While I was married, my (then) husband came home from a weekend away with his friends. While he was gone, I felt like I could breathe again. I could tell by his posture — by the way he slumped when he walked in and set his bag down with a deep sigh I’d never heard before — that he felt the same.
Returning back home made him feel constricted. It made me feel the same way. We’d been doing this dance for months. We’d both been trying so hard, thinking if we just kept at it, our hearts would fall into place again.
We both wanted to feel the things we felt when we first met, when we got married, when we bought our first house and raked leaves together in the spring and would go to our favorite pizza place down the street.
But it wasn’t working. My daughter asked if we still loved each other one afternoon, and we both looked at each other, not even surprised. We had to do something.
“The writing is on the wall,” he said.
“I know, ” I answered.
“I can’t leave, but I can’t stay.”
“I know,” I said again.
When you take vows and sign a contract, build a life together, and start eating pizza every Friday night and complain about your backs and see each other at your best and at your worst, the decision to end your relationship doesn’t come to you in the form of a clear-cut decision.
You ask yourself every damn day if you can do better. Then you try, and see proof (again) that it’s just not working anymore. Then you get mad and resentful at each other for not changing because, damn, if only they would change, it would all be okay.
You become passive-aggressive. You fantasize about a life without your spouse. Your guilt is enough to make you stay in the situation even if you know deep in your core it isn’t the right one.
You feel paralyzed and aren’t able to take steps to move forward because you are so afraid of what the future might bring. You wonder if you can stand on your own two feet without this person who has been such a huge part of your life for so long. Some days, that makes you feel free and other it makes you feel like a chunk of your soul is missing.
Being in limbo about your marriage is so damn exhausting. It’s when your insecurities take center stage and things like a leaking sink make you shrink because you literally cannot think about one more thing.
You worry about your kids, the kind of all-consuming worry that doesn’t allow you to sleep or even carry out mundane tasks. You worry you might not have what it takes to make any relationship work, and think you might be sad and lonely forever. The what-ifs swirl around your head and leave you weighed down with self-doubt.
The day my ex moved out, I felt like I could breathe again. I sat alone on my sofa, and though I was crying and hurt, there was a glimmer of hope brewing in my stomach. I was sad but so much happier than I was when we were in limbo about what to do and it felt as if there were no good options out there. I realized when he shut the door, that we had made the right choice.
There was a while when we weren’t ready to let each other go, but we were miserable as we tried to hang on. And I can tell you, those were the hardest years of our lives thus far.
It felt so good, to both of us, to stop white-knuckling our way through life. We finally took action, ripped the Band-Aid off, and were brave enough to start anew and explore what our life could be without being married to each other.
And once he was gone, life started to open up for both of us. That doesn’t mean that divorce doesn’t knock you down every other day. You can struggle your way through, you can miss who you and your partner used to be, you can beat yourself up, but you still know deep down you’ve made the decision that was best for you and your family.
Your home isn’t supposed to filled with so much tension that you dread walking through the door every day. You aren’t supposed to simply awkwardly (or angrily) coexist with someone. You aren’t bound to this person — you can let go. But limbo locks you in and freezes you for awhile, because the unknown is terrifying.
Sometimes it takes a while to figure that out, and for me, for us, that was the roughest road throughout this whole divorce process — the not knowing. Everyone likes to have a plan when it comes to their future, but divorce puts you on an uncharted path. It’s impossible to truly prepare for that.
My ex did something for us I wasn’t able to do. He called it. He knew it was time to walk away, and he knew I would have held on longer and stayed somewhere between not loving him any longer but trying for our family’s sake anyway. He was done being in limbo, and I thank him for caring enough about me, and our family, to make that tough call.
The not knowing is excruciating, yes. But cementing your decision to leave your relationship (or stay in it, if that’s what is right) is such a relief after walking through the hell of the “in-between” phase.
I’m happier now than ever. I didn’t think that was possible before. I thought divorce would break me for good, but here I am. Still standing, and now I’m smiling too.
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