(Note: This was written from 35,000 feet back in March this year. Still relevant although much has also changed.)
I’m sitting here in the shadow of leaving my husband and I’m asking myself … when did ‘I do’ become ‘I don’t’? What was the catalyst for the change? What happened to make me suddenly say no more?
Was there abuse? Not recently. (Edit – But actually there was, and I wasn’t noticing anymore 😕)
Were there arguments? Nothing unusual.
Was there infidelity? Not for years.
So why? Why would a 47 year old woman decide to leave her husband of 25 years?
We have been through a lot over the years. We survived early affairs, we survived 5 children, we battled through a change of country, we fought on during times of conflict, we rectified a lot of abusive behaviours. I became stronger, he became stronger. We managed with little money, we went through teaching kids to drive, we bought and built houses, we even taught others about marriage and how to make it work. So none of this makes sense now does it? No. It really doesn’t.
Some days I think I am just freaked out, but I know it’s bigger than that. I always wanted us, wanted us to work, wanted us to be together for our children, for their weddings, for Christmases, for grandchildren.
I worked hard at keeping our marriage together. I remember going through a time of discontent and changing my attitude, choosing the good, looking for only what I could be thankful for. That changed us for a long time. We decided we were a team. We were together in this thing called marriage, called life. We continued on happy enough, always pressing towards more. We worked hard and worked some more trying to get businesses off the ground, and trying to make a life we were comfortable with.
So what changed? Thinking about it…. It wasn’t just one thing, it was a realisation of many things. I had lost my dreams, I felt unloved, my opinions were discounted, the sacrifices were too much, my life had become this web of half truths and inauthentic actions that gave up all I had to satisfy the other, and while I slowly performed on the outside, I died on the inside.
Last year someone mentioned to me that I always seemed to make all the sacrifices. I’m a Mum right, so it’s often just the way of it. But… I’m also a person. I’m also a wife. I’m also a worker. I’m also someone with feelings and emotions. I realised that although I’m happy to make sacrifices, I’m only giving, and giving and giving some more with very little in return.
My dreams are not his dreams. I never dream of money, and boats, and expensive houses. I’m not willing to sacrifice for things that are only things. I’m willing to sacrifice for love… for purpose, for family, for people.
I’m no longer willing to sacrifice ‘me’. For the past 5 years I have worked full time, done our business accounts and things at nights and weekends, worried about the children, taught kids to drive, moved house even though the idea to renovate didn’t excite me. I’ve put up without being touched unless sex was wanted, with being the shopper, the cleaner, the washing lady, the banker, the financier, the coordinator of family events and get togethers, the voice of reason, the one who recently gave up her job for ‘us’ and the one on the receiving end of bad moods and sulks and limited help.
I’ve literally done it all. And I’m tired. My stomach is always tied up in knots, my heart is weary, my love tank is dry and my bank account no better. There is always promises. Promises of a more settled life. Promises of more money. Promises of a new start if I move states. Promises of ‘us’. But it’s all words…. and the words are as empty as my heart feels.
My son recently suggested I give it one more try. We get counselling, we go to church, we give it a final go. It sounded good in theory, but how can you do that when you are dead inside? When you had hoped and dreamed a marriage would be built on Gods design, yet are left disappointed time after time. When your existence seems so futile inside the marriage that you no longer have hope.
Perhaps that is the word… perhaps that is the reason… the loss of hope. The loss of believing in promises, the loss of believing in ever loving him as he should be loved. The loss of trusting myself, and trusting him. The loss of knowing that we will ever get ‘there’, because his personality is to always chase more. When hope dies, your dream is gone, the light has gone out.
I know you are thinking – why don’t I ask he gives up his dreams for me? He would. I know he would. For a time. But after that they would plague him again. He doesn’t settle for simple. It’s not in his DNA. And that’s ok. That is who he is made to be. He has great ideas and chases them. He works hard. He follows his passions and his dreams and I love that for him. I won’t hold him back from them…. because they will always be there. Instead I will release them to him. He will get his dreams because that is who he is…. and I will cheer him on from afar.
It makes me cry to think of us breaking up because I know it brings hurt…. to him… to my kids… to our friends. I’m not blaming him… it takes two to make a marriage and two to neglect it. Two to let it die, and two to revive it.
Somewhere in our marriage I lost my voice. I stopped dreaming for myself. I stopped asking for what I needed. Perhaps I should have fought harder. Perhaps I should have yelled more, cried more, talked more. Perhaps I should have stood up for me more. Perhaps I should have taken a break more often.
The realisation that this is over has been extremely hard. To be honest it was probably before Christmas I realised. Christmas was bittersweet knowing it would be our last as a family. Our holiday to ‘celebrate’ 25 years of marriage, marred because I was so unhappy. Our first child’s wedding with a sense of sadness knowing this is the only one we would be together for. And the last month, knowing deep in my heart and soul that I can’t go back. I can’t try again. That I no longer want to try. I don’t have the capacity to try.
It’s very scary. Knowing I have to be prepared to be alone for the rest of my life. Knowing my future holds no promises. Knowing there will loss of dreams, of family, of finances. The guilt weighs on me every day. The idea I ‘could’ or I ‘should’…. yet knowing I can’t. Not this time. Not anymore.
Will I have regrets? I’m sure there will be some. Will I wonder if this time it might have worked? Perhaps. But I wouldn’t be being true to myself if I stay. I wouldn’t give it an honest try because my heart is empty and my hope is gone. I wish it could be different, but wishing doesn’t change anything. Wishing doesn’t change patterns, doesn’t change behaviours (mine and his). Wishing doesn’t wipe out hurts, or stop more from happening, it doesn’t make it right and it certainly doesn’t make it happy. Wishing is just that – a longing, a dream, a hope…. but when hope is gone, there is only silence.
So when did ‘I do’ become ‘I don’t’? It was when hope died.