I finally did it. After years of feeling inadequate in my marriage. After this last year in which I’ve spent most of the time in desperate need of being seen and supported but feeling unseen and alone. After the last several months of sleeping on the couch and growing more and more independent. Yesterday I told my husband I’m done with our marriage. I was prepared for lots of scenarios but found the reality was his mild acceptance, while he maintained that he believes we could still work things out.
As I was taking my alone time early this morning I realized that it’s a big deal for me to allow myself to fail. I was questioning my decision and whether it was fair to just give up on something my husband believes is still possible. He kept asking me if I was 100% sure I wanted to end it. Yes. Was I 100% sure we couldn’t work on our relationship and someday have something beautiful to show for it. No. I’m about 95% sure. If there’s a 5% chance that something amazing could happen, shouldn’t I stick with it and at least try until the dream comes true or I become 100% sure?
Throughout my life everything has a been a battle. I battled to not shatter when my father was sexually abusing me and my mom was too depressed to help. All through school I fought to have the best grades possible, to be one of the smartest kids in the class and never let the world see how damaged I was by my father’s abuse and the emotional and physical violence of my boyfriends. I fought to go to the college I knew would be best for me, where I could study the one thing that made my heart sing and my mind feel engaged. I defied the medical community and my epilepsy and survived my pregnancy with my oldest kid. I went to war to pull myself together enough to leave that child’s father when I realized he was an alcoholic and would end up doing a lot of psychological harm. Agoraphobia was keeping me locked in the house but I got to therapy every week, listened to my therapist and did the homework which involved leaving the house every day and going a little further each time.
The list goes on and on. All I’ve ever done is fight against the odds. Failing when the abuse was happening meant death or insanity. And I carried that notion into every other endeavor and relationship I undertook. And while it’s true that I almost always won the day, the toll it took on me has been immense. I’m exhausted physically, mentally and emotionally and there’s not enough of me left over to even get to know, let alone enjoy or feel good about.
Before I could make the decision to end my marriage I had to decide if it was ok for me to give up. To fail. For a long time I think the answer was ‘no’. Then, while I was away at my friend’s farm, that very suddenly changed. It’s kind of a funny (in a sad way) story actually but so very me. I was watching the end of very last episode of the final season of Jessica Jones and she’s wrestling with the notion of whether or not to stay in a particular relationship with someone in her life (I’m treading carefully in order to avoid spoilers) and she says:
Some things you look at and you think “disaster” and you look for exits. Other things you think “maybe I can fix this”.
You might ask yourself: what’s it gonna take to make it feel right?
The answer is: Too much. It’ll take too much.
And then I was sobbing, phlegm loose in my throat and snot dripping out of my nose, my glasses so spotty with saline that I couldn’t see through them. It was the first possible answer to my dilemma that felt good to me. Infinitely sad but right. And I realized what I most wanted to do was stop fighting to survive or win or have a great relationship at the cost of having nothing left over of me for myself. And it was a decision to take back space in my life for me, space in which I could simply be, exist, because for the first time in my life I find myself believing that I deserve that, I have a right to it. I could stay and fight to make my marriage feel right but it would take too much of me.
Now that I’m writing this I see that it’s less about allowing myself to fail at something (though I do feel that’s a part of it) and more about valuing myself enough that I no longer feel compelled to expend energy that is scarce, on something that’s been floundering for years.