At the depth of darkness, I felt in my marriage, I was faced with the choice of fight or flight. I chose to fight…for my own survival!
Before my ex and I made the decision to divorce, I lived under a cloud of gloom. We argued all the time. I cried all the time. Both of us were completely miserable and frustrated. I recall one of those moments when I pasted on a happy face for the sake of my kids and went through the motions of getting them ready for the day. I was so worn out and unhappy that I could barely function; but, they needed me, and I had to be there for them.
As I tied tiny shoes and wiped little faces after breakfast, I thought to myself “is this life the best I can ever expect it to be?”
My children were my one bright spot. My duty to them kept me moving even when every other aspect of life made me feel stuck; but, it took every ounce of energy I could muster to fulfill my mom duties, and I was certain that as well as I managed to keep pushing myself forward, I could be better. I could be more energetic. I could feel genuine joy instead of going through the motions. I could be enthused about life again. I could care about myself. I could have something to live for.
Still in my mid-30’s, I wondered if I had it in me to soldier through five more years. No, fifteen years until they were both graduated from high school. No, another possibly fifty years until I kept my promise of “til death do us part.” At that moment, I couldn’t imagine enduring another year in my marriage, let alone long enough to stick it out for the kids or even longer with just the two of us.
I still felt like I had practically a lifetime ahead of me, and if the dismal darkness and loneliness of my marriage were the best I could expect, I knew I was doomed.
This was my fight or flight moment.
I tried to fight. I begged him to talk to me and work on our issues. I suggested marriage counseling. I tried to reignite a connection between us and find some common interests we could bond with. I was desperate to discover something that would resurrect our relationship and give us what we needed to continue on together and as a family.
The fight got me nothing but more frustration. He wasn’t fully committed to working on us. He and I no longer had common interests or a shared vision for our life. I found myself increasingly ashamed and angered by things he said and did.
Who was this person? Where was the man I thought I married?
I looked all around myself and the path I was on and realized that he and I were no longer on the same path. We didn’t want the same things out of life. We didn’t see eye-to-eye on critical matters. We lost our way as a couple and were steadily progressing down our own individual paths.
My moment of horror at the prospect of living the rest of my life shackled to a man who ignored me, disrespected me, used me, and disgusted me prompted me to engage in survival mode. My marriage was beyond any first-aid or even hospice care at this point. The survival I sought was no longer for my marriage, but my own.
I knew I wouldn’t survive if I stayed with him. True, I may have actually still had a pulse; but, I would have functioned as a sort of zombie- moving, acting, and doing but no longer feeling or caring. I was, however, clinically depressed, and the option of not living occurred to me more than once. I used to drive to work and scour my route for ideal places to drive my car off the road, where I was certain I wouldn’t make it. The only thing that prevented me from going through with it was my children.
Contemplation of suicide or, arguably just as bad, surrendering to a lifetime of misery was no longer acceptable options to me. I didn’t like the idea of divorce, but I knew it was an escape hatch I could consider. I knew that divorce was not without its complications or consequences; but, I also came to accept that things were never going to improve, and difficult and uncomfortable choices would have to be made if there would ever be change.
Changes can either result in better or worse, it’s always a gamble, and the true outcome is not always immediately obvious.
It’s all a matter of weighing the pros and cons and deciding which negatives we can survive through better than others. I knew divorce would be a difficult journey, but I had faith that it at least offered me the potential for future peace and happiness that was not possible in my marriage.
Condemn me for leaving my marriage, if you will. I no longer care. I had to do what I knew was right for me and what offered the best hope for a good life for me and my children. Like anything we do in life, I experienced both hard times and happy times as a result of my divorce. I have found that the bad things I encountered along the way were worth the price I paid to achieve the happiness I found on the other side.
I have come to learn that I’m not alone. I am just one in a sisterhood of other former wives who reached a breaking point in their marriages and initiated the conclusion of their marriages. 70% of divorces are initiated by wives who, like me, took the frightening step to rescue themselves from the clutches of a life-draining marriage. I’m not talking about moderate boredom or dissatisfaction, but crippling dysfunction and a life sentence of unplanned misery!
My decision to divorce is not a sign of weakness or failure, as I once believed it to be. Instead, it is proof of my strength. I had the strength to stay in my marriage longer than probably most would have, then I had the strength to put it behind me when it was time to. In my moment of fight or flight, my divorce saved my life!