Can’t Live with my Wife, Can’t Live without my Son. ~ Ben Ralston

Via Ben Ralston
on Dec 13, 2013
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This year I’ve been on my knees.

Physically and metaphorically and just about every other way possible.

I’ve had days when I didn’t want to get out of bed because I didn’t feel any joy, or light, or even life in any piece of me.

And I was all in pieces. Pieces here and there with no sense of self. No sense of unity or coherence.




In the space of a month my dog (my best friend) died, and my wife and I separated. We have a (beautiful, perfect, pure, sweet, oh so lovely) son, so that means that any dreams I ever had of raising him a certain way were separated from me too. Now it’s all about compromise…

Then I injured my shoulder, then my knee, and then my Grandfather died.

Technically I’m an Englishman. I say ‘technically’ because I don’t consider myself anything other than an Earthling. I have no allegiances to anywhere other than where I am. But I moved to Slovenia to be with my (Slovene) wife, and now I’m in a foreign country with no friends, and I don’t even speak the language that well.


So to avoid this turning into too much of a sob story, I’ll cut to the chase.

All my dreams, and the life that I thought I had, died. And I have to start again. Change. Sudden, necessary, radical change.

I’ve never really liked change. Comfort, stillness, peace, yes please.

I like slow. I like mellow. I like familiar.

But now I need to completely rethink and restart everything, and I feel overwhelmed.

So what did I do? I buried my head in the sand.

I hid from the world (and eventually even from myself) and spent months on end imprisoned by old routines and addictions, in a kind of stagnant pond of Going Nowhere Life.

I lost all sense of purpose and meaning. I remember one day when I was feeling particularly sorry for myself I couldn’t even see any point in my work—something that has always been a foundation for me.

‘Why bother’ I thought. ‘If I’m this much of a mess, how can I help anyone else?’

Moving on is necessary and good, but feels scary and overwhelming.

Holding on is unsustainable and unhealthy, but feels safe and comfortable.

The proverbial rock and hard place.

My wife and I can’t live together (even though she’s beautiful and sweet and good), and I can’t bear the pain of being apart from my son.

Rock, meet Hard Place.

I thank God (or whatever force it is in this life that always has my back), for the friends that stepped up, and for my work.

All my true friends. Two people especially—one boy and one girl, appeared unexpectedly in my life and became two people that I would lay down my life for. I didn’t know friendship like this before and I love you. You know who you are.

But not just personal friends. So many people sending so many messages of support and love. People who I only know through comments on my articles and videos. People who I have only ever ‘seen’ through Facebook.

People telling me that something I wrote touched their life so much that they continue to go back to it any time life is hard.

People telling me that a video I made long ago transformed their life just now.

People just simply reaching out with a word of comfort.

And I began to see again, and believe again, in something that has always been a core principle in my life:

That there is no distinction between work and life. That any boundaries I create around my work are artificial and meaningless and only limit my work, and therefore also limit my life.

My best friend in the world was a client of mine. Many therapists would scoff at that. Conflict of interests and all that…

But I’m not a therapist. I’m not anything.

I’m just a human being, being as human as I possibly can, and doing what feels right, one moment at a time.

And I don’t work so that I can live. I work because it’s what I do and because I love it, because it makes me feel more alive and connected.

And as I realize that, I begin to feel a sense of purpose coursing through my veins again.

I’m here to live. I’m here to work. I’m here to be human, and to adapt to life, not make life adapt to me.

And I can still be an incredible Father to my son, but only if I’m being true to myself. He will miss me (as I miss him) on those days where I don’t see him, or don’t see him as much as I’d like, but one moment of real presence with him is pure golden bliss, and more than a lot of children ever get with their Fathers.

And if I’m really present, and really living purposefully, then he’ll feel me even when I’m not with him, because we’re connected.


We’re all connected, even you and I, one of us reading and one of us writing, connected through these words and the thoughts and feelings and experiences that lie behind them. Connected in Life.

Connection is my purpose.

Love is my purpose—and the example I intend to teach my son. Even in the midst of separation.

If you feel me, please share my words and spread the love. Than you!


Relephant Reads:

How to Get Divorced like a Grownup.

The Best Marriage Advice from a Divorced Man.

What My Son has Taught Me About Fatherhood.


