with hope and ideas of forever.

Every woman I know who is now divorced fought like hell to save her marriage—before finally deciding to save herself instead.

Absolutely. I do not take marriage lightly. I do not think many people say yes to a proposal, plan a wedding and take vows, thinking “eh… maybe, maybe not!” Certainly not me. I even wrote my own vows, so I took them very seriously. As things with my marriage began to unravel, I often referred back to those vows — mine and his — which I had saved, often even carrying them around with me as a source of inspiration and strength to keep pressing on, believing we could get through this and come out on the other side, together.

Wed

*Trust me — this is not the face of someone who thinks they’ll be filing for divorce in 4 short years.

It takes two, though. Oftentimes, I felt like I was the only one fighting for the marriage. Or at least, the only one trying to meet halfway. This came down to some major personality clashes: extrovert  (me) versus introvert (him); emotional (me) versus practical (him); romantic (me) versus… I don’t even know.

We both had problems, things to work on (who doesn’t?!), but I felt I was the only one who was willing to at least admit my faults to be addressed. Everything was about me and what I was doing wrong and needed to change. It was exhausting. One person cannot possibly do ALL of the work to make a relationship work. It was like talking to a wall. In the end, it became extremely unhealthy, in which I almost felt like the child to a parent, constantly disappointing, constantly being lectured. And in turn, I began to act somewhat like a child rebelling against an overbearing parent — becoming increasingly resentful, pulling away and even sometimes doing things I wouldn’t normally even do because of the constant pressure.

At a certain point, we realize that the ship is sinking, and so many of us have children who need rescuing. So, yes, we get off the damn ship and start looking for a lifeboat—a whole new life.

We didn’t give up.

We saved ourselves, saved our children.

We didn’t quit our marriages; we survived them.

When we realize that we can’t single-handedly make a relationship with another person work, we have to choose ourselves. We begin to hear our hearts screaming for us to get out. We begin to honor our intuition, which tells us that this situation isn’t healthy for us, that we must do whatever it takes to make our lives better. We figure out that we cannot save our partner, that they are no longer our partners when they choose not to fight for the relationship.

We realize the relationship is over already, and we begin to take the steps to make that final.

The thing is, I didn’t even pull the trigger on ending the relationship. As I will reference a bit later**, a big life event in part kept me from even considering walking out at the time. It seemed to me like that would be abandonment, giving up. Heartless.

But even though I didn’t make the call, as I stated above, I began to pull away. As my ex became increasingly introverted and depressed, sometimes not leaving the house or putting on real clothes other than PJs (he worked from home) for days at a time, I started going out with my friends solo more and more often. It was like we started leading separate lives… and his life was largely on the internet. He was a gamer.

The depression I did understand and tried to address. I encouraged him to get counseling. I did help him to find a support group, and I read books on how to help loved ones cope with loss.** Looking back, sure, maybe I didn’t quite grasp the extent of his sorrow, his heartache. Maybe I could of been more supportive. But I know for damn sure that I tried. I wanted our life to continue together, not come to a halt. I wanted us to be happy, but I couldn’t take away the pain and fix it.

So, to explain further without going into details, a few years into our marriage we had what I like to refer to as a **”Traumatic Life Event” — in our case, a major death in his family, after which you are never the same. When these things happen, it shakes people to their core, and when it comes to couples, especially “newer” ones, it seems you either grow together and weather the storm, or you drift apart. And you can see where it’s going in our case.

So like I said, I continued to be social, and he began to go deeper and deeper into his online world. He had online “friends” that he talked to every day. Sometimes he had meetings about various games, meetings that would take priority over things that were going on in what I considered the “real world.” We were completely losing touch with each other, and it seemed as the days passed we had less and less in common. I began to wonder what I had ever seen in him as a potential life partner. Clearly, we were completely different people. I wasn’t sure that I even liked him anymore.

It was an awful feeling. And of course, I felt guilty. I wondered if I had changed in my feelings and this was my fault — maybe he’d been like this the whole time and I was just blind to it, focusing on the wrong things. I can say that I know I did change a bit from our years in Madison. I met people and learned about things and discovered things and began to realize more about who I really was and what my priorities were — and they increasingly were not in line with his. So it certainly was my fault, too, that we grew apart.

Still, I wasn’t just going to give up and walk away. Like I said, we took vows. I didn’t enter into this like any other past relationship. This was a marriage. I meant what I said. I was just hoping against hope, it would get better.

