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Which parts of yourself are you trying to divorce?
“Are you still…ummm…living together?”
Someone from my past inquired hesitantly. She’s been reading my posts but we haven’t spoken in a while. When I answered that yes, my husband of over 30 years and I still live together, she exhaled with approval and relief: “Oh, good!”
It irritated me.
Many people continue to assume that staying together is better than separating. I find that it is simply not true. This is not to say that separating is better than staying together. My point is there’s no one formula for life that fits us all. I believe that every couple should decide for themselves what is best for them at any given moment and be respected in their choices.
Another friend with whom I caught up recently had a different reaction: “I thought by now you’d have left your husband, sent your children off to boarding schools, and be living somewhere on the opposite side of the world!”
“Well, that would just be another cliché,” I answered.
Many who follow my writings, witnessing my struggles, my emancipation, my exploration, and insights about love and relationships have wondered why I am still married to the same person.
It’s a good question.
I no longer believe in the institution of marriage.
I don’t measure the success of a relationship by its longevity.
I find it ridiculous that I may be permanently held in obligation to a decision I made at the age of 23, when I was a child, seeking to please, to fit in, and follow the rules that I have spent the last five years blowing up.
I’ve healed my need to self-sacrifice and shape-shift for love.
Today I know that the elusive love that I spent my life seeking will not be delivered by anyone on the outside. My love is mine, resides within me, and access to it is in my own control. My happiness is a product of my own physical, psychological, and emotional well-being. Relationships are not meant to make us happy or assure any kind of permanence or security but are laboratories for experimentation, continued self-exploration, and growth.
So what to do with a commitment I made when I had no idea what that meant?
In our polarized society and cancel culture, it’s become normal to run away and block people whenever things get unpleasant.
And I wanted to run away on numerous occasions over the last eight years of my awakening. When my illusions were shattered and I bumped heads with the real person I married, the discomfort was so severe that all I wanted was to run. I blamed him for all the ways my life was not fitting into the figment of my imagination.
I was trying to run away from myself.
Seems so crazy now—the way we assign responsibility for how we feel to other people.
That is what’s so confusing in the way we’ve been conditioned: there’s an expectation that other people have to show up for us in a specific way. We crave a feeling that would quench all the longing and memories of past neglect, but our relationship partners are mere humans and often fail as deliverers of that magic ingredient.
When satisfaction eludes us, we think that by changing the outside, we’ll feel better. So we change a partner, or change a location, or change a job. But when we change the outside ingredients without the corresponding inner shifts, our situation will not only fail to improve, it may even get worse.
Our patterns repeat until we learn the lesson.
Wherever we go—there we are.
The relationship we all need to master is our relationship with ourselves. There is no running away from that one.
Every relationship is a mirror of our inner topography. As such, they exist to help us learn about who we are. As we bump up against our triggers and reactivity, we become aware of and understand our own unconscious patterns of behavior. Contrary to popular belief, it is not the other who hurts us or causes us pain. It is our own wounds that come to our awareness, so we can attend to them and heal. Until we become conscious of our unconscious patterns, we cannot change them and will continue to repeat them in each consecutive relationship.
Nothing makes us face our wounds like romantic relationships.
Our first wounds around love come from the type of attachment we have formed with our caregivers in childhood. Ever since then, it is our wounded inner child who unconsciously comes online and navigates our relationships. That is why most of us seek a parent figure, someone to heal us, complete us, reassure us that we are lovable. We seek a fantasy, an escape.
What I am interested in is learning how to love as an adult, so that I can form relationships in full conscious awareness.
Committed to filling my own needs, I no longer look for relationships to complete me. I am learning to love people beyond what I can get from them, beyond my needs for safety, stability, or fear of the unknown.
In fact, learning to love is not even about other people. It is all about how much I can stretch my own capacity to love. How inclusive can I make my heart? How can I love the other in the full range of who they are?
Learning to love is the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do.
It started with learning to accept all of me: the good, the bad, and the ugly.
When I learned compassion toward the unsavory, the hard-to-look-at parts of myself, I learned to love my children. Those were the other people from whom I could not and did not want to run away.
And now—after more than 30 years of life together—I am learning to love my husband.
It does not mean that I want to fix my marriage. I really don’t care about that. My wish is to learn to love in such a way that the evolution in the structure of our relationship or any changes that each of us may still undergo will not kill the love.
For me, it is no longer about staying or leaving. I believe that we have more choices for relationships than what we’ve inherited from the old paradigm. As I question the customary definitions and traditional expectations, I devise my own formula for happiness by creating relationships that support me in discovering more of who I am.
The only way I think about my marriage now is by checking with myself daily: do I still choose this?
The future is undecided.
Contact me for a free introductory session to begin healing from the self you did not create.