They say each marriage goes through seasons, and mine is currently in transition after a biting, years-long winter that neither of us could say with certainty would ever end. Each storm brought the same predictable pattern of conflict, and by the time we could shovel ourselves out, a new blizzard was already in the forecast.
Our cycle of conflict was frozen on repeat, our patterns so deeply rutted, that salvation from the bitter cold felt impossible. He yelled at the sky. I went into hibernation.
He chose fight. I chose flight.
The problem with flight is that eventually you have to land, and when I did, I crashed right into my therapist’s office. I wasn’t hibernating anymore. I was jarred awake, grappling with the reality that my coping mechanisms of denial and repression had me in a perpetual state of survival mode and escape. I couldn’t stand to be present in my own home.
In the safety of my therapist’s office, I experimented, attempting validation and acceptance instead. I admitted aloud that at gut level, I believed my marriage was destined for divorce. That terrible truth, that secret shame, was exposed to the light of day for the first time.
The condemnation of my marriage came out calmly and succinctly, nothing like the emotional tornado that had been wreaking havoc inside. I thought the state of affairs was so ugly that even speaking it would destroy me, my family, and everything around me.
Instead, the opposite happened. The winds exhausted, the danger dissipated, and I was left staring at a debris-littered field, able to clearly acknowledge my reality for the first time.
In that stillness following truth, I could get curious and begin sorting through the wreckage.
Denial and repression led me to this mess, so I leaned on acceptance and courage to guide me home. Disclosing my suspicions of our doomed relationship to my spouse became my next right thing. This time, from a place of vulnerability and humility rather than blame and self righteousness.
I set my ego aside, brought my truth to the kitchen counter, and painted my imagined life after divorce for him.
In my divorce fantasy, I answer only to myself. I prioritize making my own dreams a reality and bad vibes are checked at the door of my small, lovingly curated apartment. I have consistent solitude to prioritize my mental and physical health, and I parent with patience, instilling the values and boundaries I find most important, without compromise. After divorce, I never find my “other half” because I’m already whole. I don’t ask permission to have needs, they live inside me guilt-free.
I pause at this point and turn inward, and it’s like someone hands me glasses and I can finally see from a different perspective. With this new vantage point, I realized that those ideals I spoke of – answering to myself, taking times of solitude, setting boundaries with my kids, pursuing my dreams, feeling whole – were all needs I could fulfill in my marriage if I stopped trying to control the reactions and perceptions of those around me and took responsibility for taking care of myself.
Divorcing him didn’t have to be a prerequisite to finding me. I could prioritize that right here, right now.
Twice now, I’d spoken honestly and directly despite the voice inside whispering, “here comes rejection.” Instead of destruction, I found liberation. The oppressive grip of codependency around my throat relaxed.
After two months of learning, unlearning, and consistent truth-telling, I’m feeling more connected to my Self. The eggshells no longer shatter under my feet and I catch myself looking longingly at my husband across the room for the first time in a long time.
Falling in love the first time was a euphoric rush of fizzing chemistry and grand gestures and naive promises of unconditional love. It’s different this time. I’ve learned unconditional love doesn’t mean unconditional tolerance and that I can only love and respect someone else to the extent in which I love and respect myself.
That never ending, bitter winter of our marriage wanes, and I can now feel the sunshine of hope upon my cheek with the promise of a stunning spring. His healing looks different from mine, but together we shelter from the tornado of our own egos. The earth thaws, exposing fallow earth, fertile and ripe for new growth. We begin cultivating it – together.