What the hell just happened? Right? Well, really, it shouldn’t be a past tense question – it’s ongoing. But I , at least, have been able to hit a reset button and release a bunch of old, no longer needed baggage.
Since last time I wrote my relationship of over 26 years has ended its course. Add to this a prolonged period of lockdown and working from home, navigating vaccines, masks and check-ins; and then a case of Covid in the household to see us locked away for Christmas, and I can say that my year was as chaotic as everyone else’s. At the same time, however, I saw the universe/God/Goddess/source at work as she caught me in her arms each time I thought I was going under. Sometimes this was in the form of incredible friends, once it was providing a solution to my impending homelessness, and then there was the Embodied Woman course that I completed over 12 weeks not long after my separation – an incredible program that encouraged my to peel away layers of limiting beliefs and habits that no longer serve me (Casey offers a great free introductory program if you’re interested in a taster). She also showed up through books and podcasts, through yoga and meditation, and through sunrises and sunsets that left me awestruck on a daily basis.
Now that we have reached the 6 month mark since going our separate ways, I feel ready to talk about our split without fear of hurting anyone. I am so privileged to have a relationship with my ex that is not burdened by bitterness, guilt or resentment. I miss parts of him every day, but I also know, right in my very heart of hearts, that this was the right thing to do, despite what some others appear to think, based on subtle inferences and semi-aggressive comments. Interestingly, most people begin with “oh, I’m so sorry to hear that, Chelle”, when I inform them of our changed situation. It makes me want to put my arms around them and comfort them in their sadness, because apart from some grief and sadness over the things that we lose when big changes occur, I really feel a deep sense of calm and wellbeing, and I think my ex does as well! We fought to hold onto our marriage for so long, way beyond when we probably should have let it go, and the relief that comes from not placing those expectations on one another ever again is only empowering.
Let’s take a look at societal norms. The ideal situation is one where a couple marries, has a couple of kids, invests themselves in those children and the running of the household for the next 16-20 years, then spends time getting to know one another again as the kids leave the nest. After this happened we expect that we’ll be busy with weddings and then grandkids, and then we’ll be winding up our own careers, ready for retirement. It’s better if we don’t look at the deeper questions on what we want out of life, what makes us truly happy, and whether there is another alternative to this life that we would prefer to be living.
But I DID look at those questions, every day for many years. It wasn’t a “grass is greener” kind of approach, but more of a “I got married and had children before I knew who I was and what I wanted” kind of approach. I loved him, without a doubt. I still love and value him as the man who gave me my children and did life with me for a quarter of a century, but, man, did we inflict some pain on ourselves and each other along the way! All in the name of Making It Work.
We are so different. I was always trying to be seen and heard by him, looking for connections that he was unable to make because of who he is and what he has experienced. We were walking two different paths, and I was trying desperately to bring his path in line with mine, against nature’s course and his desires. When I imagine it, I picture a zipper on a bulging suitcase. We pull the teeth of the zipper together, forcing the two paths to sync with one another; but when there is too much baggage, nothing can make those paths align – they’ll break beyond repair if there is too much to hold. We tried counselling, I tried just living my life the way I wanted to, I journalled, I read self-help books, I immersed myself in my work/children/study, I sought connections elsewhere through friendships and mentorships. But nothing really felt complete. I read over my journal entries now from all of the years, and they are full of a longing that could never be fulfilled.
This is not to say that we didn’t have good times together. My goddess, we laughed. We saw beautiful things, we feel a joint pride when we look at our children, and we stood by each other through hurts and tough times. I think we are both proud to have brought our children up within the kind of solid, whole family that we both missed out on as children ourselves. We made so much together that will never leave us. My family is his, and his family is mine, and we will never undo that.
I think the biggest challenge to my own pursuit of happiness, and responding to that longing, was the fact that there was no big deal breaker. He is a lovely, generous, funny, kind man. He didn’t cheat on me, he wasn’t violent, he wasn’t manipulative. He cooked and cleaned, he went to work each day, he took the kids to appointments when I couldn’t. I felt like there was something wrong with me because this wasn’t enough – it made me question myself every day! But what I need, right down deep inside, is a connection to my life partner where I can talk about anything. I wanted to have deep conversations about our lives and where we were going with them, and how we could keep striving to be the best humans we could be.
We are spiritual beings having a human experience in this lifetime. I have no doubt about that. I want to delve deep into everything, experience each day with wonder and awe, and share my discoveries and yearnings with like-minded souls. I couldn’t do this in my marriage, and as such, I was incredibly lonely. My brain was doing all sorts of things – creating stories, convincing me that I was not worthy of the kind of love I longed for, telling me that I was selfish and greedy to want to experience this deeper connection. It made me difficult to live with, and made him feel like there was nothing he could do to make me happy. That’s what I imagine, anyway. I might be way off, but now that I see clearly, I imagine that this is what it must have been like for him. We hurt each other regularly through our individual frustrations, and we were both lonely.
I’m not completely sure what I want to achieve through sharing this story – partly a chance to explain myself, even though there really is no need for justification, and partly for those of you who can identify with what I have been through. It is your god-given right to be happy and experience joy. You deserve connection, and that deep sense of wellbeing that comes from being heard, seen and understood. Society has a set of standards that can be numbing and cold, and longevity does not equal happiness.
I have no regrets. We are both in the early days of new relationships, and I wish my ex nothing but happiness. I’m sometimes sad that things didn’t work out, but am mostly relieved to experience the beginnings of a connection that is everything I ever wanted. Time will tell whether it will last, and I’m not worrying about tomorrow and what may come. All I know is that I am centred and calm, and no longer focused on what is missing, but instead of all that I have and all that I am. Grandad always said “keep your eye on the doughnut and not on the hole”, and I love that saying; but if the hole gets so big that you’re scared there will be nothing left, it might be time to ditch the doughnut and go for a lamington instead.