I’m not really the “divorce guru.”
At least I don’t think I am. But my own journey has often shone a light for others struggling in that dark place of trying to decide whether or not to stay or go.
Wait a second—don’t judge me yet. Sure, this is the Divorce Guru’s Guide to Getting the Hell Out, but this isn’t me telling you to get out of your relationship (with your spouse, your boy/girlfriend, your pet, your job).
I don’t know your relationship. Maybe staying is the right thing for you. Maybe what you have is worth saving. So, this may not be for you.
But for those who lay awake at night trying to fathom the shape of another life, this might just be what you need to hear right now.
I’ve been there, drowning with every breath I took and unable to imagine ever being saved, let alone saving myself. I’ve felt the anchor wrapped tightly around my feet, and the weight of the world heavy on my chest. I’ve also felt the weight falling away from me, the anchor sinking into the dark, as I shot to the surface of a life I couldn’t yet imagine.
I’d love to just hand over a map that shows how I went from being that woman to this one. But it wouldn’t be worth much because every journey is different. We may have the same start and the same end, but everything in between? Our paths diverge. We have different lifestyles and different choices. We have our own environments and experiences.
I cannot say definitively that taking step x, y, or z will have the same result. This isn’t a map with straightforward directions. This is a guide only. Consider it your tourist’s guide to going from where you are now to where you want to be. And every tourist experiences the journey differently. May it be of benefit.
The Divorce guru’s guide to getting the hell out:
No relationship is perfect and without challenges. What percentage of our relationship contains positive emotions and experiences. Are we happy maybe 35 percent of the time? Is that a number we’re comfortable with? Can we live with 65 percent negative emotion and experience?
Take this a step further and decide how long this has been going on. Is this a temporary situation based on extenuating circumstances, or is this just life right now?
Think about the kind of life that we want to be living. For me, this was the essential step. I began to ask myself what kind of life I wanted if it wasn’t the one I had. What would a good life, a happy life, look like for me? Your answer clarifies your priorities. It clarified them for me, and I found that the only way I could have the life I wanted—was to leave.
Some marriages and relationships can be saved, I know. Believe me, I’ve been told both before, during, and after my divorce. But I can tell you that if you’re in a relationship with someone who isn’t trying to save it, get the hell out. No one person can save a relationship single-handedly, and when you’ve tried to save it and failed to do so, it’s time to save yourself.
When we realize that it’s time to go, we need to come up with practical steps.
Do we have money set aside for the cost of a divorce, for relocation, for all of the expenses of beginning a new life? If not, can we raise that money somehow or begin putting some back?
We need to look at all of the changes we want to make and figure out a way to make it happen. Want to go back to school? Begin researching schools, filling out applications, and applying for scholarships. Want to relocate? Where would you go, and how much would it cost? What jobs are in that area? Would you have a support system when you got there? Whatever the problem, there’s a solution. It may take time, and it may require creative problem-solving, but it’s not impossible.
We need to reach out to our support system. Tell a supportive friend what’s going on. Be honest about the struggle. We need to stop trying to pretend everything is okay when everything is so f*cking far from okay that we haven’t been able to put it into words.
We need to stop lying to ourselves or pretending our problems away. When we keep doing the same old things, nothing changes. And when the people we’re with won’t help us save our relationships, we need to accept this and move on without them. This isn’t about quitting; it’s wholly about surviving and choosing to live our lives with meaning and joy.
I’m not the kind of person who gets divorced. That’s what I thought. It’s what I told myself when the thought first crossed my mind. But I discovered that I’m not a person who can waste the rest of my life being unhappy either.
The thought that struck me is that I could live another 50 years feeling exactly the same way I felt right then. And I felt like I was transparent in a world of real people, that soon no one would even see me. I felt like I was living with my nerve endings on the outside of my body, the ache of my life becoming the new normal. I could spend all the years I had left hurting. Or…
That’s just it. There was a choice. An or. I could choose to be brave. I could choose to be honest. I could choose to be happy by doing something very difficult, that would make me a lot of things—except happy—to one day bring me happiness.
Now I just lost a few of you. But some of you are nodding right now because you know exactly what I mean. What if you took the risk of being very lonely, of upending your entire life, of starting over? Could you do that if it meant you could be happy, too? You could get your joy back and begin to breathe again. To believe in something. To dream. But to do it, you have to get the hell out.
And you know you need to get the hell out. You’ve known it a long time, and yet you hold on because you’re a good person, and because you’re afraid.
You’ve grown comfortable with being uncomfortable. But one day the anchor will get heavy and the water will get deep, and you’ll have to decide whether you sink into the dark or set yourself free.
Author: Crystal Jackson
Image: Kate Gabrielle/Flickr
Editor: Lieselle Davidson