Getting divorced sucks. I know. I’ve done it twice. I am happily married now and what makes this time different than the other two is me. I am here to tell you that divorce is not the end. It may be the end of the marriage, but it is not the end of being able to trust men, or the end of your sanity, or the end of your life. In fact, for me it was the slap in the face I needed to change my habits and my focus so that I could survive my first marriage falling apart, a subsequent marriage falling apart, and my current marriage, which is wonderfully stable.
This is a story about a bride who walked down the aisle thinking, “He’ll change or I’ll get used to it.” It is a story about doing everything I could to make everyone happy at my own expense and having it blow up in my face. Sound familiar?
Yet mine is not a story of regret, sadness, or bitterness, but one of surprising transformation, kind of like making a diamond by compressing a dirty diaper. It is a story about the importance of making and keeping boundaries, and not making excuses, not giving in to fear, and not fearing change.
Don’t Make Excuses - Call a Spade a Spade:
My first ex broke up with me three times in the six and a half years we were together. The first time was eight weeks in, so that he could pursue another girl who, it turns out, was completely uninterested. He came back and I took him. Then he did it again, this time moving all the way across the country for a job, the manager of which he wanted to and did sleep with. He moved back six months later, directly into my apartment, and into our old life.
I made it so easy for him. He knew that I would pad the nest and we would fall right back into our old life. Nothing would change. I kept expecting him to do something different, to be someone I wanted him to be, and whom he had no interest in being.
I certainly didn’t change. I sat patiently and waited for something to happen. I tried to convince myself that I trusted him by making every excuse in the book for his prior transgressions. And when he proposed - drunk, over the phone, at 3 am from his mother’s house in Switzerland - I spent the eight months of our engagement waiting for him to back out. Then, when he didn’t, I exhaled. But there was no peace of mind because nothing had changed.
And the last time he broke up with me was after we’d gotten married. He crawled into our bed and asked me if I still loved him and then told me that he wasn’t sure how he felt. What he actually meant was that there was a 23-year-old girl that he worked with who was sleeping her way through the office and his turn was up next.
I told him that I would leave but, if he let me walk out the door, it would lock behind me and we’d remain forever on opposite sides and I would never, ever, ever come back. Ever. I meant it this time.
Say What You Mean and Mean What You Say:
It occurred to me that I never presented anything to him in terms of how it affected me and my life, which was our life. I never told him that when he went out for drinks without me, I jumped whenever the phone rang thinking that it could just as easily be my mother calling to say hello or the police telling me that he was dead in a ditch. Instead, I told him, have a great time, and kissed him as he left.
I never mentioned to him that I thought it looked bad that he was spending so much time outside of the office with the 23-year-old new girl. Instead, I said, yeah, it’s a great idea to ask her to house-sit while we’re on our honeymoon, invite her over to dinner tomorrow so we can hammer out the details.
How could I expect anything to change when practically every word out of my mouth indicated that I was okay with what he was doing? I didn’t want him thinking that I didn’t trust him...even though I didn’t. And I shouldn’t have. Everything he did screamed that he was untrustworthy. He had proven that over and over. Why was I working hard and why was I so invested in something that made me so miserable?
Stick to Your Guns:
Image Courtesy of Favim.com
After about four months, he started calling me. He called and begged for me to take him back. The girl he’d taken up with had quit her office job and started stripping. He was unhappy. She was bringing home men and sleeping with them in their bed. I was horrified, but I still stuck to my guns.
It was hard. It was difficult to not take his advances as a stroke to my shattered ego. Plus, I missed him. I was back living at my parents’ house when he started calling me to ask me to come back. I hated living there and it would have been so easy just to pick up where he and I had left off. I knew that if I did what I had always done, I would end up right where I always had. I didn’t want that.
Up From the Manure Springs a Blossom:
No fairy tale heroine can live happily ever after until she meets Prince Charming, so it is no wonder we walk into our most important relationships ready to do whatever it takes to make them work, even if that means swallowing our feelings and accepting shenanigans from our mates that we wouldn’t dare accept from anyone else. If we do lay down any boundaries, we don’t enforce them because we’re so afraid we’ll lose what we have. But what do we have?
Sharing your life with someone touches every aspect. You share living space, friends, activities, family, just to name a few. We fear that we will make our friends uncomfortable. We’re afraid we’ll stop getting invited to parties because no one wants awkward moments at Christmas or little Joey’s birthday. People will look at us, pity us. Poor girl, she lost her husband. Her family fell apart. We fear we’ll be alone, broke, and broken. And so, we live with our unhappiness.
Living with the devil you know. We wait for our significant other to change for us. We take it personally when they don’t. We subjugate our own feelings or risk breaking the stillness of the marital pond. But to what end?
Image Courtesy of Askmissa.com
The key to bringing about change is recognizing that we have no control over anything except our own actions. To some people, that is a terrifying prospect, but when you look at it, it is the most liberating thing ever.
What it means is simply that we have the power to make the lives we want for ourselves. We don’t have to wait for someone else to do it for us hoping that they’ll pick up on our signals or just wake up one day and decide to be different. That only happens in the movies.