There are many wonderful things about having great women in your life. A thousand laughs over good food and wine, nights out you’ll never forget (but maybe should!); years of history with people that you know will always have your back. There are hard things as well, but I’d have to say one of the hardest is watching a friend leave someone they love. And I think it’s so hard because most of us have been there. I also think it’s the bravest, and oddly the most loving, thing you can do for someone you’re in a relationship with when it’s just not working. Of course, it’s difficult to explain to that the party that you’re leaving, but you remain hopeful that down the road they will understand.
Everyone has a breaking point. Whether it’s anger issues (that was mine), alcohol, drugs, abuse or just plain incompatibility and growing apart (also mine). But at some point, you recognize that something’s got to give. Someone has to be the brave one who is willing to stand up for the happiness they know they deserve. And if you’re lucky, your ex will find happiness again as well.
Sometimes a break up is written on a red, neon sign. Everyone sees it coming, including both people in the relationship. There’s fighting, there’s silent treatments; there’s an overabundance of anger and uncomfortable moments. But sometimes, it’s just not that easy. One person isn’t catching on that the other person is unhappy, or doesn’t feel that you’ve grown apart. Typically, you find that the person who isn’t catching on is the one who’s not paying attention and seeing the signs. And I believe that is what makes the person who is leaving run away ever faster. Because that leads you to wonder how well your spouse (boyfriend/girlfriend) actually does know you. Can they really miss the physical signs?
It’s this kind of indicator (someone clearly missing the warning signs) that is perhaps the best road map to your own happiness and what you expect from someone you share your life with. If the person you’re with is missing that there is no physical intimacy, it may be because it’s not a priority to them in their spouse. If they are missing that there’s no intellectual conversation, perhaps it’s because they don’t desire any. If they’re overlooking that you have nothing in common, it’s because it’s not something they seek out. And the toughest thing is being someone who wants these things in a person, and realizing the person you’ve spent years with is not that person now, or never was. Therein lies the real decision. Do you sacrifice years of history, comfort and pattern for the unknown? Do you trade in your wooby for a parachute to jump off with? The short answer is: yes.
How do I know this? Because I did it. I do know that some people can stay in a relationship that is not working, and they can do so forever. They can live without fire, without passion and sex or affection, because they’re too frightened of the unknown or of what everyone else thinks. Or they spend years waiting for someone else to change, which I did. But one day I woke up and realized that I kept asking him to change when really, I was the one who needed to change and stop thinking he would change for me. That maybe, he just didn’t want to change or couldn’t. Either way I should have realized that it wasn’t fair for me to ask; I just should have realized years earlier that he wasn’t the one for me. But I let the fact that I had children, a home and a life built with him hold me back from my own happiness and balance. And I haven’t even mentioned the guilt that I felt being the one to “ruin” our family.
The same day I woke up knowing I wouldn’t continue to ask him to change, I also took a stark and honest view of my life from as far outside as I could imagine. I pretended to be the woman at the store behind us as we argued about everything and so angry it was palpable. Or as the friends who had watched our marriage deteriorate or had watched him treat me so disrespectfully that they didn’t know how to approach me about it until after I left him. Or as our children, which was the worst. I realized that I didn’t want my son to grow up thinking that was how men acted, and I didn’t want my daughter to think that was how a wife and mother handled herself. When most people say that their children are ultimately why they stay in an unhappy marriage, my kids were why I left.
I want them to be romantics who think that love is blissful. That it’s respectful, kind and happy. And while I may not know what’s right for my friends now, I can say that I am immensely proud of them for being willing to trade their wooby for parachutes. And even though parachutes come with a risk, we know we’ve got one another to cushion the fall.
“It takes as much courage to have tried and failed as it does to have tried and succeeded.” Anne Morrow Lindbergh