Sometimes, it’s hard to tell how damaged something is until it actually breaks. For years, my husband and I went along doing our day-to-day routines–the kind that involved kids and work and grocery shopping and did not involve kissing or cuddling or sex. I thought that was normal, sort of. I thought it was the result of nearly seven years of parenting a challenging kid and the on-guard-at-all-times focus that comes with trying to ensure his perpetual state of high energy didn’t result in serious injury to his baby brother.
I thought it was the after-effects of severe postpartum depression and the struggle of being a highly introverted mother with a lifestyle that doesn’t accommodate that personality type. I thought it was typical not to really feel all that turned on by the person you’ve been looking at in all states for the past 17 years.
I thought it was pretty normal, but I didn’t think it was OK. It was dissatisfying. I often wondered if I would spend the rest of my life married to someone I really didn’t have any interest in having sex with anymore. I sometimes wondered if I’d be better off on my own. Then something happened and things blew up and I heard, “I want to separate.” Despite the boredom, the dissatisfaction and the overwhelm, I was devastated. I was angry. And I was angry some more.
But I knew it wasn’t worth fighting. I knew, after many conversations, that he didn’t have what it would take to get things back on track, and I knew I didn’t have it in me to try only to be disappointed once more by who he is and what he brings (or doesn’t) to our marriage. I wasn’t even sure I wanted to try.
I’m still struggling with all that has happened a daily basis. I’ve gone through the five stages of grief, which also quite perfectly morph into the five stages of divorce. The only element the two don’t share is shame. Shame is not a helpful emotion, but it’s very real when your relationship and family are falling apart.
As soon as the crack in my marriage broke wide open and became a chasm, light flooded in and illuminated all the things that were so very wrong with my marriage for me. We were not in a rut or a tough phase; we were fundamentally not taking care of our marriage or each other. We were so distant from each other that we couldn’t even see each other well enough to see what was wrong.
For a long time, I thought we were good friends but not great lovers. I still thought we were partners. But wrapped up in my own busy-ness and exhaustion and ongoing mental health challenges, I had withdrawn completely. He had turned to someone else to share his innermost thoughts and feelings, and in doing so, developed the kind of relationship with her that he hadn’t for a long time nurtured with me.
We weren’t lovers, and it turns out we weren’t partners either. That was a distressing realization, and as this has begun to unfold, I am further disappointed at our lack of ability to even be friends. We’re still (for who knows how long) in the same house, and we are tiptoeing around each other and being mad and disappointed. We have to find a way to at least be constructive, but for now we’re still cataloging all the broken pieces.
As I navigate this path, I realize we don’t talk enough about how hard it is to be newly separated and having to deal with all the things that come with that unexpected turn in life’s road.
So let’s talk about it.