But it only got worse, culminating in him finally pulling the plug himself, telling me he wanted to go to California, and eventually moving there. The day it happened, I felt so many emotions — shock, first and foremost, but also anger, shame, regret, sadness and yes, relief. I was relieved on some level. I had fallen out of love with him, and now I could finally admit that to myself and start the healing process and move on. But I was indignant and hurt of course, feeling like I was the only one who tried. Feeling betrayed that despite all my misgivings, I’d stuck around, trying, and now he was just going to walk away. But one of us had to, and as someone who didn’t take all that many leaps that I knew of, I give him some credit for taking that one. It was the right thing to do for both of us.

We take the steps toward divorce, no matter our circumstances, no matter how difficult it will be to live without this relationship or the financial support of being coupled. We leave no matter how counterintuitive it is to walk away from something in which we’ve invested so much of our lives. We leave, all the while grieving what our children will have to experience as the children of divorced parents.

This isn’t a matter of giving up or quitting. This is a matter of accepting things as they are and choosing to live the best life that we can.

Exactly. We just weren’t right for each other, at least not anymore. We’d grown apart. Why stick it out until the bitter end when you could be so, so much happier, be yourself, with someone else? I know there are people who would argue against that. I know no relationship is easy, that there are ups and downs. But I can say with absolute certainty that he and I do not belong together. We were the wrong fit. We deserve to be happy, and in our case, we were happier calling it quits.

I’ve found that many of us come out of these trials only to be painted as the villains. We become the bad guys in another’s story, because that is so much easier. And when we go through a divorce, we often lose the support of people we had long considered family as they choose to believe this story.

Divorce isn’t easy, no matter how it may seem from the outside. It changes us in so many ways, and it often makes it more difficult to trust others. It’s important to support one another through these difficult times.

The support we need is often just a listening ear.

We don’t need unsolicited advice or the secret to how your marriage has worked. We don’t need judgment or commentary about how easily people leave their marriages these days. We don’t even need encouragement about our future relationship prospects at this point. We need our support system to stand strong with us through the process.

In my case, I wasn’t the “villain” to the bulk of people because I didn’t call it. Particularly my friends and family who knew I’d been unhappy but unwilling to give up were, like me, angry when he decided to get out. But that was only temporary for most, as it was what was best for everyone. There are some people who choose to hold on to anger over it, and I always encourage them not to. I’m much happier now. He did the right thing for us, even if he did it in somewhat of a nutty manner. It was a means to an end that needed to come.

I was deeply private about my divorce when I went through it. No one can completely understand a relationship from the outside, and I’ve been mindful of respecting the relationship between my ex and our children. I share the story of my journey through—and coming out the other side—in hopes of helping others hold on the difficult days that seem impossible to manage.

If I can offer a lifeline to someone who feels like they’re going down with the ship, then I’ve turned my struggle into something strong and beautiful.

Divorce has been transformative for me. It’s been the catalyst for many new life choices. I’ve been able to dream again and create the kind of life with my children that I’ve always wanted. It’s allowed me to be strong, and perhaps more authentic than I’ve ever been. Sure, I lost my ability to tolerate any level of bullsh*t, but in losing that particular filter, I’ve been able to be real and raw about my struggles, which has allowed me to build closer relationships with the people I love.

I processed all of the old stories I’ve always relied on to define me, and began to create a new life story for myself.

I’ve started unpacking my baggage and traveling a hell of a lot lighter, endlessly manifesting joy and turning my pain into beauty.

We can allow our struggles to define us or transform us, and in the difficult process of simply bearing up under them, it’s essential that we feel love and support around us. In the end, we did whatever it took to save ourselves when we could no longer save our relationship.

When I see another man or woman struggling through that process, I often offer a kind word and a listening ear, knowing that they would certainly rather have the happy marriage with the promise of forever than the divorce court and legal fees and heartache of a dissolving union.

We’re not giving up; we’re choosing to live the best lives we can under challenging circumstances.

We’re not quitting; we’re choosing to survive, to thrive and to create joyful lives.

Yes. I can say that if it weren’t for this relationship, it’s not that likely I would have ended up in Madison. It’s true that I never really planned to stay in DC long-term — it’s way too expensive for a journalist — but I’m not sure where I would be today. I certainly don’t think I would have ever met Luke, and now that I know Luke, I can’t imagine life without him. I feel he is my person. It’s somewhat of a messy storyline to be married and then divorced in order to meet your person, but it’s my storyline, and it has a happy ending.

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