Last night I went to dinner with an old friend. Our final year of college, we lived together. We have been friends ever since. She is a smart, educated, talented woman, and she is one of the simplest women I ever met. When I say “simple,” I mean that she is a low maintenance woman who does not need the bells and whistles of life. She is content with what she has. She makes her own clothes, does not own a television, enjoys silence.
As we dined on Indian, we talked about divorces and our next relationships.
“I just want a man who is a partner, but I also just want to feel this deep connection. I just want to be all in to my relationship. I want someone I can be all in with,” I said.
“When did you know you weren’t in love with (insert name of ex here)?” She asked. I told her the long diatribe about how I lost respect for him when he refused to get a job, seemed to care only about his interests, couldn’t communicate with me about our relationship. She nodded.
“When did you realize that you were no longer in love with (insert her ex’s name here)?” I asked.
“I still am,” she answered. “He was perfect for me in so many ways. We had all of those connections you just talked about it. He was complimentary, supportive. We read the same books and had the best conversations. He makes me laugh so hard. No one has ever made me laugh the way that he does.” At that moment, my heart broke for her. “I just couldn’t deal with his drinking, his major depressions. I never knew what I was going to come home to. He would be fine for months, and then he would start drinking. He would lie to me and hide it from me. He would go through this for about a month, and then he would go back to his normal self. Then a few months after that the cycle would begin again. We tried counseling and trust exercises. I just couldn’t do it any longer.”
Years ago, I think women just stayed. They did not have many options, and society had a much different message for them: endure, endure. Endure a partner who would not change or who ignored your needs. Endure a life that did not feel like your own. How many women had marriages that made them miserable and just endured?
I also think there are many women and men who hear this story and even my story and think that we should have just stayed married. Our exes were not bad men who beat us or emotionally abuse us. My ex and her ex are good men. My ex is one of the best fathers I have ever seen, but that does not make him a good husband. My friend’s ex is a kind man, and he had so many traits that worked, but she couldn’t overlook the things that just didn’t work. My heart broke for her because she still loved him so much, but she had to love herself more.
How much should one person endure to stay married? Didn’t we both say, “for better or worse”? When does “worse” cancel out our commitment?
I don’t know the answers to these questions, but I know that my being married was having dramatic effects on my physical-self. I couldn’t eat or sleep. I lost too much weight and my hair started thinning. I woke up every morning wondering how I was going to breathe through the day. I thought about the future and it depressed me. As soon as I filed for divorce, I felt a weight was lifted from my shoulders. I started eating and sleeping again. My hair stopped thinning.
Marriage is for better or for worse, but I also believe that I when it becomes a prison, it needs to end. Despite all of this, I struggle with the guilt that follows…