“I would’ve done anything.” I listened as a woman told a group of strangers how far she would’ve gone to save her marriage. I nodded in agreement because I knew how she felt.
Many of us have spoken the words. Often the delivery is a proud proclamation, a redeeming, ego-soothing regurgitation of verbiage:
“I’m getting divorced. He’s the one leaving. I would’ve done anything.”
I wonder if it’s a subconscious excuse—a Get Out Of Jail Free Card to silence listeners who think a marriage should be forever.
Regardless of the reasoning, I’d like to suggest that this mentality is actually part of the problem in (and after) a relationship. Is it really so honorable to be willing to do anything for someone else?
I think not. Let me explain…
Two years ago I was enjoying the Best Relationship Of My Life. My partner and I had been through a lot of changes that made us stronger. I was a stellar stepmom, and he was a great dog daddy. We lived, laughed, loved and still snuggled on the couch while watching terrible, time-wasting TV shows.
I would’ve done anything to preserve the wonderful life we’d built together.
And that was the problem. Over the years, I learned to regulate myself according to my partner’s comfort levels. I didn’t want to be a burden to him, nor did I want to outshine him (the male ego is so delicate). With our relationship as my top priority, I held back, minimized my needs and stunted my growth.
I thought my actions were noble, but in fact, they were stupid. When my partner-centered life disintegrated before my eyes, I was nothing but a shell of the woman I thought I was. Years of that “I-would-do-anything” attitude had left me hollow and unfulfilled as an individual.
As I reclaimed my personal identity, I returned to the less-considerate version of myself that existed pre-commitment. And you know what? I realized that was the person my ex fell in love with, not the codependent, self-sacrificing admirer that I’d become.
My ex and I never discussed this aspect of our relationship and separation. I don’t know if I could’ve saved our partnership by nurturing myself as much as I thought I was nurturing him. I don’t think so, and it doesn’t matter. I’ve learned to rate my personal fulfillment on more than my coupled-or-not status. There’s a fine line between healthy sacrifice for the greater good and consistent self-diminishing habits. It’s not an easy path to walk; yet it’s imperative that we be aware of the delineation.
Remaining true to my essence by nourishing personal growth might not have saved my partnership, but I could have saved myself. Even in the inevitable end, I would have been stronger, thus less desperate to make it work at all costs. I would have had more confidence in my ability to thrive on my own, and I wouldn’t have told others, through a pained expression, “I would have done anything.”
Looking back, I realize there were things I could have done to stay with my ex. I refused to do them, and I’m not sorry. I now claim this fact as my truth.