Separation Isn't Always Sad

by Jenifer DeMattia
marriage separation
mofles / iStock

Hmm…how do I say this the right way? How do you write about marriage separation without making people uncomfortable? I say this because I have written about my separation before and have never received so many private messages. Most were about how my marriage did not work because we didn’t try hard enough, or that I was obviously unwilling to change, forgive or go to the ends of the earth to prevent my children from suffering through not having the gift of two parents living in the same house.

Well, when they put it like that, yeah, I must be pretty awful. Because I love the sad stares and the awkward banter. I live for the moments when my son tells me he wants his dad late at night, and my ex can’t wait for the boys to tell him he doesn’t do it like Mommy does. I love splitting things and trying to balance everyone’s schedule and being the only one around sometimes to put the Band-Aid on the bloody knee of a rough and tumble 5-year-old stunt boy.

But in reality, it’s so sad, it’s so tragic, and it was so unforeseen from the balcony overlooking the golf course where we were married—the very same place a rainbow filled the sky after we said our I dos. Everyone in the room mentioned the meaning of that rainbow before the night was over. Every single person told us it was a sign of good luck. And after the moving truck has pulled away and the children have adjusted to their new life with two sets of toothbrushes, I can honestly say, all those wedding guests may have been right.

I myself have always been a creature of habit, made uncomfortable by a world full of change. Years ago, after my husband and I had exchanged enough verbal blows and soap-opera-worthy dramas, we sought counseling. It helped for a good time afterwards. In our house, you might have heard a lot of, “How does that make you feel?” or “I appreciate you.” Then gradually, it shifted into something not so nice and patient. The end result was two people who changed. I changed. He changed. And change, the most uncomfortable thing for me, became my greatest friend. Each year, I realize change is a part of life. The older you get, the more change comes full steam ahead right through the middle of your life. Although it’s scary, it sometimes can be a gift.

Our children have handled this change with amazing resilience—something I initially thought would be impossible. They no longer live in a home where their parents argue through the night as they sleep and where tension seeps through the air vents. Our children now receive the attention they deserved all along, sadly stolen away by two people unwilling to make the trudge to the ends of the earth.

Our boys still smile just the same as they always have, though, because they’re amazing. As cliché as it may sound, they are the astounding echo of why their parents will always love each other. My boys look like their dad, they laugh like their dad, they are just as stubborn, and they are perfect.

I am living the most authentic life I have ever known. Whether it was my ex or me who muttered the first words of unhappiness, it doesn’t matter. All the hurt and the pain he has caused me and I have caused him, it’s done. The past is the past. I simply would not be living an authentic life if I was with someone who didn’t want to be there and nor would he.

As we continue down this road, we could still hurt each other. In fact, we sometimes do, but this time the sting doesn’t last as long. We have been able to step back and see each other more clearly. The war has settled, and we have both waved our white flags. We’ve decided to join forces and begin a new journey together—one so epic we are willing to go beyond the borders of this world, one that involves giving two very sweet boys an amazing life to remember where there is just the right amount of adventure, drama, love, happiness, and unexpected plot twists.

So you may say I wrote this to make myself feel better or, perhaps, it’s to validate my decisions. Although maybe it’s just my way of letting someone whose heart has been in my shoes know that within the sadness, through the cloudy mess, there is happiness. The kind of happy that you feel guilty feeling because you have children, and a heart, and the same feelings as married couples have that they’re screwing it all up.