I remember the moment it hit me, like a punch in the gut.
It seems like there’s a new article coming out about marriage every day: signs you’re headed for divorce, why you’re destined to marry the wrong person, how to stay married forever, why you shouldn’t leave your marriage no matter how miserable you are… there’s no end to the marital advice people are eager to dish out.
I know, because most of these articles end up in my inbox – often sent to me by my boyfriend, who, like me, is a veteran of a failed marriage.
Lately, these articles have come with a common theme: don’t get divorced. The ‘wisdom’ seems to be that even though marriage is bound to be miserable a lot, if not all, of the time, leaving won’t help. You’ll just bring your problems to your next relationship and end up in the same doomed boat as before, blaming your partner for your problems and sabotaging your relationship.
Reading these articles always makes me cranky.
For one thing, I hate advice. I don’t like giving it and I don’t like taking it. I’d prefer to learn things the hard way – by trying them myself. I rarely take anyone’s word for anything. For another thing, I know how full of shit most writers are, because I’m one too – you can’t bullshit a bullshitter.
But there’s more to it than that. It inevitably leads me to think about my own marriage and wonder if I should have stayed.
The day I moved out, my then husband looked me in the eye and made a prediction: “You’ll regret this. It might be next year or in 10 years, but someday you’re going to wish you hadn’t left me.”
Maybe he’s right. But it’s been five years and, so far, no regrets. And I think he too is glad we’re not married anymore. Or maybe not exactly glad – relieved is probably a better word. We just weren’t compatible in the long term. Maybe it’s because when we got married I was 25 and he was 42. “You’ll be a young widow!” I remember my mother saying to me when I told her I was marrying someone 17 years my senior. I guess I showed her.
Why did our marriage fail? I could point to plenty of reasons. For one thing, a person changes a lot from age 25 to 35 – but from 42 to 52, not so much. However, I don’t think our age difference was our ultimate undoing. And while I certainly bring a luggage-cart full of issues to any relationship, I don’t think any of my bags hold anything that can’t be solved. I’m happy to unpack them, with the right person.
The truth is, I could have stayed with my husband – I just didn’t want to.
I remember the moment it hit me, like a punch in the gut. I guess Oprah would call it my ‘aha moment’. I was making the bed one morning, probably singing or laughing while I whipped out those hospital corners, when my five-year-old daughter looked at me and said “Mommy, you should have married someone who smiles more”.
Trust a kid to call it like it is. She was right: I was with the wrong person.
It wasn’t his fault. He was a good guy – he just wasn’t for me. Once upon a time, I’d wanted to be with someone I knew would never leave me. Now I wanted to be with someone who wanted to have adventures with me. Someone I could laugh with. Someone who would wake up early with me and watch the sunrise, excited for a new day. Someone fearless, like I try so hard to be. What had felt steady and secure at the beginning of our relationship now felt stifling.
There was more to my divorce than that, of course – relationships are complicated and messy. But from the moment my daughter said those words, I knew I was going to leave.
Life has been far from perfect since I got divorced. But do I regret it? No way. Take that, marriage ‘experts’!
Comment: When is walking away from a marriage the right choice?