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Editor: Rachel Nussbaum

Photo: Ben Ralston


About Ben Ralston

Ben Ralston has been practising personal development—necessity being the Mother of invention—since he was about six years old. He’s been teaching and sharing what he’s learnt along the way for a couple of decades. His main thing is Heart of Tribe retreats—whose very purpose is to help you fall back in love with life, no less. Leading these retreats alongside his woman Kara-Leah Grant—also an elephant journal writer (that’s how they met!)—they combine a deep well of lineage-based yoga teaching experience, with expertise in healing trauma and various other methods of personal development. Ben also works with clients one-on-one via Skype, writes, makes videos from time to time, and is passionate about parenting. He lives in an intentional, tribal community in the hills of Croatia, where you might find him gardening barefoot and talking to the rocks. Connect with Ben on Facebook or YouTube or check out his website for more info.


57 Responses to “Can’t Live with my Wife, Can’t Live without my Son. ~ Ben Ralston”

  1. Carolina says:

    So beautiful. The description of pain. And pain is how we get to growth. For me my son's dad and I were only meant to be together to create this creature. I had to let go of old ideas and have no expectations of how the future was going to be. He has given me a lot of growth and the love of my life and for that i can never repay. I dont believe in a God, I believe in doing whats right, what the inside guide shows to go and do. That I call love. I think by staying close and living by example will be the best we can do to serve our kids. regardless of how our living and/or relationship arrangements are with the other coparent. The images and dynamics of families today are much richer and look very different of what our parents taught us -and that is beautiful. I am glad you walked thru it and are able to write again. And most important for connecting by putting it all out there. Namaste 🙂

  2. Melissa says:

    Honest, heartfelt, vulnerable sharing like this about the reality of divided families is SO IMPORTANT. I've been through this too, and I know my children's father was devastated by the destruction of his ideal vision of family…and I also know that people can choose love through the whole desperately hard wringer of it. You are setting that example. The world needs more men like you.

    Thank you.

  3. Yvonne Marie says:

    No lie, I lost my dog this spring and received an epiphany of clarity to acknowledge that I was disconnected and discontented with my partner of 23 years…learning that life is good and change is part of the process. Released 35 pounds of insulation and discovered a happier, freer me! Now working on how to co parent our teenage daughters… Wish me luck and I the same to you~

  4. Todd says:

    Maybe the things we need find us when we most can use them? I hope that’s the case. Your article, written more than 2 years ago, are the words I most needed to read right now. Finding myself in a similar but different situation… all I know is that I want to reach out and thank you. I hope you keep going. And you and your son are doing well two years on. More than anything I hope that so in two years I will be as well.

  5. L. says:

    I was married for 15 years, and have somehow produced three beautiful, happy, clear eyed children with whom I genuinely adore. They’re incredible people. I would do anything to keep them from experiencing suffering. But, alas as you say, I cannot keep them from life. And life sometimes brings separation and suffering. We just began this journey together, my children and I. We are learning about tearing down stereotypes that plague our world. The “broke” family label is something we have identified as being especially hurtful. I am facing all my own hidden judgments about single parents and divorce (maybe an idea for another writing piece?) At times, I feel like I am literally dying. Its very new and fresh. I’m in it. Your words are just another small reminder that I won’t always be. Thank you for being vulnerable. Thank you for being brave.

  6. Michelle says:

    this was quite a bit ago but so glad I saw this and saw it now. I had to separate from a life I grew very accustomed to. I miss it even though it was not sustainable. i wanted the proverbial "more" and he was supposedly content with whatever it was we had. I wanted some kind of family and the doctor told me that kids may not be or will be difficult to attain in the future. Long story short, i'm away from friends, my home, and now the person i called home is also gone. So I moved on, and did pretty good. Felt strong and then got pregnant with someone i knew for a short time. I am again in the same place I was with my last bf. Unsure, scared, unsteady, a relationship put on the side bc of the baby, and in another new place, no friends or family and because i'm pregnant… no work. To make it worse, becoming pregnant reopened wounds from my last relationship. The emotions started flying and made me miss my old life that much more. I feel mostly lost, having not fully healed in a way that prepared me for pregnancy.
    So thank you for writing this. For at least a moment I felt not so alone and not so hopeless.
    I hope that you are doing better. I hope that you will maybe write a post that tells us how you are doing now! 😉