I was a stay-at-home-mom for a very long time. I worried about the kids, and my ex-husband took care of the finances. My stressful days involved going to the doctor’s office, remembering to get my kids’ library books in their backpacks, and figuring out who we were having dinner with on Saturday night.
I was aware of how comfortable I was. I didn’t worry if there was enough money for the mortgage because my ex-husband always made sure there was. If there was a problem with our children, he was there to help me with it. If something on the house was falling apart, he knew who to call.
I could pass the buck if I felt like it was too much. I didn’t have to take it all on. I was happy about that. I had a deep sense of feeling safe. I was really happy about that too.
I was living a padded life, and I knew it. My bubble of joy was dependent on the fact that I didn’t have to be as brave as I do now as a divorced woman.
I didn’t have to think about getting out there again to date. I didn’t have to think about who I could call to help me with the boiler when it ran all night. I didn’t have to take care of snow removal or paying all the bills on my own.
I didn’t have to miss my kids as much as I do now because they are with their father part of the time. I didn’t have to step outside of my comfort zone if I didn’t want to. I was half of a team. Now, I play my life solo.
That’s why I stayed in my marriage so long: because my safe life was disguised as a happy one.
I knew if our partnership ended, with that would come feelings of vulnerability. I knew I’d worry more. I knew if the dishwasher stopped working I’d have to take it on. I knew if I was sick and the kids were with me, I’d have to figure it out. I knew I wouldn’t be sleeping each night with my kids down the hall.
Being on my own again meant working my ass off — with my kids, in my career, in my relationships, and on myself.
For the most part, it hasn’t been fun. I don’t feel safe like I used to. If I her a noise in the middle of the night, there’s no one to grab onto and ask, “What do you think that was?” There’s just you in the darkness hoping it’s just an animal trying to make its way out of the garage.
If I can’t sleep, there’s no one to wake up. If I don’t get a job I was counting on, I have to make up the difference. If I forget something at the store, there’s no one to call.
When I was married, I might have been happier than I am today as a co-parenting mother, but without a doubt my life is better now.
Having my happiness and comfort stripped away has forced me to grow and make things happen in my life I never would have pursued if I was still married. It has made me stretch and blossom into the best version of myself because I had to. I knew if I didn’t push myself and face hardships and failures, I’d suffer. I also knew there was someone waiting to meet me on the other side of my safe, happy life. And she was dying to get out.
I knew if I stayed in the safety and comfort of living small, and not believing I was capable of redefining what a happy could look like, I’d lose her.
I’m not saying if you are married and sharing your life with someone you aren’t doing it right. I’m not saying you aren’t brave or taking chances. I’m saying I was stagnant and making unhealthy compromises because I was afraid I’d lose some happiness.
And I did.
But I also know I wasn’t doing the things I was put on this earth to do because I was using my comfy life as an excuse not to go after things I wanted.
I was staying in a relationship that wasn’t right because it felt so much easier than facing the obstacles that would be waiting for me if we ended our time together.
Staying in my marriage felt like some kind of insurance. I didn’t have to worry so much. I didn’t have to put myself out there so much. I didn’t have to grow so much. I was able to stay the same, and there really is peace in that. It’s not a reason to stay in anything though — not a job, not a friendship, and certainly not a marriage.
Breaking away and experiencing the unknown is a guarantee you are going to fall on your face and struggle to get back up. To me, that used to be the the opposite of happiness.
Ignorance really is bliss. I am not as happy as I was when I was married, but I’m living a better life. I’m madly in love. I’m independent and believe in myself more than I ever have. I’m able to tackle difficult issues with my kids on my own. I have more time with my friends than I have in decades.
I have more difficult days, and I have to work harder at dealing with negative emotions because when you are living a fulfilled life and taking chances, there’s more room for self doubt, rejection, and vulnerability.
But I wouldn’t trade any of it in for that false sense of happiness I had in my old life. Because I now know I can deal with anything that comes my way, and I will no longer “stay safe'” in order to stay happy. And having more moments of feeling happy because you simply aren’t dealing with hard things doesn’t equal a good life.
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