What Happened When I Decided I Couldn't Stay Married


Teal Swan

Divorce is a bizarre experience. Today, I can’t stop thinking about the last 6 months of my life and the transition from being a wife to being single.

There comes a point in an unhappy marriage where no matter how afraid you are of what lies ahead of you, anything is preferable to the misery of staying committed to the marriage.

After you have tried the happy marriage programs and seen the counselors and tried to find harmony again and again (to no avail), there comes a moment of truth where you have to ask yourself if you even want to be with that person exactly as they are. You have to ask yourself two questions:

1. Do I want to be with the person that they are or do I want to be with them because of what they could be?

2. Do I want to be with them exactly as they are, or am I just staying committed to them because the idea of pulling the intertwined parts of our life apart, is so exhausting and frightening that it feels easier to stay where I am?

I will say that answering this question when children are involved is a thousand times harder. But I have found that you need not worry about finding the answer to this question, because the answer inevitably reveals itself.

I am in a new chapter in my life; one that has brought me ever closer to what I have always wanted and never allowed myself to have. I still get sad sometimes when I think about the way that Mark and I used to look at each other. I still get sad when I think about our wedding day, and how convinced I was that I had found my place in the world. I feel sorry for the hopes I had for us that never came to fruition.

More than sadness, I still feel embarrassed sometimes. I feel embarrassed when I fall into the trap of thinking that keeping a marriage together means something about my worth and “togetherness”. I come from a family that believes in marriage. They believe both in the seriousness of the decision to get married and in the seriousness of staying together at all costs. My parents have been married for over thirty-five years and here I am, not even thirty years old and I have already been divorced twice.

And on my bad days, you had better believe that I ask myself… what does that say about me? I’ve spent my life as the black sheep of my family and extended family. More than one cousin has actually thanked me for being as radical as I have been and messing up as much as I have, because it gives them permission to mess up and not take as much heat or flack for of it.

And so, when my marriage to Mark ended, I experienced a heavy backlash from the people around me. The feeling in the air was “I knew it; with Teal it’s only ever a matter of time before something falls apart”.

And so it goes without saying that the most difficult part about getting a divorce (for me) has been trying to maintain a positive self-concept. It is no joke that divorce is really hard. You lose friendships over it. You lose family over it. Society looks down on you because of it. You start to think that something must really be wrong with you if you can’t make a relationship last long term. I am falling into that trap today, the trap of feeling like a really talented and captivating…failure.

I remember that when I made the decision that I couldn’t stay married to Mark and be happy at the same time; it seemed like every day provided a new level of pain. The storm of the change tossed and turned us both.

I knew on a conscious level that the process that the universe uses to transform our lives into something better is a bit like turning a caterpillar into a butterfly. It cocoons you in a solitary world of disintegration. It turns you into a primordial soup and rearranges you and you emerge as a different person.

In the first few weeks of the separation, I watched the pain between us stripping years off of our respective lives as if there was a black hole between us. I did not know what would become of him or me. I wondered if I was going to ruin my son’s life. I had to remind myself again and again that he would be worse off with an unhappy mother who was too emotionally strung out to want to parent him. I had to remind myself that I did not want him to grow up with the model of love that his father and I were providing.  I wanted to teach him (and myself) that personal happiness is more important than being married.  This is the thing that human society has forgotten.

Even the marriage vows that we take reflect the fact that we value the surrender of personal happiness to hard work and dedication. We say, “till death do us part” as if the marriage is some kind of jail cell that we feel proud of ourselves for locking ourselves inside of. It’s like saying, “No matter how bad it gets, I will choose to stay with you, over choosing to stay in alignment with my own expansion”.

Or, “I will love you more than I love myself”. But this doesn’t work and it cannot last. We either get a divorce or we end up so out of alignment that we find some other way to “check out.” Even though the intention to be together for a lifetime is a beautiful intention and even though it is more than possible to line up with someone who you can be married to and happy with all the days of your life, the marriage vows should be rewritten to say, “Till our individual alignment do us part”.

You cannot fight the current that is carrying you towards your own expansion. And so, when two people (who are in a relationship) desire new things in a partner, either both need to evolve to become the manifestation of those new desires, or they need to allow those desires to manifest through new partners.

Six months ago, it became obvious that Mark and my desires were pulling us in different directions. The relationship had caused me to want things in a partner that he didn’t want to be. And the relationship had caused him to want things in a partner that I didn’t want to be. Our desires were no longer compatible. We were in a relationship based on resistance.

We both faced some of our biggest fears when we decided to get a divorce. We knew we wanted our son to have both his parents whenever he wanted, and we knew that we still cared about each other and the life we had built together enough that we wanted to stay family, so Mark moved into another room in the house. This kind of decision is more common in a communal living arrangement. So, we stayed family.

In the beginning, Mark spent a lot of his time away from the house. Working or going to the gym. He put on forty pounds of pure muscle mass. He questioned his beliefs and fears enough that he became an entirely different person. You might even say that he found himself. He is now so different from the person that I was married to, I feel like I don’t even know him.

I have also changed. I have owned up to what I really want. I’m allowing myself to go for it now. And instead of attaching myself to the first man I could find (which is my pattern), I gave myself some time to find my own identity. And something happened that I would never have expected in a million years: Mark and I get along better now than we did when we were married.

He is more supportive of me than he was when we were married. There is no longer a silent resentment between us. And we are focused on what really matters. We are raising our child together. We are growing as individuals, and we are supporting each other in that individuality. It has been an inspiring transformation. And while I know that it takes a special kind of person to be self-aware and strong enough to transition from lover to plutonic family member, it fills me full of hope for us as people. It lets me know that we are capable of staying unified no matter what changes life throws our way.

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