I like to believe that more times than not in my life, I have faced the fear of taking action and followed my instincts with a strong willingness to go against conventional western wisdom. To date, these leaps of faith have paid off greatly. Probably the biggest gamble I embarked upon was ending my marriage. I did not end it to save it but in hindsight, it appears that this journey needed to occur in order to breathe life into our stagnant, unhappy relationship.
Although divorce is now commonplace in American culture, it is still very much frowned upon and many people are quick to lend you their opinion as to why you must stay in a failing relationship. I understand that people are trying to help and believe they know how to fix it, but how many people have actually turned their relationship upside down? How many are sincerely willing to do the necessary work to improve their relationship and take responsibility for their role in its failure?
Unfortunately, most people like to look for reasons outside of themselves rather than do the painful introspective work. I don’t mean any of this lightly; the fall out of a divorce when two young kids are involved is enormous. I had no idea how things were going to work out for me or my children when I asked for a divorce, but I was confident that we would figure it out and learn from the experience, and learn we did!
What I observed through our divorce is that it is extremely difficult to work on yourself and a relationship when you live under the same roof. Ultimately it is a challenge to truly love someone else or be a great partner to them if you have not taken the time to understand and care for yourself. Trying to live in the same space, sharing the daily stresses, never taking guilt free time to yourself, all while building up even more resentment about your partner, makes mending a broken relationship a problematic encounter.
In our separation from one another, we were able to take a few days each week to ourselves, while the other had the children, to heal and work on becoming a better version of ourselves. Instead of couples counselling we continued to go individually. We made efforts to grow in ways we may not have done for years if we had stayed together. We both embarked on a journey of self-exploration and learned what genuinely mattered to us as individuals and what would be important to us in future relationships. We started to shut out others' advice and opinions and explore what we really wanted for ourselves. Instead of wallowing in our broken relationship together, we were able to start healing and rebuild our friendship from the ground up.
As the months and years went by, our relationship steadily improved. Our energies shifted to a more positive light and the subtle changes we were making in our lives started to become more obvious to one another. We started dating again without our kids' knowledge (or anyone else’s knowledge for that matter!) and began to examine and discuss the different paths we had been on.
Divorce did not solve the issues in the marriage by any means. We still had work to do in that arena but we were now more likely to be successful in this task because we had done the lonely, painful work by ourselves first. Slowly, carefully we started to reconstruct how we wanted our relationship to work if we were to legitimately give this a second go around.
We knew that we had to continue to give each other space to continue evolving while grounding everything in honest communication. No more resentments, no more nagging and no more negative misery. We don’t always hold true to this but we come very close and our relationship now after a two year separation and divorce is so much better on a multitude of different levels than our first marriage ever could have been!
We did not do it for the kids, or because we were lonely, or for financial reasons, we did it because we finally had done the work individually to come together as a couple. We don’t know if we will always be together but we work daily to live together happily from moment to moment and no longer get so wrapped up in what should or could happen in the future. In this moment right now, we have never been happier in our relationship and our understanding of one another.
After this experience I honestly believe that there are unhappy married couples who would benefit greatly from a separation if they are prepared to work on themselves and own their side of why their marriage is failing. It can definitely be a lonely journey, but pain inspires change and you will learn so much about yourself in the process.
Have you ever had a feeling you needed space in your marriage or relationship? We would love to hear your thoughts below....