There is nothing worse than feeling foreign in your own life. Wondering how things got to the point there are, how did you lose yourself, how did you allow so much compromise in? It is lonely, it is devastating and it happens so slowly you don’t even realize – until you look yourself in the eye and REALIZE.
For me, I reached that point in the early spring of 2019. I remember feeling “off” for months, maybe even years. A series of one thing going wrong after another led me to sobbing in the shower as my child and then-husband watched a movie in the living room down the hall.
Nothing major had happened to cause the tears, no big fight or argument. It had been a fairly normal day up to that point. I found myself thinking about my parents (both deceased) and suddenly (and quite abruptly) a thought entered my mind. “Have I made them proud of the woman I became?” My initial thought was, of course! Then I realized that they were likely not proud of me. They would have been concerned that I had made concession after concession in my life, replacing things I have put so much importance on for things that made my partner happy. I had lost my spark. How had it happened? Where did I turn down the wrong road? How had I allowed myself to fade away?
I started to think back over the last 10 years of my relationship, the years I spent married. And I realized that scattered in the good memories there was an underlying unhealth, festering like a mold. I saw clearly the problems that had been scraping away at me, the small comments, the big arguments and everything in between. Without getting too deep into my relational issues (out of respect for my daughter’s father), there were some big things too that despite attempts to repair we could not ever fix. Things that carved a chasm in the relationship, that over time grew impossible to bridge.
I realized, sobbing and shaking in the shower, that I was not a person I recognized anymore. I did not have a fulfilling life. Don’t get me wrong, I adored my daughter and had some good friends. I had a beautiful home that was recently renovated to perfectly suit my tastes, and I had a job that allowed me to work part time and spend good quality time as a mother and friend. But I was not in a partnership that fostered respect, unity or equality. I was lonely. I felt misunderstood. Worse, I felt unloved and overlooked. I had drawn hard lines that were repeatedly crossed, I tried to establish boundaries that were simply overlooked, and I tried to assert my needs to be reprimanded for having them in the first place.
As the water turned cold I realized that I had two options before me. I could continue on as if nothing was amiss or I could stick up for myself and demand better. At the time, I chose the first option. I needed to let myself absorb and process what I was feeling and make some informed and thought out plans for moving forward. I needed to heal from the damage that was done over the course of the relationship (even if I stayed in it – especially if I stayed in it). There was a need to set an example for my daughter. And above all, the need to find myself again and make my parents proud.
I wasn’t sure what was going to happen. But as I toweled off I knew there had been a substantial shift in me. There was no going back from this and there was now the task of facing the unknown future that I couldn’t avoid or run away from. It was terrifying for me but also relieving to realize that I finally knew what was “off” with me. It was ME. But it wasn’t going to stay that way. I was going to take control of my life and make things better for myself, and for my daughter. That turned into choosing option two – sticking up for myself and demanding better. For me, that looked like separating (leading to our divorce) and creating my own home with my child. It was scary, but it was healthy. And as it turns out, in doing so I was (eventually) making things better for my (now ex) husband.
“When a Flower doesn’t bloom, you fix the environment in which it grows, not the flower” – Alexander Den Heijer