“Heart Broken” by Patchworkbunny
I know some of you that make your way here are separated or divorced– some willingly, others not so much. I have now been separated for about eighteen months. The separation has not taken so long because we are unsure of whether or not we want to get back together—we don’t. It’s taken embarrassingly long because of money, time, and laziness. Hopefully, it looks like next year I will be officially free. In my case, I not only wanted my separation, I needed my separation. ExMutant is a chronic liar and because of that, every day meant pain, confusion, and doubt were part of my life on one scale or another. Not only that but it was becoming harshly apparent he and I chose different paths and had completely different ideas of important, vital concepts. Often, these ideas weren’t just different, they were opposing. To make the relationship last as long as it did involved two key practices: His lying and my complacency. Eventually, these were the key things that helped me understand our marriage was not only over, but had been initiated incorrectly:
- What he wanted out of life was mostly in direct contradiction with what I wanted. Spend vs. Save, Neiman’s vs. Marshall’s, Bars vs. Parks, etc.
- His behavior during most of the marriage was something I would not want my daughter to endure or my sons to duplicate and vice versa.
- None of this was new to him. I had protested so many things early in the relationship and found it land on deaf ears deflected by lying . Instead of building myself up to leave at the first sign of trouble, I beat myself down to endure as much as I possibly could. That limit had not just been met, it’d been severely exceeded. Doesn’t the saying go something like “Doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results is the definition of ‘insanity’”?
- Finally, I had to accept he didn’t love me as I truly was nor did he respect me for what I’d become to him. He was fond of my convenience—a phrase I gleaned from him when he explained that being the main reason he’d taken up with the girl he’s with. He didn’t realize how much that explained his reason for having been with me too. I had given up resisting him a long time ago. Instead I worked at making life easy thinking maybe if our family life was finally good enough, he’d give up on the bachelor life he clung to.
The weeks and months following the separation were the most thrilling and liberating days I’d experienced in ages. I felt so free which is as joyous as it is terrifying. And that’s what makes separation and divorce such a damned roller coaster. You feel certain things, other people expect you to feel other things, you doubt yourself, and others doubt you. But, the more time I was away from him, the more I rediscovered myself. The more I rediscovered who I was, the more I realized how lost I’d become and how little my “husband” loved the true me.
That last revelation is a weird one. On one hand it starts up this whole insecurity bit—“Why doesn’t he love me?” “What’s wrong with me?” “Why aren’t I good enough?” To be fair, I had screwed up royally early in our relationship—I never insisted he love me. I moved in with him, had his child, married him, had more of his children and never insisted he love the true and real me. And the reason I didn’t do that is because I knew, deep down, he couldn’t. I wasn’t essentially, truly, right for him and he wasn’t essentially, truly right for me. I knew that to insist he love me on my terms would mean he’d have to sacrifice too much of his essential self. Who he is at his core is not a good match for who I am at my core. And that was largely the reason I was unable to fully and unconditionally love him either. I couldn’t. Too many things about him were not things I could accept. I could keep sweeping things under the rug, but that’s not acceptance and therefore, that’s not love.
In many bad marriages, no one is really truly bad. Yes, people do bad things in bad marriages but there’s usually not a Supervillain. I actually think what you find in a bad marriage is two insecure people who’ve fought tooth and nail not to be themselves but to be what they perceive the world around them wants and expects them to be. What I have learned from my personal disaster is this: to be happy, alone or together, you have to know who you are. That is really not a simple new age concept, this is really complicated when you start to piece it together. It’s not just a matter of Name, Age, Sex, Occupation, and Favorite Color. It’s a matter of your life story– past, present, and future.
What were you like as a child? How are you different? Why are you different? What is good about your differences and what is bad? What are the things you are good at versus the things you wish you were good at versus the things you pretend to be good at? What hurts your heart and why? What surges your heart with joy and why? Really, truly, if someone asked you to take $5M and do whatever you absolutely wanted to do with it what would those things be? Account for every last nickel and ask yourself why would you do those things? Why don’t you do those things now? When you imagine yourself running at 100% what is that like? How much are you running at today? What are you doing to get to 100%? If 100% includes another person, you’re still only running at 50. Take the other person out of the picture and imagine it. Embrace it. If you know who you are and you love who you are, you don’t need another person to fully bloom. Another person, one who really loves you at your core, does not complete you—they enhance you.
Think of the people you love so very much. Would you want to know that person sacrifices dreams, hopes, values, and aspirations because of you? No. So don’t do the same for others. Figure out a way to bring them together. We know you can’t be everything all of the time but that doesn’t mean you have to completely shut something off to keep something else going. Don’t deny yourself, it’s too slippery a slope.
I often think of the four burners theory and I agree with it. If you have all four kitchen burners going at the same time on high even though they’re cooking completely different things, you’re likely to end up with nothing but burnt food. But if you do only one thing at a time, you’ll never have dinner ready on time and three-quarters of it will be cold. So you keep the other burners going while you focus on one. You adjust the heat accordingly. The same goes with You. Figure out your pillars, your goals, your dreams—the ones you are fully in control of. And then start cooking, adjusting the heat here and there as you go but never turning one thing off in favor of another.
I’m not there yet, and I don’t have all of the answers. I screw up constantly. The difference between me now and then is this—I have a much clearer picture of who I am, what I want, what I don’t want, and how to get where I want to go while I avoiding pitfalls. Understanding what hurt me and what hurt him about our marriage helped shape this. It honestly feels the past eighteen months have brought more self-revelation to me than the past eighteen years. It doesn’t mean I’m guaranteed success and smooth sailing, it just means I have a much better idea of what needs to happen. As long as I win the war, it’s ok to lose a couple of battles.