One doesn’t have to pack a bag and walk out the door to leave the marriage.
Have you ever been there, but not really? I am guilty, as charged, of zoning out this morning during my very long weekly staff meeting. Once the topic of conversation gravitated toward things that didn’t relate directly to me or my job, I’ll admit my mind started to wander to my grocery list, what I might have for lunch, and events from the weekend.
My body was there, but my mind was gone!
The same can be said for many marriages. As years go by, many spouses are still “there” going about their everyday business and acting out the role of husband and wife; but, the energy, focus, and even love may be absent. This notion leads me to the conclusion that a husband or wife doesn’t have to physically pack their bags and walk out the door to leave a marriage. We can be left by a spouse without the element of physical abandonment!
I do not dispute the fact that a spouse vacating our home and exiting our life is a tragic event! A spouse’s presence and involvement influences everything from who we spend our day with, how finances are handled, our children’s relationship with both of their parents, and so much more! Whether we know our spouse is leaving, or not, it is perhaps the most visible tear in the fabric of the marriage and home. If we were unable to grasp the finality of our break-up before, their leaving proves it.
This brings me back to the concept of someone being there, but not really. I was married for ten years to my ex-husband. It was I who finally took the step to walk out the door, but I would contend that he left me many years before.
It all started with other things becoming more important to him than his wife or family. At first, it was hobbies, friends, and even the seductive armchair in front of a TV that never failed to entertain and captivate him. Porn was more interesting than the flesh and blood woman lying in his own bed. The internet took precedence over interacting with his children or talking about the day’s events with his partner. He slipped further and further away into his own existence that had nothing to do with his wife or children.
He was there, but he was gone.
I know, my pet trolls and critics will be oh-so-quick to tell me all about how it’s my fault that my husband tuned out of our marriage, as I did during today’s boring meeting. Sure, I should have talked less about the bills to pay, asked for less help, demanded less attention, and simply kept my head down and silently continued to serve. If only I had stopped caring so that it no longer hurt, turned a blind eye, and accepted his indifference, we could still be married! Yay!
Sorry, I just refuse to buy the load of crap that a marriage is anything less than a partnership and two-way street! We all have our moments when we may carry more deadweight and other times when our spouse picks up the slack while we are not as strong. But, for the most part, love, respect, communication, and effort should be given freely and equally by both spouses. It’s not up to one spouse to keep a marriage alive, but one spouse checking out on the arrangement can be enough to end it!
I will argue that a piece of paper saying that you’re married is not enough to be married if you don’t act like it! Being ignored, neglected, avoided, and failing to uphold your end of the workload required of a home and a marriage is not a marriage- it’s just a convenient option (for one partner) to be served and tolerated by another who is expected to swallow their dignity and right to equitable treatment as a spouse!
I may have finally had enough and found the courage to throw in the towel on a man who sent clear signals for many years that he was done with me and our marriage, but only because he essentially begged for it every time he shut me out and decided anything else under the sun was more important than our relationship.
There’s more than one way to leave the marriage or be left.
He left me when he forgot what intimacy was.
He left me when he decided that I was invisible.
He left me when my it became okay to flirt with co-workers and make porn his mistress.
He left me when all the responsibilities of our home and children fell on my shoulders.
He left me when my physical and emotional needs no longer mattered.
He left me when he would rather do anything than spend time with his wife.
It’s not as though I don’t understand that it’s not all about me. It was about us, and there no longer was an us. I didn’t expect to come before him, to deny him his personal interests or space, or rob him of his identity. He made a choice to realign his priorities, and our marriage was not it.
A popular question posed to the divorced is “who left?” Well, that really depends! Sometimes it’s the person who packs a truck full of furnishings and clothes and drives away. Other times, it’s the person who disconnects and no longer cares.
Perhaps the real question should be “who left first?” At times, the one who leaves may be both the first to stop investing in the relationship and the first to physically act on it. In other situations, don’t be so sure that the one who moved out is always the one to initially pull away and move on. My ex and I may have continued to share a home for years after he left emotionally. Our legal date of separation may be one thing, but the plug was pulled long before. I did the walking, but he opened the door.