You don't have to fall prey to outdated misconceptions
A week ago, I got a comment on my Twitter page that made every cell in my body recoil.
‘Divorce is taking the easy road’.
One simple statement that sums up the biggest misconception in society today. One statement that taps into our biggest fears as we face the reality that our marriages are over.
Anyone who has been through a divorce knows that is far from taking the easy road. It is the ultimate fight. It is the ultimate test of endurance and faith.
It pushes us to places we never thought we were capable of going.
Staying in a dysfunctional, unsalvageable marriage and burying it all down because you can’t face divorce is not something to aspire to.
Not for us as parents, and certainly not for our kids.
What pisses me off the most about this comment is that it takes one blanket rule and applies it to every situation under the sun.
As if there can be only one ‘right’ way to live our lives. As if there are not billions of people on the planet with billions of circumstances and stories.
Nobody in this whole world except you and your spouse knows what it truly felt like to be in the entity that was your marriage.
Nobody walks away from marriage on a whim. If two people are getting divorced, there has been a very long period of disconnect and unhealthy relating.
It’s nobody’s business what caused that disconnect, and nobody gets to decide if it’s ‘bad’ enough for the marriage to come to an end except the people who are in it.
When I reflect on the end of my marriage, I recall how much I struggled with needing to feel like it was ‘bad’ enough for us to separate. I was tormented by the voice in my head that said if my marriage failed, then I was a failure.
Just because two people once believed they could be together for the rest of their lives doesn’t mean that they are going to be able to achieve it.
Whether you initiated your divorce or not, nobody can say that divorce is the easy road.
My Own Beliefs
The real problem for me was not that a large part of society thinks that divorce is giving up. It’s that before I was married, I believed it too.
Growing up, I was taught by society that when a relationship ended, it had ‘failed’.
‘Oh, their relationship failed’.
There’s a lot of weight in that language, right?
If a relationship has ‘failed’, then that means that the two people attempting to have the relationship must be failures. They didn’t try hard enough.
The great thing about life is that we can choose to open our minds and look at things from different angles.
What if it’s not a failure? What if it’s actually a success?
When I look at my life now, I know that this is what I consider to be success. Two happy, well-adjusted teenagers who have a great relationship with me and their dad.
A life that I love living again. A life that feels true to me. A life where I don’t wake up and question the point of being here.
My ex-husband is happily living his best life.
Our marriage ended, yes. But that’s not where the hard work ended.
It wasn’t an easy road to get here, not by any stretch.
We fought long and hard to make sure that our kids were supported and that we didn’t turn the last years of disconnect and resentment into hard crystals of hostility that couldn’t be dissolved.
We worked on communication, forgiveness, emotional maturity, managing shared custody, handling new partners, therapy sessions, setting new financial goals, making new friendships, and running a household on our own.
The list of what we had to undertake to look after our family unit is endless!
To anyone who says that divorce is taking the easy road, I encourage you to open your minds and realize that sometimes deciding to end a marriage takes more courage than staying and is the best option for the family as a whole.
Dysfunction In Action
I want to share a story with you that confirmed for me that it’s better for kids to have two happy co-parents than two miserable, unhappy parents living together.
I had a friend many years ago who desperately wanted to leave her marriage.
Every time we’d talk about leaving, she’d say that she couldn’t face the conversation, couldn’t face the financial unknowns, couldn’t face what other people would think, couldn’t face someone else being in her kids’ lives.
So she drank, took her anti-depressants and fought with her husband nearly every day in front of the kids. Most nights, she was passed out in bed by 7 o’clock in the evening just to escape reality.
They would passive-aggressively do awful things to each other. Intimacy was non-existent; they were both checked out of their relationship but stayed together because neither wanted to deal with divorce.
She wasn’t present for her kids the way she wanted to be. Her husband seemed down most of the time. They didn’t connect with each other; they only spoke to each other through their kids.
My heart goes out to anyone in this situation. I know how hard it is to make the first step. I know that there are many fears and past beliefs about marriage that come into play when you can’t make the call to end it.
But I do wonder if anyone could argue that this is a healthy environment for this couple and their children. I wonder what lives they could create for themselves and their kids if they had the courage to let go of external judgment and make the call to separate and co-parent.
Divorce isn’t the end of the hard work
To those in a marriage where both partners are willing to meet each other’s needs and work like hell to get through the tough times together, I take my hat off to you.
To those who realised that their relationship had reached the end of its lifespan and made the decision to end it so they weren’t modelling disconnect and quiet misery for their children, I take my hat off to you, too.
Whether two people stay together in a relationship and work on it, or they decide to end the relationship and work on it, they are still busting their asses, and nobody is taking the easy road.
If you have voices in your head telling you that you gave up, or took the easy road, or didn’t fight for your family, here’s what I want you to say to yourself:
I work hard for my family every day.
What other people think of me is none of my business.
Anyone who labels me a quitter has no idea how much courage it takes to create a healthy bi-nuclear family from the ashes of dysfunction.
I get to decide what is best for me and my kids. If that means divorce, that’s ok.
I choose myself. Because I know that when I choose myself, in turn, I am choosing my children.
We don’t have to live under one roof to be a family.
The relationship that I had with my ex can evolve. It doesn’t have to exist in one iteration.
The notion of making a vow and never breaking it is outdated and doesn’t take into account the ever-growing entities that humans are.
Many people project their own fears and conditioning out into the world. I choose not to buy into those fears.
The connection that I have with my children is not dependent on whether or not I stay married.
I love myself. I believe in myself. I can trust myself.
Making Peace With Your Decision
Just as staying in an unhappy marriage is a personal decision, so is the decision to end one. Let go of the shame, guilt and feelings of being a quitter. They aren’t serving you or your children.
It took me many years to look back and realize that divorce is not taking the easy road or giving up on your family. Far from it.
Now I can see how much hard work it took, and I am proud of the fact that even though our marriage ended, we still worked together to create the family that we have today, and I never have to question whether or not we chose the ‘easy road’.
You don’t have to wait that long to give yourself permission to break free from the harsh judgment of others who can never understand your family’s journey.
Start challenging those messages today and remember…
You’re not a quitter. You’re a fighter.
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