It began 9 years ago today. I call it “The Great Awakening.”
Two days earlier we’d returned from a romantic week in a favorite city. We held hands walking in the rain-cleansed park, enjoyed restaurant meals and sight-seeing together, had laughs with friends, and had passionate nights.
He was intermittently moody during the vacation, sometimes walking 20 paces ahead or behind me saying he needed some solitude. I was used to this behavior, as it happened occasionally in our 20-year marriage. It was usually a phase and if I gave him space, he worked it out.
But returning home, he still seemed a bit distant. I asked if anything was wrong and he said no, so I figured he’d get over it soon enough. I fixed one of his favorite meals, and since it was Friday, we usually watched a movie.
As we were finishing dinner, he asked what I’d like to do after dinner, watch a DVD? I said sure.
Then there was a long pause. I’ll remember what he said next for the rest of my life.
He looked at me and said, “I think this marriage is over.”
I was dumb struck. I thought surely I’d heard him wrong. “What?” I asked not believing what I thought I’d heard.
“I think this marriage is done.”
“What are you talking about?” I was sure there must be some misunderstanding. We hadn’t been fighting — in fact, we never fought. We were rational, respectful people who taught others about how to communicate honestly. Our couples counselor said we could quit coming to her because we had become so good at working things out on our own.
He explained that he’d gone hiking a month ago and tried to figure out why he was unhappy. He wanted to spend full time focusing on enhancing his spirituality, living alone praying and meditating. This was the first I’d heard of it. A voice came to him that our marriage was over. When I asked if his spiritual quest required him to not be married, he said yes. I asked if he wanted to spend some time alone to sort it out. He said he was sure, but we should try spending a while apart.
I started crying. We talked more. Finally, after a few hours, he said he needed to go to bed. He went into our bedroom and climbed into our bed. Still crying, I too, got ready for bed. I couldn’t sleep, I was constantly weeping. Surreally, he tried to comfort me. How could someone who caused the pain think he could comfort me?
The next day we decided it would be best if he stayed with a friend for a while. It was hard to be without the man I spent nearly all of every day with. I cried a lot. But one night, I was awakened by a voice clear and distinct: “Fresh start. New beginning.”
But I didn’t want a new start. I wanted my old marriage back. The one with the man I thought was my soul mate.
It took me a few weeks to embrace the voice’s message. I began to see that I had overlooked glaring problems in our marriage because I wanted it to work. Instead of dueling lawyers, we decided to have a mediator help us through the distribution of assets. It was like exit counseling. Without the fear of saying something that would hurt the relationship, we were brutally honest. We didn’t care if it hurt the other or not — we told our truths.
When he said, “I rarely thought about you if you weren’t in the room” I realized how much time I’d spent thinking about how to make him happy, then implementing those ideas. I thought that’s what people did to have good relationships. I realized he had spent nearly no time thinking about how to make me happy.
I was struck with the idea that I could have spent the rest of my life bending over backwards to make a man happy who spent nary a nanosecond thinking about how to make me happy. It was a gift to be free of him.
This was the beginning of many, many epiphanies about the marriage I thought I’d been in instead of the realities of the marriage I had really been in. I began to look at what I’d compromised in the name of “having a good marriage.” I took crumbs in return. I saw all the places I’d subjugated what I wanted thinking I was being a good wife.
Now was the awakening of who I truly was and what I wanted. I was no longer weighed down by someone else’s needs and fears. I started dating and learned I could be attractive to men — in fact, lots of men. I saw where my boundaries are and how to communicate them clearly. I explored activities I’d never had experienced if I was still married.
So while it took me 18 months to heal my heart from the severity of the hurt, I truly do have a much better life now.
If you have any lingering anger or bitterness from your divorce, see if you can reframe it as an awakening.
What has awakened in your life since your divorce?