I woke up on the morning of April 13 ready to have an awesome day. My husband’s birthday was the following Monday and I was looking forward to celebrating him. I was also looking forward to my favorite thing about Saturday — lazy brunch with the spouse. I laid awake for a while, just watching him sleep (and hoping he would notice that and wake up because I wanted brunch). He finally did, and we laid there together for a while before I deemed it shower time. After my morning rituals, I walked back into the bedroom ready to discuss brunch.
I looked at him and knew and something was wrong. He looked small and afraid. “What’s up?” I asked.
“I can’t do this anymore.”
My heart started to race.
“Can’t do what anymore?”
“This. Our marriage. I need out.”
My head was spinning, my heart racing. I had just been hit by a 16 ton Mac truck. I knew he had been struggling lately, but I thought it was work related and weather related. Every April, he got weird. It was a cycle. I didn’t expect this as the result.
I thought we were happy. Our marriage had not been easy. I had struggled to find my footing ever since leaving my youth director job. I had gone back to school for an MPA and been unable to find a job that was actually related to the degree, so I was underemployed or unemployed for a majority of our marriage. My lack of income combined with my lack of domestic skills (who am I kidding, lack of domestic give a shit) was a HUGE stressor. Then I went to California to finish yet another degree, my Master of Divinity. We lived apart for nine months after spending about a year fighting about money. We had gone through a lot of stress, there was a lot of fighting. We had mentioned divorce at that time. Had he woken up like this a year prior, I would have totally expected it.
But this past year had been so good. We barely fought. We laughed a lot. We had a stress-free Christmas with our first real tree. We were having fun together and dreaming about our future. Or so I thought.
Turns out, my husband had checked out a long time ago and was doubling down on his affection for me in hopes of love returning. What I was seeing was not him being in love with me me, it was him trying to be in love with me. And he couldn’t do it anymore.
He said he needed to go out and think. He went out and rented an apartment. We talked about this being temporary, that we would get back together when I finally had a call and could contribute financially to our relationship — when we could be a partnership in every sense of the word. We split things, under the assumption that we would be bringing our things back together.
I couldn’t sleep, couldn’t eat. I was terrified of losing the one I loved the most. The one I didn’t realize I had begun to live not only with, but for.
However, I was (am) also on the cusp of the career I have been working towards for over ten years, and I wasn’t going to let this get me off track. I wasn’t going to break again.
I started therapy immediately. I went to the gym every day. I started kickboxing (I created a video montage in my head of my kickboxing to Kelly Clarkson’s song Stronger while getting better at kickboxing and getting hotter). I stopped drinking at all (that shit is crying potion). I prayed a lot. I practiced gratitude (more on this later — it has been so helpful). I made a playlist of the 12 songs in the world that aren’t about love (seriously, every damn song is a love song. Especially the songs played in grocery stores and other places where it really sucks to just start a crying fit). I called on my closest friends as well as many of my divorced friends for support. I am so incredibly thankful for all of the people who have allowed me to rely on them while I try to figure out what the hell I am doing, while I grieve, while I temporarily regress to the lifestyle of a 24 year old (early mid-life crisis has set in).
Still, I was hopeful. God had called me into this marriage, and I wasn’t going down without a fight. Besides, I’m pretty awesome — I could fix it with a positive attitude, some housecleaning (mentally and physically), losing 15 pounds and sheer will.
Except that’s not how it works.
Two weeks after my husband left, we met for drinks. He was nervous and cold. The walls had gone up.
He wasn’t wearing his wedding ring.
He informed me it was over. He was happier than he had been in a long time. I was devastated, but I still wouldn’t give in. We’re not signing papers I said. It hasn’t been long enough.
I thought that in time he would miss me, that he would realize what he had done.
Then I began to realize how unhappy I had been. A weight lifted from my shoulders. Two of my best friends remarked that they felt like they had me back — as in I had been someone else for the entirety of my relationship with my husband. I started to feel lighter. More free. More energized. More me.
I was also having some amazing career stuff happen. I played in a worship band that grounded me in my call to ministry in a way I hadn’t been in a long time. I started hearing of places that might want to call me. I got approved. I finished internship. All of these things were excellent distractions.
Still, I missed my husband. I wanted us to work it out. Love wins, right?
And then we tried. We spent a few weeks dating each other until it became clear that it was not going to work. It takes two people to want a relationship to move forward. My ex isn’t really into forgiveness or letting things go, it turns out. No amount of will or working on my crap will fix it if my partner doesn’t want it fixed. It just doesn’t work that way. I can’t fix our marriage on my own.
On one hand, I feel like a failure. I made a promise for forever, and I barely made it 5 years. I am angry. I am hurt. I am lonely. Dear God, am I lonely. I’ve never really been good at being alone.
But I am also hopeful. I know that there are more fish in the sea, likely some that are a better match than my soon to be ex. I am healthier than I have been in a long time. I laugh a lot. I have made new friends. I am working on the issues of mine that contributed to the marriage falling apart. I’m rocking it as best I can, given the situation. Making lemonade and all that (occasionally, vodka lemonade).
God has been by my side through this whole thing, filling me with light and love during my prayers, listening to me cry and yell and ound on the floor, helping me to see how much I still have to be grateful for, and providing me with angels I call friends at just the right moment. Oh yeah, and pulling me off the ledge when I’m about to go full mid-life crisis. Even through all of this, I can say that God is good. But a lot of this is a lifetime of lessons that have given me a different perspective on life and pain. I know that pain has an end, or at least that it lessens ofer time.
I still love my ex. He still loves me. It’s just not going to work out. Love, in this case, isn’t enough. And that’s okay. Just because my marriage broke doesn’t mean I’m broken. It just means I’ll have to do and be different next time. And I’m already on my way there.
I kept all of this pretty quiet because I didn’t want to have to take it all back in the event we worked it out. I didn’t want the people at my internship site to have their final memories of me involve my pending divorce. Also, I really hate sympathy, especially manufactured sympathy, so it felt better to just keep it quiet.
But, I’m tired of pretending. I’m tired of not being able to ask questions about tech on Facebook because everyone will wonder why I don’t just ask Donny. I’m tired of worrying about when I should and should not wear my wedding ring, so that people don’t ask me questions. I’m just over it all.
So, there it is. It is finished. But there is much that is beginning, and more that has yet to begin.
One of the reasons I’m sharing this is because I have a pretty public life due to my position in the church and I’m going to get really sick of telling this story. Another is that it has been so helpful for me to know that I’m not alone. The morning that half of the women’s group I was facilitating raised their hands in response to the question, “Who here has gotten divorced” and realized how amazing those women are and that this would not break me was transformative. As has been the listening ear I have received from others who have gone through it. Divorce sucks. Breakups suck. They can be a lot harder in church, where many still look on divorce as something to be ashamed of or something to just not deal with. Divorce happens. People are broken, relationships get broken. People don’t always work out together. Romantic love doesn’t always win the day. And that’s okay. That’s why we have community — so we don’t have to go through this shit alone. We can walk through it together and be stronger for it. If you have to go through pain, remember, you’re not alone. Lots of people have your back. You have a cloud of witnesses.
This has been my song lately. I’ve got this.