Last Saturday after dropping my kids off with their father, I ran some errands alone. I was relieved to be all by myself — it was glorious, if I’m being honest.
I miss my kids terribly when they are gone, but can’t stand when they are at each other’s throats and telling me to hurry up while running errands. Just because they are teenagers doesn’t mean they behave or make a trip to the store pleasant.
But on this day, I had the afternoon spread out before me with nowhere to go and nothing to do, and before long I was wandering in the home goods section of Target. I heard the whines and cries from two little kids who were sitting in the front of one of those car carts, and it took me right back to my kids’ younger years.
I immediately felt for the mother who was just trying to look at rugs. She was obviously desperate for just one damn minute. And it didn’t seem likely that she’d get it.
But then something wonderful happened: Her husband, who was pushing the kids as she gazed up and down the aisles, reminded those kids what was up.
“You know what? Your mom doesn’t ask for much,” he said. “You can be quiet until we are out of here so she can look around. When we get home we’ll play army and watch movies and it will be fun, okay? For now, you need to be quiet. Mommy doesn’t ask for much.”
That man who was taking one for the team so his wife could enjoy a precious few peaceful moments, probably after getting some staples for her family like toilet paper and apples, gave me so much clarity about what led to the demise my own marriage.
My husband and I stopped doing for each other what that man was doing for his wife in the middle of Target. We stopped being a team.
That man probably didn’t want to be lecturing his kids in the middle of the store. I doubt he enjoyed using his energy in that way and probably didn’t want to be walking around Target anymore than his kids, but he did it out of love for his wife.
And it hit me like a cannon ball: For the past two years, I thought I’d known, without question, why my marriage ended.
“We fell out of love, we grew apart,” I’d say. “It happens.”
But it’s funny how, out of nowhere, a stranger can make you stare your truth square in the face.
My ex-husband and I had stopped rooting for each other. We’d stopped supporting each other. We’d stopped seeing each other. We’d stopped telling the kids to shut it so the other could enjoy something as small as a trip around Target on a Saturday afternoon, or as big as a weekend away with friends without guilt.
We stopped, completely.
Instead, we took our energy — the same energy we could have used to use to show our love — and twisted it and used it against each other.
We started keeping score. We started comparing who was working harder and doing more around the house. We stopped wanting to do things for each other.
Disagreeing became our knee-jerk reaction. We tried to stop, but we couldn’t because somewhere in between feeling like marriage was hard, and becoming completely miserable, we’d fallen out of love and damn, it’s hard to get that back once it’s gone.
Resentment eclipsed compassion, and nastiness was our weapon of choice to get our points across instead of talking rationally.
These are all common complaints in many marriages, I know. But you feel the shift when you head into a downward spiral and not being on each other’s team becomes your new normal, trying to climb out of it feels so wrong and then you soon realize you aren’t the same two people you were when you fell in love.
Even when we’d try to see each other and try to do marriage right, we couldn’t seem to manage it. Our love wasn’t sticking any longer; we didn’t want to do it anymore, but we tried.
Trying turned into going through the motions of our life with zero emotion and passion behind it. And then we didn’t even want to try.
There are couples out there who have what it takes to make it through the rough patches and still take one for the team — their team — whether they want to or not.
And there are couples out there who need to go their separate ways in order to take their life back and be happy because they just can’t be present for each other any longer.
I have regrets about things I did and didn’t do in my marriage, but seeing that couple in Target gave me a crystal clear vision of where I failed my ex-husband and what I want to give and receive in a relationship.
And now, the only thing I can do is grow and evolve from my experience.