Is Divorce The Best Option To Recover Your Sense Of Self
Single at sixty. A place I didn’t expect to be.
I was married for thirty-four years. I fathered four children. They are long gone from the coop and out on their own.
As a young man I questioned why anyone, after so many years of marriage, would divorce. Especially after living so many years with a partner. I naively thought that two people would know and be so comfortable with each other that there would be no reason to call it quits and go separate ways.
Little did I know.
As with many things in life, there isn’t one single, simple reason a marriage fails. Traditionally, the most common reasons are:
- Sex: issues of frequency; lack of intimacy
- Money: financial health problems; financial strain; different spending habits/priorities
- Trust: infidelity; loss of trust; not keeping your word; lack of honesty/integrity
- Children: different methods of dealing with children; variations in parental discipline styles; freedoms granted children
- Communication: the lack of and/or different styles of communicating
- Time: too much time together or away from one another; loneliness
- Addictions or abuse
I believe there ought to be another significant reason not listed above: Loss of self.
A Short Story
I worked at a job that didn’t speak to the real me for 31 years. It paid the bills and made it possible to raise four wonderful children. Although I wouldn’t trade my past for anything, I did struggle for many of those 31 years internally in a quiet and desperate way.
I didn’t know what I truly wanted. I didn’t know what I wished to become.
I went to college, not because I was focused and targeted upon a career, but rather to discover what it was that interested me. I was looking for clues. I was looking for direction. Even after graduating, I still wasn’t clear what my next step would be.
That’s when the Universe decided for me.
All it took was a telephone call from my father, requesting my help in his newly opened restaurant. Family obligation spoke loud and clear.
Three days later I was there. Sixteen years later, married and with four children, I left the family business to open my own.
I continued down the path of security and safety.
Too many people depended upon me.
A consequence of these decisions is that I never discovered my true voice. I didn’t really know who I was. I molded myself to “fit in,” to be liked, to please, to take care of, and not draw attention to myself. I was being the person I was supposed to be, not the person that had eluded and escaped me all my life.
My marriage became one of roles and expectations. I was the breadwinner. She, the child-rearer and care taker. Our lives were focused on raising our family.
I had lost myself, yet gained a family.
Fifteen years later, after opening my own restaurant, successfully putting 4 children through college, and seeing them out on their own, I sold my business. I felt I had fulfilled my obligation as a father and provider. Now, it was my time.
A time to make a change.
I still wasn’t totally certain what I wanted to do, but I knew I had to risk discovering it. I loved to travel and photography so I started down that path. I also knew I wanted to give and help others. I had always lived such a selfish life, always looking out for just me. I didn’t like this about myself.
I knew it had to change.
My soul called out. I knew I had to listen or forever risk beating myself up for not having the balls and courage to at least try. It was time to “step up” to the plate. Time to do. Time to risk it all to find what my soul really needed.
My soul yearned to get out. It was screaming-out to express itself. It needed to grow. I needed to risk letting go of all I thought, and was taught, that I needed to be happy. I needed to risk living my life and stop living someone else’s.
It was time to stop pretending that I was anything else than what I was. It was time to listen, and to start heeding my heart’s calling.
So here’s the million dollar question: Why was I not able to make these changes within the parameters of my marriage? Why couldn’t I create a new path for myself and still stay in the relationship?
I believe anyone who’s been in a long term committed relationship may have a hint as to why. Nia Vardalos, in the movie My Big Fat Greek Wedding gives a clue when she says, “The man may be the head of the household, but the woman is the neck, and she can turn the head whichever way she pleases.”
While this may sound a little crude, there’s some truth to it.
- Marriage is about compromise. There’s concession, accommodation, and finding that happy middle ground. I already had a good idea as to what my life would look like had I stayed in the marriage. I knew in my heart it wouldn’t lead to the change I desperately needed in my life. It would have required me to compromise my soul! Who could be happy pretending to be someone they weren’t?
- Marriage has expectations, said or unsaid, from the other half. You pay the bills, I do the shopping, you cook the meals, I do the dishes, you cut the grass, I clean the house, etc. In a marriage you do the things you must do in order to keep the calm; it’s give-and-take. When both parties are giving and taking out of consideration to the other–to keep the peace, to keep the calm, to keep the other person happy–it can create a situation where neither person is really getting what they desire. But you don’t want to upset the apple cart. Sometimes one can be more concerned with keeping the peace than pursuing a dream.
- Individuals get comfortable in a marriage. Familiarity becomes a secure and safe place to be. Why would anyone want to upset and risk changing that…especially at this stage of life? With safety and security comes compliance, concession, and yielding. Passivity becomes easy. The next thing you know another year has passed and your life looks pretty much the way it always has. The dreams, aspirations, and hopes you once had for yourself continue to simmer and sputter on the back-burner of life.
- Lastly, marriage is a safe place to hide, a safe place to lose yourself. It is a convenient reason to not challenge yourself to grow. Within a marriage, one can always rationalize or blame others for never achieving or living a dream. Blame your children, your marriage, your employer, or your past. “There was never enough money. The time just never was right. I didn’t know how to. I never was smart enough.” The list is endless.
These are your fears talking.
I was guilty of losing myself in my marriage. But I now know I can blame no person, place, or thing. It has been my continuous choice to let it happen. But things change, people change, relationships change.
I had to change…
Nowadays, I have no excuses. It really wasn’t because of my partner at all. It was because of me. My soul needed to travel down this road of self-realization. Now, I’m living my life. I am in control of it. It is up to me to succeed or fail.
As difficult as it is at times, I am grateful for the opportunity to live a life of my design. For better or worse, living my life is what I must do. I choose to stop pretending to be anything else but what I am.
I know I wouldn’t be on the path I’m on now on if I was still married. The clarity comes day by day. What I do know is that I must keep stepping forward everyday in this direction. I absolutely know and have faith within that I’m on my right path.
Are you living and realizing your path?