In the Blog
Love and Relationship Series: Separation
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I grew up in a small town in Northern Canada and was born to “teen parents” back in the early 1980s. My parents got married when I was two years old and got divorced when I was eleven. The mantra my entire teenage life was GRADUATE HIGH SCHOOL and DON’T BE A TEEN MOM. My graduating class had a number of teen moms (rarely “teen parents”) and standing ovations were had when they crossed the stage donning cap and gown. I remember in Grade 12 going to the wedding of a friend and his younger girlfriend. They were having a baby. She was Christian, it seemed the thing to do. By the time I got married at twenty-five I had already pushed the family’s generation a handful of years.
I remember the exact moment I called my mom to tell her that my boyfriend and I had decided to get married. There was a moment of silence that indicated careful contemplation of what she was going to say next, but I’m not sure it was entirely necessary. “Why would you want to do that?” she asked. I was mildly offended and remember my brash reply: “why not?” We ended up talking at length and I fielded such doozies as, “why do you think you want to spend the rest of your life with him?” and “marriage is a big commitment, are you sure?” I explicitly remember saying at one point, “I don’t have a single example of a healthy, long term marriage to follow or be inspired by: how am I supposed to know what works?” I wonder if I had a better relationship with my mom, or if she was more confident in working through these things with me, if I would’ve ever gotten married at all. But that’s neither here nor there and now I’m 30 and getting divorced.
Patriarchal culture feeds incredible amounts of bullshit about heteronormative, monogamous, beautiful marriages that, for me, needed a marriage to even begin to work through. My marriage never looked like these things: security, support, “soul mate,” that person for whom I could rely on and be relied on, nor a marriage free of hate, meanness, and abuse. But I believed in the model, in the peace a life long partnership could provide and unfortunately I didn’t get those things nor knew how to cultivate them, and just over a year ago my marriage began to crumble by my very own hands.
It took me a really long time to decide to leave my husband. Going in I was incredibly hasty (thank you, hindsight) but coming out of it took me months and months because I wasn’t ready to let go of the idea of “the marriage.” For me, succeeding at marriage became a badge of honour I needed to achieve. So I just tried harder to be a “better wife,” or to try and engage my husband in the process of me pulling apart the idea of marriage (like dismantling it could be something we do together?), but in the process I learned he wasn’t the one I wanted to be married to or if I even wanted to be married in the first place. The Internet is full of advice and lists letting you know what to look for when your marriage or relationship is over and I didn’t find any of it helpful, which meant I clinged onto it way longer than I needed to. So my only advice is that you will know when it’s over. And if it’s been months and you’re still wondering if you should end it, then you probably should. The minute I stopped believing in the magic was the time to shut it down.
Breaking up is always complicated and complex. Even though my marriage crumbled to its demise over a number of months, there maintained a few conversations that were so incredibly illuminating I wish we could have had them years ago. It was kind of like being in the eye of a storm, this incredible sense of calm and the feeling I could see all of the truths we rested on. I also began to recognize the lies I repeatedly told myself to justify all of my past relationships and how I treated myself and others. I carried a lot of shame during the period of my separation which no doubt complicated things. I was so disappointed in myself for not “making it work” or for recklessly having a child who will now have a “broken family” or for being so depressed and unsure about what I wanted (or didn’t want) that I dragged my husband through hell trying to figure out what was going on in that space we got to share between us.
And now that space is empty. And I still don’t know what I want even though I have a better idea about what I don’t want. Or really what the future will look like. Or who will be in that future. Or if I even want to get married again. And just the thought of being in a relationship scares me. And having sex for the first time with someone new in so many years was awkward and weird. And I now I have to think about blended families. And custody. And an actual legal divorce. It’s all really strange and I’m asking for help and thanking my lucky stars because I feel better. I feel stronger. And I feel like one day soon I will have enough of it figured out. And then maybe I can be excited about falling in love rather than being so epically terrified.