Purely my story. I’m no expert but can share my insights, journey and wisdom.
A friend asked me recently, how do you know when you are ready to leave? How do you know when your marriage has ended? I would never assume to know all the intricacies of someone else’s relationship nor would I feel that it was my place to tell someone whether they should stay or go! What I can do is listen and share my story and that may or may not help someone else.
Upon reflection of my marriage, for a good few years we were more like 2 friends sharing a house and a family. We still ate together, did things together, were raising our now young adult kids, communicated and had a laugh. And there was love there, of course there was love but it wasn’t the love needed to sustain the passionate, romantic relationship that I wanted. We had changed, we had most definitely changed. The problems that arose along the way were not addressed properly and in hindsight we should have been far more open and honest, because by keeping things to ourselves they fester. I have never been one for confrontation so I retreated into myself, where I stayed for several years.
I guess the reality is, who we were changed and what we wanted changed and whilst change and growth is a necessity in life and relationships, we grew apart and wanted different things. When you don’t properly deal with issues when they arise or you’re not being honest with yourself or your partner for whatever reason, you are sadly on a downward spiral and sometimes you do not even notice. I felt an undercurrent of tension and I felt lost, as maybe he did also.
We had been together 28 years when we separated, over half our lives and there’s a hell of a lot of emotion and history tied up in there. In hindsight we probably should have separated earlier but it’s such a difficult thing, but by hanging on, I feel the end result was worse. At best we were friends/companions/family at worst we had grown into strangers. You evolve throughout your life and your relationship and whilst you hope that you both move in the same direction, often times you don’t. Of course you don’t want to admit that so, one or both of you does whatever is necessary to please the other, really in many ways you are just pretending but again you don’t seem to realise you are doing that. You think that’s how it works, doing things that will seemingly keep the other person happy, or keep the peace, not realising all this time we are responsible for our own happiness.
I know there are a lot of people who are of the belief that if you have made vows to someone you stay but I’m sorry and this maybe an unpopular opinion, if you cannot see yourself growing with that person, or if the passion or chemistry is gone, go and grow yourself so you find your own internal happiness. This allows you and them to ultimately be happier elsewhere. The people we are in our 20’s are different to who we are in our 30’s, 40’s, 50’s and so on. Relationships are hardwork at times and again this may be unpopular but not all relationships can be fixed and the reality is not all are meant to last. I think being in a 28yr relationship gives me some wisdom and I could have most definitely stayed but I wanted more for myself and more from life. Yes it’s bloody hard to end but it would have been harder staying in the long-run and very unfair on everyone.
For me I feel it was a period of years where I just went through the motions. Don’t get me wrong I did express things but nothing changed. I no longer felt that I was in an environment where I could grow, heal and flourish, which I needed to do to find my own happiness. Once I made the decision there really was no going back. It was a few years of wrestling how I felt and in many ways grieving the end before it had actually ended. Truthfully I think I had left mentally long before I left physically so by the time I did actually leave, I had processed many of the emotions. I think as women this is what we do.
Everyone is different and everyone’s relationship is different but I am of the belief there are a few fundamental things that are required and these are the things I have learnt. They are obvious yes but if we are completely honest with ourselves most don’t do wholeheartedly. Communication- we think we communicate because we talk but do we really communicate? Much of the time it’s superficial or related to the kids, family, house, etc. Do we really express our feelings in all their rawness? Are we completely vulnerable? Are we comfortable sharing the dark parts of ourselves, or are we scared that will upset them, anger them or have them judge us? Are we unafraid to express all our wants and desires?
If we hide parts of ourselves why do we do that? Is there still chemistry, like real energy and chemistry? Do we still have excitement and passion? Yep this will ebb and flow but if it’s not there overall then how long has it been missing and how long do we continue? Have we pulled off our mask and stared ourselves down in the mirror demanding our own truth? Can we say in blunt honesty that this is where we want to be? When I finally did this because I was ready to hear my truth, I realised I had some significant changes to make. I was also of the belief that it would be unfair to stay and stop my husband from finding his potential happiness. Sadly some relationships just run their course because the universe has a far greater plan for us.
Not everyone has the same wants and some people are more than happy with companionship/friendship/family. Many people with health issues or older people have this type of relationship and that’s beautiful but for me I want it all and my decision was based on this. What’s important to me will be less important for someone else and vice versa but it’s about being true to ourselves and those in our life. If we deny what’s important to us as individuals, we do ourselves the greatest disservice. If we hide or mask who we truly are and what our wants and desires are we are hurting ourselves and eventually everyone around us. Nobody can make the choice for anyone else as we each have our own journey to travel. Life is short and I wanted to be somewhere I can continue to grow.
My decision was the best for me and whilst it was hard, sad and there was pain, hurt and fear I couldn’t be somewhere that my mind, heart and soul were no longer in sync. I couldn’t stay just for financial reasons or the kids because they need and deserve me at my best. If I knew I was no longer 120% committed than it was unfair on both of us. The ego in me is what held me there longer than I should have stayed and the spirit in me is what finally woke me up.
So that is my story and all I can say is give yourself space and time to ascertain what it is you really want. It’s hard to make decisions or get clarity when you are in the middle of your own storm and again sometimes you do not even realise you are in a storm. So often times on the surface everything seems fine, great even. To everyone on the outside looking in, we had a great marriage and others aspired to be us. You continue on your merry way and it takes a lot of soul searching to unmask what it is you really want. If you are distracted you need quiet and peace to listen to your heart and soul. I have mentioned this before and it’s so true, one of the hardest things you’ll deal with is the internal battle of where you think you should be versus where you really want to be.
Some family and friends will want to give advice, some will decide to take sides but ultimately those who really care will just be there, no judgement. What I have learnt is you cannot let others dictate what is best for you and whilst you can listen to what others say, it’s your life to live the best way you can. Societal and family pressure has seen many a person stay somewhere they shouldn’t and that’s really sad. Resentment, bitterness and regret can eat you alive and we’ve all seen people become like this. I was not going to be one of them!!
“The adults in us will tell you to stop looking for that spark. To settle for stability and companionship. But I couldn’t sit next to someone at the dinner table for the rest of my life talking just about my day, or general stuff. There needs to be unsaid communication. The sarcasm that doesn’t go unnoticed. The teasing that doesn’t stop. The glances that set your soul on fire. That chemistry, passion and energy that you can’t find from just a good resume.”
Every story has an end, but every ending is a new beginning, regardless of how painful that ending is. Love yourself enough to make the best decision for you and that will benefit everyone in your life. No it’s not easy but nothing extraordinary ever is.