This past weekend, I went to see the acclaimed movie “A Marriage Story”, which , was quoted from cast member Adam Driver as a “Love Story About Divorce”. A few weeks after my own divorce finalized, I suspected that I was in for a weep fest. Thankfully my awesome metamour knew that all too well and stocked up on napkins.
This movie did not disappoint. I felt like I watched my own journey played out on screen. I had never cried that much from a movie before. Ever. That profound pouring of emotion came from remembering the pain, recognizing the elements of trying to let go and the hopefulness of a future that I am currently already living.
To be honest – I was already ready to kick off another blog post about something more inline with my usual stuff. Relationship anarchy, non monogamy, etc. However, I had to stop instead and get this out before I shift my focus again to the now. There were so many things I learned at the end of a decade long partnership that ties in so much to how I feel about societal messaging on relationships. I need to share some pivotal thoughts that maybe worthwhile to anyone else going through the same thing.
We navigate in a society that perpetuates the notion that people are easily giving up on relationships for something better; that no one is willing to put in the work into relationships to make them work.
Longevity is the pedestal to aim for, the perceived sign that a relationship is successful and strong.
Relationships that end by choice are a “failure”.
Messages like this contribute to a shitload of guilt and have us staying in partnerships way past their evident expiration date.
Deciding that a relationship has reached it’s endpoint is NOT easy. Unravelling a relationship is NOT easy.
I felt so guilty wanting to let go that it took half a year to come to that point where I knew it needed to happen. I didn’t want to see him hurt at my doing so I peeled off the bandaid slowly. Looking back, that caused much more pain than I had tried to avoid doing.
Listen, coming to the decision to end it – was one of the hardest decisions I ever had to make. This was the father of my kids, and my husband of 10 years. I spent nights crying with the anxiety that I was torn between what I knew I needed for my happiness and the guilt that I was “giving up”.
Even more so, the next few years of navigating divorcing, trying to make ends meet as a solo parent financially, custody, and those grieving feelings was not the easy route. BY FAR.
These were the hardest years.
They led me here. Leading an authentic life. Having a routine that I’m settled in and engaging in love and life on my terms. Instead of pouring in my effort and labour into a relationship that had reached its natural end, I directed it towards letting go of what was and building a life for me. Letting go was a gift to us both, while then it was hard to see it that way, it is now with a different lens.
I didn’t quit my marriage. I didn’t give up. By staying, that would have meant sacrificing my own growth and worth for the sake of someone else. By staying, I would have failed myself. Everyone in a relationship are still individuals who happen to be building something together.
You can still love someone for who they are and at the same time, know that being together, it just doesn’t fit. I know I will always love him. I didn’t spend that long of a time out of pure obligation. I remember the reasons we fell in love, I remember how I adored him and valued the space and times we shared together. But I also saw how we began to grow differently and how we responded to this led to our suffering. We were fighting to hang on to something that wasn’t the same as it was before and never was going to be. I knew I had to let go.
I see now how the fighting to hang on was so entwined with societal messaging. Projection of guilt and fear from years of internalized messages of fighting for and working hard to make a marriage work.
It seems so clear now. Even years later, how much of a role that played. Bring in worries of what friends and family might think and it adds to the despair.
I wonder if I would have done anything differently given the chance to go back, with the perspective I have now. I think – no, I know – I wouldn’t. Looking back at how that transpired has given the gift of knowledge of how to conduct my relationships going forward. Making those mistakes, seeing those fears and feelings of guilt as they are with my eyes now means that I can approach transitioning relationships in a different way. There is opportunity to have relationships part ways in terms in such a way that everyone involved is the same or better than when they came into the relationship. That is my goal.
I remember some of the things I asked myself then which ultimately began the road to finalizing that end. I’d like to share those:
Why Are We Struggling?
My ex husband and I separated for ½ year in 2014 and came together again epically in a new honeymoon phase. Without really addressing we split in the first place, we rode on the wings of a relationship reboot lasted for a short while before we were up against the same challenges.
We decided about maybe splitting ways again, and lo and behold we jumped on another “we are doing great” wave. It only took a few months before the same things cropped up again. They weren’t things that could necessarily be fixed – we were growing in different ways yet felt if we just kept up with this reboots, it would keep us going.
