Today marks 1 year since a judge signed my divorce petition and my marriage was legally dissolved after 33 years.
Yep, 33 years. Not all bad, some actually good, but the reality screams that with all things considered, the end should have come at about year 20.
Do I want to re-hash the good, bad, and ugly of all of those 33 years? Not here, not now. I’ve done that already. Do I want to reminisce, or blame, or post some sort of list on the “what-if’s” and “why nots” and “how comes”? Nope. I do have some reflections though.
I know the man that I am no longer married to. I know just how much he struggled in life, and continues to struggle because of the circumstances surrounding his life. I know that he never had the ability (or perhaps even the real desire) to move beyond those circumstances. I also know that I married this man for the wrong reasons. Did I love him? Yes, I did. The love I experienced was not false, but it also was not the correct reason to marry. I married the image of the man I believed he could be. Despite what many believe, love was (is) not enough. I believe I loved him more for the potential I thought I recognized than for the real person he is. Marrying someone for the person you believe they are, or for the person you believe they will become, is fraught with all sorts of issues. Marrying someone when you are still unsure of who you are, or who you will (or want to) become is also not the best recipe for success.
I chose to overlook a lot. I chose to believe that I had some ability to mold, change, or guide this man into the person I believed he could or should be. I was wrong. And because I did not have the ability to achieve those goals for him… goals that he didn’t even know existed… I became filled with doubt, self-blame, regret, anger, and finally over time, a deep loss of respect for both him and myself.
Please take note of that line: “because I did not have the ability to achieve those goals for him…”
Yep, I was completely invested in helping him achieve goals that I believed he needed, wanted and would buy into. The problem then, only realized by me much too late, was that his interest in these goals was riding at almost zero. And yes, I believed that my role was to bend over backwards to help him achieve something he didn’t know he wanted. The sun would shine, rainbows and unicorns would fill the sky and life would be perfect. If only…
The inevitable if only I could enable him…change him…perfect him. Create a perfect man.
Have you heard this story before? How many of us, as women of a certain era truly believed this “I can change him” garbage? How many women or men of today still believe this, still put all their hopes and dreams into the ideal that we must take responsibility for shaping someone else? How many humans feel that the only way to validate themselves is to lose your core self by focusing solely on achieving the perfection (the fixing) of another?
Those delusions of grandeur are not attainable. They are not even highly recommended as viable in my opinion. An adult must “adult” for themselves. They must take responsibility for themselves. I’m not saying that an adult cannot change. I believe change is possible, if one wants change. I am saying that one adult cannot and should not feel responsible for bringing about change in another adult. The man that I was married to is a human who will allow others to be responsible. He will advocate for change in others, but facing his own challenges and then making attempts to address them was never something he desired to do.
I certainly am not blameless. I am flawed. I have my own past and circumstances. However this idea of responsibility has loomed large in my world for as long as I can remember. Somewhere I learned that I had to be responsible for myself. I know that conceptually I believe that responsibility begins at home so to speak, within the individual. I am still trying to come to terms with the fact that I allowed that belief to be almost completely overshadowed in my marriage. I allowed myself to take on the responsibilities of another capable adult. I have used excuses to justify my actions…
His job takes him away so often…
I just can’t always wait for him to get this done, or take care of that project, or make that decision…
He isn’t here enough to really take part in all the kids activities…
It’s just so much easier, faster, better if I just do it…
I allowed the patterns developed early on in my marriage to continue year after year, right up to the time that we agreed to divorce and I once more took on the sole responsibility to get the job done and move the divorce ahead. As I write this now, I am truly embarassed to admit that even in those final months my role did not change. I can easily use the excuse that I simply wanted everything to be over, or that I wanted things to be done right or that I feared that the process would drag on or run into issues if I didn’t handle it all. We did agree that we wanted to avoid lawyers and their fees if possible, but rather than expect him to step up and handle half of the process I jumped right in with both feet and did it all, and he willing let me.
Why take responsibility when you have been taught that someone else will do it for you?
On the morning of July 21, 2017 I watched a judge sign a paper that in essence was to legally give me my freedom. Once signed however, I turned and walked out of court knowing that I must respect myself enough to take back what had been mine. The weight of responsibility for another adult was gone. Freedom to be the person I should have been all along waited on the other side of the courtroom door.
As I reflect on this past year, the image that has headed my blog since I decided to divorce in late 2016 cannot be more true.
I really don’t know what the future holds. I do know that my life is much less stressful. I know that my responsibility lies only in making decisions for myself. I know that distance is imperative and healing and welcome. I know that there is no reason to continue to look back. I know that I am strong.
As I move past the end of this first year, if I was to say anything to my former husband, it might be these words, also by Iain Thomas:
“You were a dream. Then a reality. Now a memory.”