This is a little story of how girl met boy and how, ten years later, girl divorced boy because she lost herself somewhere along the way.
For so long, I thought it was perfect. It being us – my then husband and I – and our very good life. We hardly had to work at our relationship (happily pulling the wool over our own eyes) and life was easy. Stupidly easy.
But then I realized that I put aside all of my personal hopes and ambitions for love. Which in itself isn’t weird or unusual. But I grew up with two parents who didn’t – and still don’t – love each other. Constant fights. Emotional abuse. The rare check-in from police because of a neighbor’s noise complaint. For years, I begged my mother for a divorce. Maybe she was too afraid of what her life would be like. I have a vivid memory of the last time I asked her to get a divorce. I was around 12 years old, and it was following yet another loud, frightening argument. We were sitting on the edge of her bed, she was crying and I was fiercely determined not to. I asked her, pleaded with her, to get divorced. She told me she was too old, that she couldn’t start over.
It was then that I knew she would never leave him and that her marriage and domestic life with him would be loveless.
Fast forward six years and I was about to enter college. I was relatively clueless about what I wanted to do. I was largely introverted, burying myself in books and nurturing the one or two close friendships I had. All I knew was that I wanted to travel. I wanted to do something that would take me around the world, preferably something with animals, the environment, or art. Because up until then, literature was my constant companion and offered me an escape into distant lands and to different lives. I had the idea I would go into the PeaceCorps immediately after college. In fact, I almost joined the PeaceCorps after highschool because of that love of traveling to new places, and the ability to taste life in its rawest form.
But then I fell in love. Even liking someone was a rarity of mine, so this caught my attention as something special. Unique. Magical. We supported each other. Our lives and goals became one, so closely united it became impossible to know if we even had individual lives anymore. And guess what? He loved to travel. Even before graduating, we went abroad together for the first time. We took road trips–our car broke down on the road in Appalachia. We rode horses together in Scotland, and drank Guinness in Dublin. We were sharing these things together. Experiencing new places, new things, and new people as a couple. With him, I saw that I didn’t need to worry too much about what I did after college. I didn’t need to concern myself with finding a definite career, or being independent. Because I was definitely going to be with him and we would travel together.. A loving romantic relationship was something that was absent between my parents, and now I actually had it. And letting it go wasn’t an option.
Years passed. We traveled to over ten countries together. Moved several times. Got a dog. For so long, I thought it was perfect. We hardly had to work at our relationship (happily pulling the wool over our own eyes) and life was easy. Stupidly easy. He followed his creative passion where he easily made a lot of money, was mentally stimulated and eventually was able to work from home. Me? I let myself down. I wanted to travel. I wanted to read. I wanted to love. So I did those things. Above anything else. Eventually, my idleness and aimlessness became toxic.
I began looking at who I had become and the life I was living. It was one of abundant ease and luxury, to which I was hardly contributing to besides as a happy passenger. So I began therapy to help figure myself out. Therapy didn’t push me to end my marriage. But a can of worms that I didn’t know was rotting inside of me, was peeled open. Inside was a tangled mass of the years of my life which failed to make sense. My marriage was scarcely touched in session.
I found myself out. To discover that for over three years, I had begun to cultivate self-doubt. Fear. A loss of confidence in my abilities. Confusion. Mild depression. I was constantly doubting myself and then I began to question my relationship. My entire life.
That’s when I realized that my life needed to change. Drastically. And I was the only one who could make that happen. Not having a safety net terrified me. Nearly shitless. The acute awareness of what my life could be like if I suddenly found myself on my own had long prevented me from pushing myself. I had been teetering on the edge of the can of worms for so long, purposely not prodding. But the alternative of staying in a relationship that had enabled and subtly influenced me to become a version of myself I didn’t like or recognize was even more terrifying. I had become something I didn’t think was in the cards for me – a woman who had allowed her life to be ruled by her relationship, only to realize last minute that she hadn’t built something that was uniquely, independently hers.
With that terrifying thought in mind, I reacted. Strongly. I was full of self-doubt, but I still had a small storage of seeds within me that I knew if intentionally tended, I could grow into someone I knew and was proud of.
But not within the marriage. On my own. Why? Why leave a stable and doting man who cared for me and whom I cared for? Why leave the life which was comfortably familiar? Answering that isn’t quite simple, but I knew then what I know now – I needed to leave. I couldn’t stay. I had allowed myself to become apathetic to my hopes for the future which was alarming to me. And while that was entirely due to myself, I realized that my husband had watched me sink to where I was. I know – it’s not up to my significant other to uplift me. That’s up to me. But he had watched me falter.
The unraveling of my marriage was because of all those reasons, but also a whole lot of other things: Not valuing one another’s strengths, lack of conscious communication, and both of us growing into two very different people from when we first met. Which isn’t surprising, given we met when we were both 18 and our marriage ended at 29.
So I left. Emotionally, then physically. It started out slow but then in the hurried manner of an avalanche, my marriage ended. A ten-year relationship was over within a matter of months. The thing that I had invested in. The thing I had foolishly prioritized above all else.
But I got out of it. I had gotten out of the thing that I myself allowed to morph me into someone filled with uncertainty and little confidence. Someone who was living the life of an upper-middle class person who had an income below the poverty-line by teaching yoga. Someone who loved learning and academia and yet self-elected not to push herself, because she didn’t need to. Someone who at one point wished that she wanted children (and who has long been confident of not being a mother), so that her life of little professional work and staying at home would make sense (not that a mother must stay home – I simply thought being a mother would explain why I didn’t have any strong professional pursuits). I was wishing for the hopes of someone who wasn’t me, living the life of someone I didn’t recognize.
And now? Nearly a year out? I’m neither treading water or thriving. I’m floating on a little ice flow – more secure than Kate Winslet ever was on the door in the Titanic – and just as determined. I’ve gained a deeper appreciation of working hard and knowledge of my needs.
Yet I’ve never been more scared or broke; but I have also never been as financially independent. I’ve begun remembering my dreams again. And remembering my dreams with frequency is something which hasn’t happened since before college – and is indicative of a content, stable mind. I want to stay home more now, and not constantly have the need to escape. My dreams and hopes seem more rooted in reality yet still mildly fantastical.