When is it time to end a relationship?
When have you or your partner decided that you are longer walking the same path in life? How hard do you struggle to keep the relationship going and how much credence do you give to the old adage ‘you’ve only got one life’ ? It’s a tough one. As a twice divorcee who laughable thought of herself as a ‘married for life kind of girl’, I’m happy to share the moment when the scales moved from ‘happily ever after ‘to ‘divorce club’ and offer a few tips on keeping sane in the process.
Divorce number one: growing apart gradually.
So divorce number one was a ‘simple’ case of growing apart. We met in our early 20s and over the years – and two children later – all the love and fun seemed to have been lost as the drudgery of work, kids and house renovation took over. The divorce was a pretty mutual decision but we never really explored whether we could have saved this relationship. Looking back now I think the honest answer is we possibly could have, but with work and a significant amount of compromise. Whether we could have fallen back in love with each other again, I cannot say. At the time it felt that we had reached a tipping point and both realised that the will to fight had gone; that we no longer wanted to make the other happy and that we were just two single people within a marriage. This is obviously an achingly sad place to be but the resultant divorce, though painful at times, was relatively smooth.
The next chapter was hard in a different way.
Eight years later divorce number two was a very different breed. Here the relationship was passionate and deeply loving. It felt like a rollercoaster with the very highest of highs and the most devastating of lows. This marriage, unlike number one, was fraught with issues of control and felt increasingly toxic as my feelings, opinions and finally my emotional distress, were met with callousness and increasing periods of the ‘silent treatment’. There was no opportunity to talk; it was his way or not at all. I fell into depression and learned helplessness. Finally, after a mundane and totally unnecessary argument, my husband refused to talk to me for several weeks and finally announced he did not want me. Although he subsequently suggested these words were merely uttered in the heat of the moment, the damage was done. I weighed up the hurt of the silent treatment, the learned helplessness and finally recognised the extent of his controlling behaviour and realised that nothing would change; I was at that tipping point.
Scared and utterly broken-hearted, I issued a second divorce just a year after our glorious wedding day and I continue to feel the full force of emotional trauma many months later. A stupidly quick decision after an argument, or an act of self salvation? Sometimes I fluctuate between these two opposing questions but the tipping point could not be ignored. Could this marriage have been saved? Unlikely, unless a very large cheque was paid to a therapist, something my nearly ex-husband would have never contemplated.
I still believe in marriage
Although I may be perceived as a poster girl for divorce, when people talk to me about their marriage difficulties unless there are obvious deal-breakers, I often advise them to explore all possibilities of reviving the relationship whilst having a mind to self-preservation. It is clearly better to proceed with caution, recognising that emotions can fluctuate, and trust me, the grass is not always greener. If there is no alternative to separation then having a trial run is not a bad idea and, where humanly possible, continue treating each other with respect and care. For couples with children this last point is critical. You are essentially connected to each other for life and ultimately your children may judge you on the basis of your behaviour towards your ex.
Divorce is painful every time
These are such painful experiences and whether you are the one divorcing or the decision is forced upon you, it is a time for facing your deepest fears. I know having experienced such a traumatic end to my second marriage, it is still possible to walk through life whilst carrying a backpack full of emotional pain. I know what it feels like to take in the deepest of breaths as you face an uncertain future. There is an acute sense of unreality when almost every aspect of your life is suddenly so different. But I tell myself everyday that although my path is painful I have no choice but to walk it. So I simply put one foot in front of another and walk it with the best courage I can muster. And as I walk and breathe, the back pack gets slowly lighter.
When did you know it was the end of your relationship? Talk about it or any other issues this has raised here.