After that essentially I began to withdraw on different levels and couldn’t bring myself to do the final “this is it”, until I knew, I had to.
I knew it was the end when it was the same reasoning for 2 years yet neither of us could bring ourselves to finally cut it loose. The guilt and internalized belief of needing to work on a marriage no matter what made it last much longer than it should have.
What Am I Fighting For?
I can’t speak for him, but for myself, I think it was an avoidance of being the villain and causing pain. I wanted to make things work so I wouldn’t feel that I was hurting someone. I am a recovering people pleaser so I was all about ensuring that others were happier at my expense.
That was no different here. I struggled to find a way to be happy myself without hurting someone else. I then knew that no matter what, by letting go, it was going to hurt him. Unavoidable.
I risked being seen as the person giving up. I risked being labeled the quitter. But had to for my own well being.
Why Am I Here – Does this Spark Joy?
Ok, yes, the whole spark joy will have folks snickering at the cheesiness but in this case, there is a lot of merit to say that if you can’t hold a relationship close to you and say it sparks joy, whatever are you there for?
Sure, relationships aren’t meant to be 24/7 joy machines but if you are spending much more time trying to work on your relationships than the effortless joy that comes with being with someone, it begs to ask yourself what keeps you there? Obligation? Guilt?
I definitely wasn’t in a spark joy mode. It was fingers in a dam.
Do I Like Who I Am In this Relationship?
A big a ha moment for me as well was when I realized that I didn’t like the person I was in this relationship nearing its end. It started bringing out the worst in me and I felt it was more draining than enriching.
I began experiencing feelings of resentment and I was in a state of anger a lot. This wasn’t the person I wanted to be and I wanted to be in a relationship where I felt my best. Disagreements and clashes happen, but overall, I wanted to be at my best to navigate whatever came my way.
I wanted to feel appreciated for who I was for all the quirks that came with it. I wanted to have relationships where I could be free as I was and loved for who I was in all the complexities. Sometimes, though, when we are with someone for a long time, it clashes with how each person grows. We may see that that who we are now is no longer valued/appreciated by those we love and vice versa.
What is the Worst Case Scenario If It Ends?
For many folks, hanging on much longer than one should, stems from fear and not wanting to experience loss. I wonder how much it’s about losing the person themselves or just being alone. Results may vary, I’m sure.
This one helped in so many ways and it’s something that I encourage anyone to do even if you are in a blissful , everything is great relationship.
What is the worst that could happen, if this ended?
I contemplated this by playing it out. It would mean having that hard conversation, seeing someone I love be hurt immensely, doing an incredible amount of work to de-tangle finances, living space, kid’s schedule. It would mean I would having a single income to support myself and my kids. It would mean changing a work schedule to accommodate when the kids are with me.
It would mean getting a divorce at some point and all the costs involved with that.
If that’s the “worst”, that’s workable. Hard ? Yes? Stressed? Yes!! But if the worst part is just logistical unravelling and there is a point where it levels out, would it be worth it if it meant:
By staying, it would mean I’d avoid the unravelling of every day entanglements, but would living a life for someone else. It would be about suppressing who I was and what I could give for the sake of making it “work”.
So, with that in mind, I realized that either I can put in the labour to get myself to a place of peace, or lose myself to avoid the labour.
If holding on causes more pain the pain you go through to let go, the answer seems clear.
This is only my story and I’m sure everyone out there will work through transitions or hanging on to relationships using whatever tools they believe works best for them. This is what I learned and in the past 3 years post marriage, they have helped me approach relationships and transitioning relationships more healthily. Granted , I still mess up and I’m still learning new ways to try to be better. Life is a journey of learning that never ends.
I would like to leave you all with this though as something I firmly believe. It’s not a failure to setting someone you love free. It’s recognizing that while you can love someone for who they are, it’s an act of kindness to let them be that person without you if it means you both can find peace. Love isn’t enough and that’s OK. Let’s let go of the notion of victims/villains, failure/success, longevity and rather grasp on to whether the connections we make, make us feel alive and enriched. For however long that may be.