Did I waste my time? That seems like it is always the question when leaving a marriage, especially after 20 or more years. Everything ends at one point or another, so if I say that I wasted my time doing it I guess then everything would be a waste of time. We change jobs, we change where we live, we change our outfits. We don’t beat ourselves up because we lived in the same house too long, or held onto those favorite jeans too long, we just let it go and move to where we know we need to be. Why isn’t it the same with relationships?
For some reason we feel like we have to quantify relationships, every moment has to be bliss or learning something about ourselves. I can say in my marriage we were the happiest when we had nothing. When we just had each other and our daughter and shared a car and rented a small apartment. We knew we had our whole future ahead of us and didn’t try and make every day a perfect day.
I can’t say that time was wasted. But, what I can say is that I was a completely different person than I am today. There was a part of me that wasn’t fully developed emotionally. I grew up in an abusive household and in every relationship before my husband I ran for the hills when I was asked any sort of question that made me reveal myself. I wanted to hide, forget my past, and start new.
I wanted to leave behind all of the confusion and pain of my childhood. I wanted to leave behind the feeling of being completely alone and not feeling loved. And even worse than that, feeling like I didn’t deserve love. I wanted to bury my head and heart in someone else and never look up again. And my husband let me do that, and it was perfect.
I didn’t ask to change, I didn’t want to change, in fact I resisted change for years. I felt myself changing, and I would try and cover and bury those feeling with alcohol. If alcohol didn’t work I would find drama in my life, or drama in someone else’s life and focus on that. If that didn’t work I would spend 4 hours at the gym and limp out of there barely able to focus. If one of these methods didn’t work by itself, I would try all of them at once. Ultimately I exhausted myself. I became depressed and lethargic, and I knew if I continued down this path I would self destruct.
So, after an Easter champagne brunch 4 years ago where I drank myself into a stupor, I decided it needed to stop. The next day I stopped drinking. The day after that I threw up, the day after that I was bed ridden for 4 days. I couldn’t move, and I could barely speak. All the emotions I had been avoiding clung onto me like a wet blanket and wouldn’t let go until I felt them. I can completely understand why people go back to drinking, because it was an absolutely horrible feeling. But I stayed with it.
Without all of the activity, drama, and alcohol in my life I was silent and lost. I felt like there was a ringing in my ears and I had no emotions. I felt nothing! But slowly, after weeks of walking around like a deflated balloon, I started to hear myself think. It was such a small quiet voice that I could barely hear it. It was almost as if it was scared to speak because I had abused it so badly and for so long. But the difference is, this time I didn’t try and shut it up or shut it down. I let that voice babble away to me, and some of the things she said I was really surprised at, but I just listened. I let her talk, I let her feel safe, and slowly she started to be more bold. She would tell me to do things, and I started to trust her and do them, even though I was scared. She pushed me out of my comfort zone, and in doing this I started to feel more confident and in control.
I started to seek out others that were on my same journey, and I would always know by their energy and the look in their eye when they had been through what I had. And we would both hold space for each other and share our lives. I didn’t know that this type of interaction was possible or even existed. It was a long, slow and painful process to get to where I am today. It took years. I understand why people give up and go back to drinking, and other forms of distractions, it is really hard work. And I still work on it daily, not to give up on myself. The part of me that almost destroyed me, is still within me. She was necessary for me as a child, and she saved my life by covering up my real feelings. I can’t be mad at her, I can only thank her but tell her that she doesn’t have to protect me anymore. That I am ok, and she can relax.
I am grateful for my marriage, and for all of our experiences together, and especially our daughter. If it wasn’t for where I have been, I wouldn’t be where I am now. Life is a journey, and the only thing I think I would regret is staying somewhere just because of my fears and insecurities. I have already tried that, and learned that it doesn’t turn out well. Do I feel like I wasted time? Definitely not! I can honestly say I have no regrets.