Our life together looked picture-perfect from the outside. We both had good jobs, a beautiful home in a suburban golf community, plenty of friends and supportive families. We took vacations, had nice cars and retirement accounts. From the outside looking in, my life probably looked enviable by most people’s standards. But on the inside, all I felt was alone.
My husband was (and very likely still is) a good, kind man. He was responsible and hard-working, honest and caring. He was many things, but affectionate wasn’t one of them. We never awoke in each other’s arms or lost track of time together. We didn’t have deep, vulnerable conversations that lasted until the early morning hours. We had love for one another, but we were never lovers.
There was a closeness, a connectedness, a level of intimacy that was missing.
It wasn’t there one day and gone the next; it was never there between us. It just took me many years to realize it.
When my marriage to this good, kind man ended after eleven years, I had a story about why that relationship didn’t work. I told myself that, he couldn’t love me the way I needed to be loved. I told family and friends that, I wanted something he simply couldn’t give. And although there’s some truth to that, that’s not the full story.
In order to find some healing and move beyond this failed marriage, I had to own my role in the creation of my experience.
I knew who he was when I met him. He was the one who was safe and secure. He was also reserved and structured. He was the guy every parent would want their daughter to marry – responsible and dependable. I knew he would never lie to me, cheat on me or hurt me, so I ignored the fact that there was very little spontaneity or passion in his life and in our relationship. I didn’t question the absence of those ingredients.
I made the trade-off between safety and passion.
I made the trade-off between hiding my heart so that I could keep myself from being hurt.
I made that trade-off and, for more than a decade, it served me. I could stay safe and hidden, but not necessarily in love.
And during our marriage, I was so preoccupied with making my life look picture-perfect that I wasn’t actually living it. I was the one that wanted the white-picket myth: the beautiful home, the nice cars, the golden retriever. I was in corporate marketing at the time and I was an overachiever, constantly searching for that next promotion, that next job, or that next big project…thinking that whatever was next would surely be the thing that would fill me up, making this life I created somehow feel like enough. But deep down, I knew it wasn’t.
I thought I could do it all and have it all.
I was surviving on ego-candy and brought that same controlling energy home at night. Because I thought I could do it all and have it all, I took care of everything: I was the primary breadwinner, I took care of the home, the grocery shopping, the cooking, planning vacations, keeping our social schedule filled, and virtually every decision in the household somehow had my mark on it. I did all that day-after-day, while secretly resenting having to do it all, and never allowing anyone to take care of me. I never allowed my husband to step into the role of caring for me. Looking back, I can’t imagine that curling up next to that kind of hardened, controlling woman every night was much fun for him.
He couldn’t scale that wall I had built around my heart. But I created that wall. And if I had created it, then I could take it down, brick by brick. I could change. I could make different choices. I could allow the people I loved to see me – to really see me. I could share my heart. I could let people take care of me and my needs. I could begin living my life – caring far more about rich experiences and meaningful connections than the façade of what others saw and how they viewed or judged it. I could allow someone else to be strong. I could soften.
It would have been easy to stay stuck in the stories that, my husband wasn’t affectionate and he couldn’t love me the way I needed to be loved. I could have kept those stories. But I would have stayed stuck. And I would have likely kept all the actions, choices, fears, and behaviors that would have created the same painful, empty and lonely experience again with someone else.
When I started owning my part.
Once I was able to see my role in the creation of my experience, I had the opportunity to create a future that looked and felt much different than my past. When I could own my part, that’s when everything shifted. When I could become honest with myself – not to beat myself up – but to see the gentle truth, I was able to attract a love into my life that I never even knew was possible. I met and could sustain a deeply connected relationship with the strong, confident, loving and amazing soul who is now my husband, Derrick. He is my rock, my champion, my heart and my home. And I know for certain that I would not have this relationship had I never become compassionately curious about my role in the failure of my first marriage.
I’m not suggesting that the failure of our marriage was all my fault; every relationship takes two people. I’m also not suggesting that what happened in your relationship is all your fault. You may have endured some incredibly painful experiences. You may have been treated poorly. You may have felt unheard, unseen, unloved. None of that is okay, but that can’t be the full story.
Even if it’s small, you had some role in the creation of your experience.
Did you overlook something you shouldn’t have?
Did you put everyone else’s needs before your own?
Did you give so much of yourself away throughout the day that there was nothing left for you to give to the marriage at the end of each exhausting day?
Did you not tell the full truth to yourself? Did you pretend that a safe marriage to a nice guy was enough, when you knew deep down it wasn’t?
Did you allow hurtful behavior thinking that maybe someday he would change? Did you think you could love him enough to change him?
When you can become compassionately curious about your role in the creation of your experience in love and marriage, you have the opportunity to create a future that looks and feels much different than your past. Even if you own only 10% of what happened, that’s enough. Any amount is enough. As a matter of fact, it’s the perfect amount to find success and create miracles when a marriage ends.
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