Updated: Aug 18, 2020
Making the decision to end your marriage will be one of the biggest stressors and turning points in your life. Choosing to move on with your life is a gift to yourself, albeit with many strings attached.
I sat in my daughter's bed and sobbed as she slept. For the last several weeks I had woken to fierce anxiety, my heart sunken, my stomach like a bottomless pit. I knew this feeling. It was like a movie with a sad ending, a friend you don't like coming over to visit. I had fallen out of love and it was time to let go.
I tried to hide my feelings, trying to convince myself I needed to try harder. I'd given it all though, I was drowning. If I didn't swim to the shore he would cling harder, taking what little I had left until he pulled me down with him. He sat playing video games, not noticing I'd entered the media room. "I need to talk to you," I said, and not even looking towards me, he asked if it could wait. This only reinforced my decision.
Making the decision to divorce is awful. Nobody walks down the isle thinking it will be over a few years later. Yet here I was, again.
Making the decision to leave seemed easy compared to the months that followed, but in this post I'll share what led me to the decision to end a marriage that for those outside seemed ok.
Stopped feeling - We had just built our dream home. For almost a year, I was consumed with the details of picking the perfect backsplash tile and counter tops. The house was gorgeous. I felt I'd achieved the American dream. On a hot summer day, I hosted a brunch with friends. I made a beautiful and bountiful spread of sweet and savory delights. We drank mimosas and jumped in the pool. A few days later, one of my guests asked me if I was happy. Seemed like a simple enough question, and I automatically answered, "of course!" As I reflected on the conversation, I knew I was lying to myself. The scariest part is that I'd stopped feeling. I went through the motions of daily life - working and raising a family, to even notice I never looked at myself in the mirror. I didn't stop and check in to see how I was feeling - and that needed to end. I needed to feel alive, even if all I could feel at the moment was hurt.
Setting an example - I was taught to stick things out. I was raised in a traditional Catholic family where marriage was meant to last a lifetime. Yet here I was, contemplating ending a second marriage. This was different from my first in that now there was a child who'd suffer the consequences. So I stayed, thinking it was better for my daughter. I later had a conversation with a friend who spoke about a couple she knew, who were divorcing after 20 years. It turned out they stayed together for their daughter. They slept in separate beds for more than 10 years, and had nothing in common or shared interests. They were basically roommates who didn't really get along. I thought about my child and wondered if I wanted her to grow up thinking marriage was supposed to feel lonely, to lack respect and partnership. That's when I decided it was better for her to see me alone and happy, than with a partner and unhappy.
Defining my happiness - Going back to the question my friend asked, was I happy? What would make me happy? I didn't even know. Thus, I needed to figure it out. I knew happiness came from within, and so I set out on a journey to define what happiness meant. It was scary and unnerving that for the first time in my life, I didn't really have a plan. All I knew is that I needed to breathe and take a step.
Built my support system- I surrounded myself with people who loved me unconditionally, people who championed me. When you face breaking up with your life partner, it will drain you physically, emotionally, mentally and spiritually. This is not the time to listen to "devil's advocates" - even if you've behaved in a way which led to the break-up. As hard as it was, I cut ties with people who were adding to my stress or made me feel bad about myself.
Ironically, not once during or after the divorce process have I looked back thinking I made a mistake. For once my head and my heart were aligned. If you are struggling with the decision to stay or go, listen to your heart. Pay attention to how you feel when you are with your partner, and ask yourself if you are happy.