One year ago today, I told my husband that I wanted a divorce. I had countless people tell me how hard this first year would be, and they weren’t kidding. My heart has never hurt so much, and I think I could have raised the level of Lake Travis by a couple of inches with all the tears I have shed.
While I didn’t shy away from my pain and grief, I didn’t deliberately wallow in it either. There was just so, so much of it. I would cry when I woke up, run out of my office in the middle of the day to hug a giant oak tree behind my building and sob, curl up in bed with the cats and scream into my pillow, wake up in the middle of the night with tears rolling down my cheeks. I felt traumatized and vulnerable and withdrew from the world. After the first couple months, it let up a bit, but there were weeks when the tears and the sadness would return, and I would beat myself up all over again, wondering aloud to friends how I could have made such a poor decision, and trying to figure out why I waited so long to leave. Another friend who is splitting up with her husband calls these weeks contraction weeks, as the world shrinks into blackness and grief, but we are birthing new selves instead of babies.
My decision looked somewhat sudden, but I don’t think it was completely unexpected, though it seemed to take him off guard. (In retrospect, my timing could have been better, but I don’t think there’s ever a good time to break it off.) I had been unhappy with our marriage for quite a while. Things had come to a head when he had left town for a 2-month project the previous August, leaving me all the responsibilities of our shared life, an unfinished remodel and an extreme case of sexual frustration (he got distracted the night before he left and we didn’t have sex). We had been together for six years, married for four, and I was looking down the long road of together forever and wondering if the path was worth walking, or if I should take the off-ramp. He didn’t know what he wanted to do with his life, and was making no effort to figure it out. He didn’t want to work, go to school or start a business. He didn’t want to take care of himself, and requests for action were met with…nothing. I realized that I was exhausted from taking care of my boss and keeping his life organized all day long, and then coming home and doing the same for my husband.
(And then there was the whole non-monogamy monkey wrench, but that is a story for another day.)
It started to feel like I was trying to walk down the road and dragging his unconscious body behind me. As I made an assessment of the issues that we had, I realized that a lot of the problems came from the fact that we wanted different things out of life, and that this was the source of many of our power struggles, or that the needs I felt were unfulfilled could not be met by him because of who he was at his core. Friends told me constantly that I couldn’t change him. I know that, I responded, and that’s not the problem. The problem is that he doesn’t want to change himself. He was stuck, unhappy with his own life, and this inertia was happening at my expense. In my mind, marriage is a partnership, and both people need to contribute to it. Without that, it becomes a gargantuan chore.
It’s entirely possible that I will be single for the rest of my life – there’s no shortage of single, independent middle-aged women out there that men seem to have no interest in. I am fortunate in that I had spent many years on my own, and enjoy my own company, so the shock of suddenly living alone wasn’t so shocking. (We had actually transitioned from living in separate houses to living together a couple of years before, and I was overjoyed to have my space back.) Saturday nights are the worst; I can usually find something to do during the week, but weekend nights, not so much. My world dwindled away to nothing but work and home, and it’s just now started to open up again. But being able to keep up with my busy life without having to take care of someone else is a godsend. I feel like I gave so much of myself away, and lost so much of myself in this relationship. It’s nice to be getting those parts of myself back, and regaining my energy, my center, my equilibrium and my essence.
I still see him or talk to him occasionally. He would like to remain friends, but I see little reason to keep him in my life. personal cloud . He moved in with his girlfriend before we were even divorced, and as near as I can tell, he has continued with the pattern of doing nothing. He would like me to keep him informed about the lives of people he knew through me, but it’s no longer my job to do so – if it’s important to him, he can keep up with them on his own. He has little to add to the conversation: no interests, no hobbies, no passions. What is there to talk about now that we don’t share a life? He’s a sweet man, with a huge heart, and I hope he finds his way in the world. But it’s no longer my job to help him do so, or to keep him entertained and amused while he sits around (they make TV’s for that).
Do I regret marrying? Some days, very much so. Like so many women, I wanted that walk down the aisle, and the beautiful dress and the big party. I had bought into the romantic fantasy of happily ever after. And so in the end, I just have to take the lessons I’ve learned, and write another fairy tale…one that doesn’t involve being rescued by a handsome prince.