I read this recently, nodding all through it.

Particularly this paragraph:

They are not doing this lightly. They are not selfish. They aren’t heartless. Many, many go to a therapist to help them in their decision-making. They make lists of the positives and negatives. And then they make more lists and then some more. Just because we speak about being true to yourself, write tons of articles and hold workshops on this very subject, in reality ending a so-so marriage (which is very right for some people) isn’t often celebrated.

Never lightly. The selfish thing is interesting. After I turned 40, after a few years of having babies, nursing them, weaning them, struggling with what I’ve lately come to realize might have been mild post-partum depression, I couldn’t put my finger on exactly what was wrong. Something was. I began to read. I read books by Betty Freidan that, while dated, still rang true. I also read books that helped illuminate my childhood (verdict: narcissistic mother), thinking this was the problem. No, it was a problem but not the problem.

There was marriage counseling. Two years of it. I dragged him there. He never got it. Nothing ever changed. Well, I changed. I became angrier and then…he asked to stop going and the pins began to drop. The ways he pulled away became many. Farther and farther and farther away. I’d tried to express how I was feeling but finally realized: he wasn’t interested. Life was cushy for him, why should it change? Why should he make an effort when I was doing everything? Steering the ship? If I got tired of it, well then, why didn’t I just stop? Well, because, I thought this was life? This is how it works. You are a family, you do certain things. Together. Or….I guess not. You have children. They express interests. You encourage them. Right? Then why was I being berated for doing it?

I still cannot get my head around that mind set. I still don’t get how you can just studiously ignore someone’s pain, someone you supposedly love. You see it, don’t you? But don’t care? It’s all way too much effort to work to change it. Okay then.


So, I’ve done what I could to ease the departure, the break. Because my relationship with my mother was an unhealthy codependent one, so is my marriage. I married what I knew. I fell into a familiar relationship in which I work very very hard to DO in the hopes my efforts would pay off in love, affection, appreciation. I was wrong. I bent over backwards to ease other’s lives and it was taken for granted. There was an assumption that it would continue that way forever. Because it worked for him. I mean, if you never had to lift a finger, would you want change?


I’m reading Susan Cain’s Quiet and found an interesting tidbit that pertains to my current situation. She writes about Gandhi and what he calls satyagraha. He defines it as “focusing on an ultimate goal and refusing to divert energy to unnecessary skirmishes along the way.” That is what I am currently focused on. The ultimate goal. I still put up with a lot of passive-aggressive behavior. A lot of expectation that I will continue to DO until we are living apart. I am doing those things which smooth the road to my ultimate goal. I am no longer a door mat. I am allowing others to grow up and learn to do for themselves.

Our very rigid daily roles continue for a few more weeks and I’m doing what I can to alleviate the stress that this…pretending…creates. It’s hard to not put energy into anger and annoyance. Really hard. It’s hard to not lash out and ask why oh why can’t you not do this little thing you know drives me nuts? Why can’t you be a fucking grownup? Why am I the only one noticing we’re out of apples and actually buying more?

I am focusing on the future. On the projects I have in store. On the books I’m reading, the walks I’m taking (when it’s not raining), the therapy visits, the small daily things that bring me small moments of happiness: morning fog hugging the pastures, bees on the late fall zinnias that refuse to die, the perky cabbages under a barrier that keeps them safe from cabbage moths, the clouds drifting across a blue autumn sky, a skunk whose scent wafts into my bedroom window deep into the night, the cats gently sparring on the kitchen floor, a guinea pig who squeals for attention and is ignored by everyone but me, a hug from a child, a smile, a laugh, a “thank you” from a stranger.

I try to remember to be kind to strangers. You never know what kind of day they’re having. They might be walking in worse shoes than mine.


11 thoughts on “Surprise

  1. Your honesty and self-awareness in the midst of this massive stress are impressive. Anger is a good energy, and one you probably need right now, but one that must eventually be released. When you are on safer shores, find an outlet and let loose, sister. Until then and through then, and beyond, I am here for you. xo

  2. Your title is so apt. When I told my ex that we needed to separate, that I was in fact moving out — yes, he was surprised. And to your point about the DOING of things so you can get to the goal, I told him to go to his mother’s in Indiana for Thanksgiving (we lived in Kansas), oh and take the kids. I will be moving out then. And I did. And surprise again.

    I am not so quietly rooting for you (from Kansas, oh irony that I’m here again). As you DO and DO, know that I’m sending you whatever psychic strength can be sent. In this way, you and I are somewhat related. I’ve walked your path, and felt my own version of your experience and whatever I can send to you, well I will.

  3. One of things I struggled to figure out was whether I was being selfish to want what I wasn’t getting. And now, I don’t really care if I am or not. Still want it and I’m not getting it as things stand.

    • Absolutely not. You deserve much more than what you’ve received. Relationships only work when both parties are fully vested.

  4. And when you get divorced and he starts to date he’ll tell the women that he has no idea why his marriage ended.

    Thinking of you.

  5. You have to take care of yourself, especially if the person who’s supposed to be doing it isn’t. That isn’t selfish, that’s survival. And I promise you are going to feel so much better and different after this is over that it will literally stop you in your tracks from time to time.

  6. I’m just catching up with you. Sounds like you are making a good decision. My mother stayed in a marriage with an uninvolved man she wasn’t happy with for 20 years before she left. She has never regretted leaving for a moment.

    Thinking good thoughts.

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