You’re unhappy in your marriage. Or not unhappy, perhaps. Maybe just unsettled. You’ve been in it for a long time, and you’re finding yourself twisting about in boredom and apathy and sometimes near-hatred. You’re increasingly frustrated at the tiny things and daydream about how blissful it would be to just be *alone.* To not have to be painfully polite to somebody or consider their feelings in every goddamn decision you make. Or to simply have the ability to sit in silence for more than 10 minutes – no one questioning, demanding, requesting. Just quiet.
Marriage is arguably the hardest undertaking we have in life. Some would argue that it’s unreasonable and untenable. Here’s the thing though. That quiet, that respite from daily monotony, comes with a price—a really heavy one.
The opportunity to restart, to have another chance at a soulmate – that doesn’t come cheap.
So I am here, 3 years gone from a divorce. One I very rarely regret. One that has resulted in a happier, more peaceful family. One that has resulted in a much more fulfilling relationship with my ex. But at the base of it all, underlying 100 complex issues we faced, the reason we left each other was the hope that there was something better. That this life we’d built was good in its own way, but was not the promise we’d hoped for. That separating would teach us lessons, make us stronger, equip us better for a love that really delivered.
In order to find that goddamn rainbow, you have to keep searching. You have to date. No way around it. And when you’re in your forties and dating, each human you encounter holds potential. Maybe this is the one that will get me. Maybe this will be the person that fills those gaps left empty for so many years. Maybe this is the person I can finally relax with—the one with whom I can finally let my guard down and let them in. So you go outside your comfort zone. You cycle through a lot of frogs. In between, you have one-night stands to keep your ego from withering. But those kill in their own minuscule ways.
I’ve lived a lot of life since walking away from a 10-year marriage. In that time, and amongst all the frogs, I’ve dated two men ‘seriously.’ The latest one ended last week. He dumped me, suddenly and harshly. I really liked him. In fact, I told several friends, “I think I’m about to fall in love.” I wasn’t creatively imagining. He was ardent in his pursual, wanting to see me several times a week. There were many moments, of connection, relaxation, understanding. It was lovely. And then it wasn’t anymore. Then he came over for a five-minute talk, in which he said he just wasn’t physically attracted to me. He took the cheapest, meanest way out. And I won’t pretend to say that the shell over my heart hardened one more time.
The thing is, this is love. It is ebullient highs and dastardly lows. It makes you feel you can conquer the world – and then it leads you to doubt your very essence. I fault him not for the roller coaster he chose to abandon, but the proclamation he yelled as he jumped off. Love is terrifying, 1,000 times more so when you’re over the middle hump of life. It’s good, even healthy, to recognize when you can’t hack it. At that point – perhaps more than any other point in a relationship – you should examine what sort of person you want to be. What imprint you want to leave on this person that meant something to you at one point.
I’m not writing this with any sort of lesson in mind. It’s mostly an exorcism, to get this silly bastard out of me. But it has made me reflect on what exactly I’m striving for these days. Who I want to be and who I want to be with me. And what I’ve settled on is this.
If you meet someone who challenges you, intimidates you, maybe even scares you a little – don’t walk away. In fact, that’s the person you need to run toward. I know your first instinct will be to flee, because someone who expects the best of you is a tall order. You don’t always have to be the best though, with them. You can be vulnerable. You can show weakness. In fact, you should. Just don’t lash out at them for asking you to be who you know you can be.
And if you’re sitting on a marriage that is frustrating the hell out of you, ask yourself one question: are the issues I’m facing so shaky, so untenable, that I’m willing to sacrifice comfort? Because comfort is something you don’t necessarily consider in the face of conflict. Comfort is someone to face life with, even if they’re an asshole sometimes. Comfort is confidence – knowing that at least one person on this planet wants you nearby. When you walk away from a marriage, you leave all comfort behind. I continue to make my peace with that. And hope that this monstrous gamble I’ve made pays off. Eventually.