If you’re looking for an article that tells you how to salvage your marriage and revive your love life, stop reading. Now.
This isn’t a glamorous, heart-warming fairy-tale. After all, I was 28 years old and miserably unhappy in my barely 2-year old marriage to my 45-year-old husband. But while this story does end in divorce, it also comes with a happy ending.
And if you ever find yourself in the same, sinking boat I was once in, I want you to listen. I want to tell you that there is a happy ending out there for you.
I’m not saying this is an easy decision. Actually, it’s probably going to be one of the most antagonizing things you’ll ever think or do. But if you want to do something about it, I’m here to tell you that you can do it.
1. It’s Okay When Feelings Change
Two months before I ended my relationship with my ex-husband, I went to see a marriage counselor. On my own.
During our first session, she asked what I wanted to gain from going to therapy.
I told her I desperately wanted out. Gone. Sayonara forever. My marriage was, to say the least, unfulfilling and nothing like I expected it to be.
Tears rolled down my face as I shared my dreams of quitting my job and leaving my current life to move across the world to Europe. Maybe to work on an olive farm in Italy. Or, perhaps to rent a bungalow on the beach in Greece. At the end of the day, it didn’t matter where I went as long as it was far away from here.
She looked at me, dumbfounded.
“Why do you need a therapist when you already know what you want?”
I dabbed the few remaining tears from the corners of my eye, “Because I shouldn’t be feeling like this. I’ve haven’t even been married for two years! There’s something very wrong with me.”
She closed her notebook and looked straight into my pathetically sad, weeping eyes.
“All our lives, we’re told it’s okay to change. Our jobs. Our hair color. Our apartments. But as soon as we’re married, we’re suddenly no longer allowed to have different feelings. And that’s simply not the case — even with marriage.”
Relationships are about growth. In fact, you as an individual will grow every day until the day you are buried far, far beneath the ground. You are very different from who you were when you were 18. And different from who you were at 21. And guess what — different from who you were yesterday.
So, during this so-said growth of yours, it’s completely expected that you will change. Or, perhaps it's your spouse who did most of the changing. And unless you change to adapt to them, they might not be the person you still want to be with.
The ebbs and flows of marriage are natural. Some days are hard, some are easy, and some are just plain awful. But once you accept that change is unavoidable, you can finally decide to be proactive about what you want.
2. Staying is Easy — It’s Leaving That Takes Courage
I’ll be the first to admit that I like being comfortable.
At the Italian restaurant down the street, I’ll only order one dish: Cacio e Pepe. It’s not the best I’ve had (especially after living in Rome), but it’s good enough. But then, I see mouthwatering risottos and crispy eggplant parmesans shuffling out to the other tables and I immediately get food envy.
But time after time again, I still order my Cacio e Pepe. Although I might like the other dishes if I ever gave them a shot, I think I’m satisfied with what I already have.
The simple fear of yourself stepping outside your comfort zone is enough to keep you from moving on. It’s enough to make you settle. And this habit tends to drag itself into other parts of our lives, especially in our relationships.
When I thought about ending my marriage, I felt like a coward. After all, I didn’t even give it the good ole college try before throwing my hands up in frustration. I was selfish, and I wanted to take care of my needs and my wishes. And in my mind, chickening out of my commitment was much easier than dealing with years of unhappiness.
But in reality, leaving a marriage can be quite the opposite.
If you’re unhappy, the easiest thing you can do is to stay right where you are. Changing your habits, lifestyles, and surroundings takes more courage than you think. These things don’t make you weak. They make you strong.
I can’t tell you how long it took me to realize that ending my relationship wasn’t cowardly. During the separation, I was called every name under the sun. Greedy. Wimpy. Lazy. Dramatic. Attention Seeker. Cold-hearted bitch was probably my favorite.
If you’re facing the storm head-on, remind yourself of what really matters. Once you understand that it was okay to fight for happiness, these foolish words will have no meaning.
You’re not wimpy; you’re brave. You’re not seeking attention; you’re being ambitious. And trust me — you’re definitely not a cold-hearted bitch.
And if anyone tells you otherwise, tell them right back that you have balls. Balls to do what a lot of people stuck in dead-end relationships wouldn’t even consider. Balls that take bravery and determination to even manifest into something actionable.
Because friend, you have balls to go after what you want in life.
3. Life is Simply Too Short
As cliche as it sounds, life is just too short to remain married to someone you don’t love. Or to someone that doesn’t make you happy.
Take a look at everything you’ve accomplished over your lifetime. Maybe you’ve graduated from college, worked towards a career, got hitched and popped out a few mini-mes.
No, really take a second and think about everything you’ve done. Doesn’t it feel, to be even more cliche, like it came and went in just a blink of an eye? And without getting too pessimistic, doesn’t it sometimes feel like the ending could come just as fast as the beginning?
Because the truth is: life is short.
And at the end of it all, when you’re 87 years old, laying in your bed, reflecting on all the amazing things you did in your incredible 87 years worth of life, don’t you want to look back and smile?
When the only sound in the house is the voice in your head and there’s not one soul around to tell you what you should have, or shouldn’t have done, in your life. When the images of your 20s, 30s, and even 70s pop into your head, don’t you want to look back and whisper to yourself, fuck that was a good life.
Don’t you want to be happy?
Not just satisfied. But truly, undeniably, happy? Of course, you do. We all do.
So move forward with what you want in this short but amazing life you have. Stand for what you believe is right, and fight for what you think you deserve. It may not be easy, but it sure as hell will feel wonderful.