Six years ago, I was having lunch with my sister and said, “If I was strong enough, if I believed in myself enough, I’d leave him today.”
“I know you would. I know. I don’t know what I would do if I was in your shoes,” was her response. I could tell by the tone in her voice she’d been waiting for me to say it.
It was hard to admit I wanted to leave my husband of almost 10 years. It felt good to say it out loud, but I was terrified. It was as if speaking the words alone would mean I already had two feet out the door. I was afraid if I cracked open my heart and mind to the idea of leaving my marriage, I could actually do it.
My husband had just told me about his affair a few weeks earlier. He’d said he wanted to try really hard to save our marriage. He said he loved me and wanted our life back.
Then he said it the next day and the next, and probably the day after that. I tried to respond in a loving way, but looking back, I’d already checked out. I could only see the man who had stopped seeing me for the wife and mother I was. The man who needed to have sex with another woman in order to feel better about himself. The man who never once told me he was unhappy and felt ignored, or checked in with me.
I thought we were status quo, settling into our life with three kids together. But really, I knew I’d stopped seeing him, too.
I was a frozen version of myself, walking around cold and stiff through my life. Every day was the same, and I kept thinking, This will pass. This feeling will pass, and we will fall in love again. How can I want to walk away? We have a home, three kids, he doesn’t hit me, he’s not verbally abusive. I loved him once; I can do it again.
And I stayed. It wasn’t because I was afraid of being alone — the thought of living with my kids without him actually gave me a flutter of excitement. But still I pushed it down each time the thought passed through me. Because that flutter of excitement was followed by a stab of pain, then chased with deep angst.
I let the pain rule my life for another six years. That pain didn’t stem from the thought of losing him, but rather came when I thought about being a single mother. The pain was self-induced. It came from believing I would never — not in a million years — be able to raise kids on my own, take care of a house on my own, pay the bills on my own, and one day, say I was a divorced woman.
No, not me.
That pain built, and built, and built. It didn’t go away. I meditated. I prayed on it. I asked The Universe to please, please take over because I was stunted. I could not handle telling him I wanted to go our separate ways. There was guilt — oh, so much guilt — but more than that, there was a deep-rooted belief I was not worthy of being happy as a single mother and I would not be able to do it.
There was fear I wouldn’t know how to fix a burst pipe. I was petrified to let another man see me naked, much less have sex or be intimate. And how would I financially support myself and my kids?
Instead of delving in to figure it out, I stayed because, though it was painful, it was comfortable.
I stayed; we stayed. And so did the pain. It’s easy to look back now and see the suffering we both endured — you cannot try to be a partner to someone when you are checked out and not have them feel it, too.
It’s also easy to be hard on myself and beat myself up for the time I wasted. But I refuse to go there. I refuse to punish myself further and use my precious energy thinking I should have done something sooner.
That pain was my voice; it was my guide. I kept trying to push it away, but when I finally opened myself up to it, and felt what it was trying to tell me for years and years, it was then when I began to grow.
If you are feeling deep pain in your marriage, listen to it. Don’t push it away like I did, please.
All that matters now is we are both in a better place. I eventually did listen to the pain. I’ve proved to myself I can thrive despite all I was afraid of. I’ve discovered I love myself enough to believe I can rock the single mom life, instead of staying in a situation that made me a horrible version of myself even though I had no idea what my life would look like.
No, it wasn’t easy, not but any means.
But it has been so worth it.
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