Many years ago, I almost ruined my life. Even worse, I almost ruined my kids’ lives by asking my husband for a divorce.
There was a dark period in my marriage when I swear I think I lost my mind. It is the only explanation I have when I look back at my actions and my feelings. I have a strong need to share this experience even though now it is incredibly humiliating to me, because I see so many people lost in the same mire of complex emotions and making permanent decisions based on temporary insanity.
Let me start at the beginning.
I married my husband when I was 25 years old. I loved him, but from the very beginning, I questioned if I loved him enough. I never felt that intensity that often comes when falling in love.
He was my best friend, and he was a good man. I knew he would make an excellent husband and father. But I often worried something was missing on my end. That worry didn’t stop me from marrying him, though.
The first several years of our marriage were hard. We struggled with family dynamics and setting appropriate boundaries. I don’t want to tell too much about our history because it would be painful for family members we both love, but strained relations caused us a lot of marital discord. It brought out the worst in both of us and highlighted our flaws to each other.
I started building a lot of resentment toward my husband for what I believed were failures on his part to protect me or stand up for me. My husband is a conflict avoider, and he tried to make everyone happy which resulted in no one being really happy. Especially me.
One day I realized I didn’t love my husband anymore. In fact, I didn’t even like him anymore. I wanted a divorce.
Over time, my resentment had turned into contempt, and I was often hostile and angry with him. It was difficult even showing him basic kindness or respect.
I wanted a divorce, but I was raised believing marriage was forever. Divorce is very frowned upon in my family. My religious beliefs also forbade a divorce unless there was infidelity.
But still the day came when I asked my husband for a divorce, and he surprised me by agreeing. I had made him so miserable with my snarky, angry disposition for so long, he didn’t see any other way either. We were a mess. And we had two young kids who were going to be collateral damage.
But I was too self-absorbed in my own unhappiness to see what was really happening.
I wish I could go back now and talk to my younger, clueless self. I would have a very frank and honest conversation that would be painful to hear, but it would save me years of misery. It would save my husband years of misery as well. I couldn’t see this when I was in that dark place of my marriage but I see it clearly now.
Here is what I wish I could go back and say to my younger self during those dark days when I tortured myself with “should I stay or should I go” questions.
You need to get over yourself. Seriously.
What gives you the right to put anyone under a microscope and judge him as unworthy of even your respect? You are feeling so superior to your husband as you focus on his every flaw.
Just how do you think you would measure up to the same kind of intense, negative scrutiny?
This negative lens you use to view your husband has allowed you to rewrite history.
Whether you believe it or not, you chose this person because you loved him. But even more importantly, you promised to love him every day for the rest of your life. What you focus on expands.
Try spending one month–one entire month–and think only about his good qualities. You will be surprised at how your feelings will change.
Your marriage doesn’t have a chance if you keep holding on to everything your husband is not.
When you promised to love, honor and cherish him did you include “as long as you feel like doing it” in your vows?
Everyone has a “bad deal” in their marriage. Something they wish they could change. Your husband also has a bad deal in you! It is incredibly selfish of you to break your vows because you aren’t feeling in love. Stop feeling sorry for yourself and start figuring out how to change your feelings.
Your husband has never wavered in his devotion to you. Not once.
And I’ll take that kind of committed love any day over the passionate, high octane, romantic feelings that never last but consume you with intensity. You may think that sounds boring. At one time, I thought so too.
But can you imagine loving someone that intensely and knowing that any moment they can or will fall out of love with you? And then they are gone?
You could never be fully yourself with bad breath and bed hair.
Too much reality and they may lose their feelings and leave you.
You want the guy who is going to show up for you every single day because he said he would, whether he feels it or not. I promise you…THAT is being IN love.
THAT is true, lasting, deep, committed love. Stop believing the lie that it isn’t.
Sure, mature love can feel boring at times. It can also feel sexless and tired and lonely.
