We all want to fall in love and have a love that lasts a lifetime. But what happens when love fades and marriage dissolves? Here’s my story of how, after fifteen years of marriage, my husband and I finally called it quits.
This article first appeared in The Fibromyalgia Magazine, October 2019. Get the digital copy of the magazine from Pocketmags.
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When I eat pizza it reminds me of when my parents told me they were divorcing. We lived with my grandmother and she did all of our cooking. Rarely did we order pizza. I guess that’s why I remember it so clearly – two rare events in tandem.
Divorce wasn’t common among my friends. I don’t remember anyone whose parents were divorced. It wasn’t unheard of, but it was one of those “it won’t happen to me” things. But there it was being served to us as easily as a slice of the pizza.
The feelings that coursed through me at that moment resonate with me now three decades later. The world around me crumbled in dusty piles like buildings during demolition. Everything became blurry as tears filled my eyes. My ears started ringing as my parents explained what divorce meant for our family.
Caught in the War
Over the next couple of years, my sister and I were caught in the middle of my parents’ war. At the tender age of eight and eleven, we were exposed to the harsh conditions of two people releasing much hurt and anger towards one another.
Being tossed from one home to another became our new normal. We saw new sides of our mom and dad. All the happy memories of laughter, hugs, and playful teasing faded into a kaleidoscope of fighting, drinking, and constant crying. The uncertainty of where my sister and I belonged in all of it was a struggle that never really left me.
While my parents were raging, I was forced to care for myself and sister. Not in the sense of cooking meals and doing laundry, but the emotional and mental care. We were left on our own to process the events, to make sense of the chaos.
No one talked to us about any of it. I’m guessing the conversations that should have taken place did not because we were children and “wouldn’t understand.” They were right. We didn’t understand, so we had to draw our conclusions.
We did attend therapy for a short period. Much of that time is blocked from my memory, but I still have a drawing the therapist drew for me during one of our sessions. She drew me in bed with my favorite stuffed bunny as a fairy saying everything would be all right.
When Love Fades
Deep-Rooted Issues Resurfaced
Those feelings are still raw. I never got over my family breaking apart and continue to seek therapy periodically. However, whenever a therapist starts to talk about that period of my life as a source of my deep-rooted issues, I immediately stop attending sessions. It’s contradicting, but the truth nonetheless.
It’s been a year since I saw a therapist. It was an intake consultation to see if we were a good fit as a therapist and patient. Within an hour she traced my issues to that divorce, and by the end of the session, I was over it. I walked out and haven’t gone back.
Now I am faced with my divorce after fifteen years of marriage. Resentment and manipulation had been building for years. Negativity consumed the whole family. One night, after a particularly bad argument, I had a realization: I had to remove my kids and myself from the toxicity of the marriage. It wasn’t clear how, but it needed to happen.
This occurred one week before the last day of school. I calmly told my kids I was spending the night with my mom and I would see them after school the following day. That night was spent talking to my mom about the options leaving the marriage.
Revisiting My Parent’s Divorce with My Parents
We talked about her divorce and the intimacies of it. She told me why she left my dad, how, and the feelings surrounding it. Most of it I had never heard. I had a better understanding of the divorce. The feelings of how I experienced it as a child didn’t change and sat next to me holding my hand as my mom and I talked about it.
My dad and I talked about his side of the divorce, too. His experiences were more elusive to me as he was the one that left the home and we didn’t see much of him. He told me how he felt, what he did and didn’t do, and his regrets. His emotions were sketched on his face as though he still carries the weight of it.
Divorce was a Certainty
Armed with my parents’ experiences and advice, I decided to move forward with a divorce. There were lots of uncertainties, but to stay in a negative environment was no longer a choice. It wasn’t healthy – physically or mentally – for myself or my kids.
The next evening, as my husband and I, sat in our bedroom, I told him my decision to leave. As the words poured out, I expected to feel sadness and a weight. I anticipated some sort of regret or change of mind.
Instead, I felt immediate relief, as though I was stepping out of a shroud woven of lies, manipulation, and hatred. There was only absolution and certainty of what I was doing and, for a fleeting moment, I felt strength in that decision.
Plucking Strength from Weakness
Once I stepped out of the bedroom that night, I never re-entered as his wife. I purposely avoided it, as the walls held too many secrets, too many lies, and broken promises. I didn’t want to feel what is stored in the air. It was a reminder of what was endured and the facade of a happy marriage.
Don’t get me wrong. It wasn’t all lies and pretense. There were good memories, happiness, and laughter scattered about our time together. I had grown accustomed to highlighting those good moments, focusing on the positivity, and plucking out the strength from weakness.
In my head, there was an idea of what I thought marriage was, and I tried my hardest to obtain it. I smiled when I wanted to cry, covered up the ugly when needed, and protected the wrongdoing with excuses. In the end, I justified it all by thinking all marriages were as broken as ours. That all families weren’t exactly as they presented themselves to be, and we all had struggles in some form, but we all did as best as we could.
Negative Feelings of It All
The next several months were hell for me. Even as I write this article in late August, the hell continues. Truths have been revealed that leave me feeling used and spat on. The manipulation back from the beginning and the web it wove is difficult to break free from.
There is so much anger for allowing myself to be trapped in a toxic relationship for so long, and even more for allowing my kids and myself to experience it as long as we did. How could I not have seen it for what it was?
Oh, and the guilt. The guilt I feel on so many levels for various reasons. The guilt of staying, the guilt of leaving. The enormous weight of guilt for breaking up the family and not being able to explain to my children the entirety of the situation. Children can only understand so much, and there’s a lot that is inappropriate for them to know at this age.
I’m ashamed for telling others to advocate for themselves while I allowed someone to treat me in ways that I would never allow my kids, friends, or family to be treated. I feel embarrassed, unworthy, and disgusted by the hatred that spills from my mind to self. The inadequacies and insecurities that have surfaced are burdensome and challenging to overcome.
It IS Good From It
Yet, despite it all, I have seen a lot of good come from this. I am grateful for the strength my children give me to get out of bed each morning when, really, I just want to stay in bed. I am grateful for the chance to move on from lessons learned from the marriage – it wasn’t all for nothing.
Grateful for my mom’s experience to give me an idea of what is to come, and my dad’s advice of what NOT to do. Grateful for my own experience as a child of divorce making me mindful of my actions and words. Grateful for the support from friends and family as I’ve moved through the stages of grief and acceptance.
Mostly, I’m grateful for the chance to change hate into love and to find myself in all of this mess lying in crumbles around me. I am learning what it means to truly show myself grace, and I’m discovering who I am as a woman, mom, daughter, sister, friend. I’m learning my worth with each feeling of unworthiness.
Being resourceful is taking on a whole new meaning along with acceptance and courage. Independence and positivity have always been my strengths, and I’m leaning on those more and more each day. My resiliency is being strengthened with each knockdown. There is a quote by Christine Caine, founder of A21 Campaign (an organization dedicated to stopping human trafficking), I remember when I feel as though I have no strength to carry on:
Clinging to the Last Feeling of Normalcy
Later that evening after my parents told me about their divorce, I remember being in my younger sister’s room with my mom. She was holding me as I cried into her shoulder about the family breaking up. I didn’t know what was going to happen past that moment, but I clung to the last bit of normalcy before my life changed forever.
I found myself in the same house, in the same scenario decades later, crying to my mom about my family breaking up once again. Being older hadn’t changed the pain or hurt, and, once again, I clung to the last feeling of normalcy before my life changed once again.
Note: In next month’s issue, I will share coping strategies to minimize mental anguish and flares when going through a divorce.