It happened one night when I wasn’t looking. Perhaps somewhere between putting the children to bed, turning off the lights, or scooping up his dirty clothes from the floor. I don’t know.
He was just sitting there. On the edge of the bed. Watching me, watch him. Before the monotone muddle of his voice broke into my thoughts with such sledgehammer words I was left both stunned and momentarily breathless.
“I want a divorce.”
“What about our lives?” I pleaded, I wailed, instantly numb and drunk with despair. “Our children? And that vow to love, honor, and protect me in sickness and in health till death do us part? Any of that ring a bell?”
“Fuck you!” I threw back, no longer numb. The tangent now up and running as I continued to blast into him.
His eyes never left the floor. Not once. How could they? Weighted down with all that shame, that guilt that had been brewing like a storm. Under different circumstances my heart would have reached out to his. But not now. Not for this. For once, I was incapable of putting his suffering ahead of my own, because I was too enveloped in something far greater. The wreckage of a life I believed had been built upon sacrifices and commitments, and was now crumbling into ruins around me.
Enraged and trembling before him, if I had a knife I would have used the damn thing. I would have thrust it into his flesh as far as it would go until I’d exposed him for the fraud he was. But I didn’t. I couldn’t for no other reason than my body betrayed me when I needed a show of strength the most. And cried instead.
The sigh in his voice was audible, was grating. “What do you want me to say?”
“I want you to say you made a mistake. I want you to say we’ll work it out. That’s what I want you to say.”
“No. We’ve been down that road before. And too many times. No more. I’m tired. Of you, of the screaming, the crying, no sex, the endless nights we go round and round with no possible resolution in sight. It’s not the life I wanted. Nor I imagine … do you. The simple fact is things have changed. We’ve changed. We’ve drifted so far apart, and the reasons that had once bound us together, somehow have fallen so far by the wayside I can’t even remember them anymore. Can you?”
For some of us, many of us, it’s hard to admit when you’ve fallen short of accomplishing the one thing you’ve pinned all your hopes and dreams on. Especially when it all began with so much love and infinite possibility.
What happened to us? Where did it all go wrong? Questions every couple asks in retrospect. I was no exception.
I believe the breakdown in our relationships happen when you’re not paying attention to all the things you need to be paying attention to. The respect for each other. The liking of each other. The honest desire to keep the marriage fulfilled and growing in ways that remind you why you’re together. And without those components constantly factoring in or even realizing, bitterness shows up at your door. You allow it into your life where it becomes your daily companion. Burrowing like a cancerous disease into your spiritual fiber day after day, year after year, simply because it’s easier than the alternative.
There are so many valid reasons why you stay put when things become difficult. Or even recognizably unsalvageable. The children, if there are any. The money. He might make more than you. You might not be working at all and a divorce would force you to move, to get a job, or a better job at a time when jobs are scarce, changing your financial picture entirely. The dating thing. The idea of getting back out there especially when after you believed that world was far behind you, is a compelling one. You’ve aged, your body might not be in the best shape, you’re tired all the time, and after years of confidence bashing, seeing what happens to friends after a divorce, being cast off, forced on an excruciating whirlwind of Internet coffee dates, who in their bloody right mind would want that horror?
‘Better the devil you know.’
This was my daily mantra. Every time he would shut me out. When I found myself at the brink, emotionally bankrupt with nowhere else to turn. Feeling like a leaf lost in the wind.
But if that doesn’t work, that and professional counseling, what do you do then? How long do you continue tormenting yourself and those around you when you know the inevitable … is inevitable?
Sometimes the things you fear the most, the obvious things that stare you right in the face, usually end up being the things that hurt you the least.
This bite-size Lauren life-ism is something I pull out of my pocket when the occasion calls for it. And although it seems profoundly simple when held against life’s normal crap that falls into your lap, oddly I didn’t fully grasp its significance until I had sunk so low after years and years of denial that I had absolutely no choice but to see my reality for what it was. Then and only then could I finally accept the fact that I was definitely at the wrong party and you know maybe this marriage thing isn’t for everyone.
Regardless of what society tells us.
Look at poor Bridget Jones. The epitome of a woman on a mission. That scene in the movie (the first one) where she’s sitting at the dinner table surrounded by nothing but couples and one dickhead guy asks her: “So Bridge, why do you think there are so many unmarried women these days?” And in true Bridget Jones manner she smiles and replies, straight forward, “Oh I don’t know. I suppose it could be because beneath our clothes our bodies are completely covered with scales.”
Besides filling up her journal with all sorts of nonsensical crap, what does radiate throughout is a person who wants what everyone else wants. To not stick out like a sore thumb and find Mr. Wonderful. But the bottom line is even if you do find your special person and the bluebird of happiness lands on your shoulder, that piece of paper does not represent any sort of commitment or guarantee. You do. And what you bring to the table.
In a few months my parents will be celebrating their sixty-ninth wedding anniversary. Wow. Such an amazing milestone. To think some people actually do spend their whole lives together. Side-by-side mastering those insurmountable challenges. More than anything I wished we could have worked through the mess. But we didn’t. The truth was after eleven years, despite the trying, the love, we didn’t belong together. He was steak and potatoes, I was champagne and a vegetarian. We lacked the critical things that make two people fundamentally compatible: similar personalities and similar perspectives on life. And nothing we could have done or said to each other would ever fudge over something as decisive as that.
“Some of the biggest challenges in relationships come from the fact that most people enter a relationship in order to get something: they’re trying to find someone who’s going to make them feel good. In reality, the only way a relationship will last is if you see your relationship as a place that you go to give, and not a place that you go to take.” ― Tony Robbins
When a relationship dies, you can’t help but feel like you’ve failed somewhere. It’s natural. But you shouldn’t see it that way, rather take it as an opportunity to grow. I understand this seems like a mind-boggling thing to do — especially when you’re in the thick of it — yet I’m firmly convinced once a breath comes your way, like the loss of a loved one, it’s imperative to allow yourself the time to grieve for it, see your part in it, own the mistakes, then pick up the pieces and move on. This is the process. The soulful metamorphosis of a butterfly breaking free.
The day he walked out of my life, I was beyond petrified. Nights after the children went to sleep, I’d curl up on the floor inside my closet and cry until I was bone dry. I wasn’t sure how I would survive. If I could survive. The future didn’t exist for me. Facing so many uncertainties with two young children glued to my side, I only knew I had to. That and nothing else. So I put one foot in front of the other, taking any job I could, forging through eleven more years mired in legal battle after legal battle (that in itself is a novel), until slowly, very slowly I found myself again.
Over the years I’ve often thought that as wonderful as the concept of marriage seems, I’m more than okay skipping that whole shebang. I will though continue in my quest for a healthy relationship where deep sexy kisses, happy meals and love are the norm. Being the eternal optimist that I am.
But if I don’t find it …
Well, let me just say that through all my stumbling and picking myself back up, I’ve learned that the most important relationship I’ll ever have, is with myself. That is the one that rightfully defines me. And at this stage of the age game, like so many of us who have become set in our ways, have discovered passions you didn’t feel ourselves capable of, I’m finally at that place in the road where I love my life, love who I am (wobbly bits and all).
Just the way I am. ❤