But it also feels comfortable and secure like a heated blanket on a cold day. It is what builds a FAMILY. Family sticks together and makes it work. You know this. It’s just right now you are stuck feeling like an angry victim who is trapped in a marriage that isn’t working. Trust me on this, you are the one who needs the most work.
Your older, wiser and happily married self
So many clients tell me they are not “in love” with their spouse. They say this because they believe the lie that feeling in love is what true love looks like.
Being IN love translates to being in lust.
Let’s call it what it really is, so we know what we are dealing with.
There are dozens of reasons why you may not feel in lust with your spouse.
But love has nothing to do with it. Is it important? Yes.
The fastest way to kill passion in any relationship is when neediness shows up in either spouse. No matter how subtle, any kind of neediness douses the flames of passion.
Differences in marriage are sexy.
In many ways, becoming too familiar kills passion. The only way to keep it alive in a long-term relationship is to allow your partner to be an individual – to have thoughts and feelings that may not align with yours.
In marriages, we often become too enmeshed with our partners.
We stop doing things apart.
We stop the things that form our individuality and allow us to bring outside energy back into the relationship.
I wasn’t in lust with my husband because I felt he was pushing my needs and wants to the side for his own comfort. I was angry and resentful. We had also become enmeshed. We got busy raising kids and making a living. We stopped having fun alone and together.
I could acknowledge my husband was a good person and I had feelings of deep affection for him, but I didn’t want to be married anymore. I convinced myself I didn’t love him in that way a wife should love her husband.
Now, I know it is hogwash.
No matter how much you are convinced you married the wrong person, you need to hold off making a decision about divorce until you get a clearer view of how you messed things up.
Think long and hard about your kids. If you leave their mom or dad, you will cause them severe damage.
We put so much emphasis on how we are feeling. But listen up people: our feelings change. Often.
One minute I love my kids, and the next I want to kill them.
One day I love my husband, and I appreciate his gifts.
The next day I feel he should be lucky to have me in his life and I wonder how long I can put up with his flaws.
But I get it. I was there. I was at the point of making a permanent, life-long decision based entirely on my feelings.
The reason I got to that point is because those negative feelings were lasting a long time.
So much time feeling negatively toward my spouse fooled me into thinking the good feelings and passion were gone for good. That this time, I wouldn’t be able to resurrect my desire to love my husband and even allow him to touch me again.
But not anymore.
Mostly how mature love feels depends directly on how much effort I put into the relationship.
When I spend time nurturing my marriage, I reap the fruits of my labor.
When I take my husband for granted, I have to deal with that harvest as well.
Twenty six years I ago I promised to love him forever. I have decided to keep that promise.
If my story resonates with you, you are in what we call a “one up position.”
You are feeling superior to your spouse. It isn’t a nice place to be, and you aren’t being very nice either. This is what it means to be selfish and self-absorbed.
The only way to get out of this place is humility.
You need a big dose of honesty! And it will be painful to see.
You will fight to justify and defend your position.
You will get angry.
But you are hurting people and trying to rationalize it by focusing on how you deserve to be happy, even at the expense of your spouse and your children.
If you continue down this path, you will very likely come to your senses one day and wonder how you threw it all away.
You will feel guilt and remorse but the damage will be done.
You will be divorced and your spouse will probably move on without you.
Your kids will experience childhood trauma that will adversely influence the decisions they make as adults.
All because you acted on your feelings instead of your common sense.
If you are miserable enough in your marriage to want to leave, use everything in your power to save it first. Find a good marriage counselor who will tell you the truth even if it hurts.
You owe it to the person you promised to love forever to at the very least, do intensive counseling.
Even if you feel it is hopeless.
Even if it is expensive and you think you can’t afford the costs.
You have no excuses.
Contact The Marriage Place for marriage counseling–alone or with your spouse today. Appointments can be made ONLINE or by calling 972.441.4432.
Other articles of note:
Psychology Today: The impact of divorce on children and adolescence
Focus on the Family: How could divorce affect my children?
Engage with Love: Your spouse wants a divorce and you don’t.