Fear of the unknown is the major reason why men and women stay in a rotten marriage.
There I said it! Let’s just be real about this!
No one wants to admit how some marriages (maybe your marriage) is boring and sucking the life out of you. No one wants to own up to the fact that their sex life is gone, their passion squashed, their drive to look good is zilch, nill, in the toilet. Who among us wants to face the loneliness and feelings of being alone when they’re “happily” married? No one. Being a nagging, whining, complaining spouse feels awful. And besides what in the world do you do about it? You don’t want to become one of those people.
Okay, so what could you do about it? Why do you personally stay? What’s keeping you stuck in an uncomfortable, emotionally unfulfilling, financially comfortable arrangement? Is it strictly your religious beliefs, your children or your moral compass? Is that what you’ve got? This I know for sure: the God I know doesn’t want you to be miserable. And life, your life, is a long time to settle and to feel less alive than you were meant to feel. Remember, your children are watching.
Good, I got that out too this morning.
On the one hand, you know I’m right. You know that feeling – the one where you feel as if you’re the only one showing up in your marriage. You know, when you really let yourself think about it, that this is a horrible, lonely, unhappy place to be. But on the other hand, you know you shouldn’t be complaining or grousing – after all, at least there’s someone to share in the day-to-day companionship. To help raise your kids. To mow the lawn. And besides, you gave your word, you’ve been loyal, you’ve put up with the hard stuff together. I get it.
But, when you pause and have a good think, do you wonder if this is all there is to this experience called being alive? I kind of doubt it… and I’m also not in your shoes. Chances are, to change anything – whether it’s your marriage and how you interact with your spouse (including how you live day-to-day, never mind generating a little sex appeal) to how you disengage from an unhappy situation – just thinking about any sort of change makes you queasy and uncomfortable. You’re wondering, how could you ask for more? In order to do so, you’d have to get really vulnerable which never is a valid option amidst resentments and fear.
So often, we can’t imagine, we’re afraid, to think about being alone in the future which keeps people (not me, but I think you get that about me) in unhappy, settled marriage arrangements where a couple no longer acts like lovers and behaves more like roommates. This option has its merits but then a couple may wonder why porn has entered their lives and why affairs seem interesting, and why they can’t stand listening to another conversation about the same situation at home with the kids or with a situation at the office. Roommates don’t turn us on. Turn on is what helps us stay feeling alive! And turn on doesn’t just mean sexual turn on, it means being turned on, awake, a part of life.
In order to change the circumstances a couple has knowingly or unknowingly accepted, they may try to generate some emotional response by inadvertently causing some drama in their lives. (News Flash: you know exactly what I’m talking about.) How often have you looked for something to spark a feeling, an emotion from your partner? A reaction. When you were seeking some excitement, a little fear to generate something to bring you together again. How did it work out? Was it something positive and healthy for the dynamic between you? Because usually, it’s a fight, an affair, maybe something like drinking or gossiping. Even when, it’s never been part of who you’ve known yourself to be. It’s that constant nagging and whining, and complaining or it’s resorting to eating and smoking more. Underneath it all, no matter who you are, it’s really a veiled cry that “I’m dyin’ here!” but you don’t consciously realize what’s going on.
And, it sucks.
It’s so much easier to hide behind distractions than it is to face head-on, your unhappiness, and boredom in your marriage. It takes courage to be vulnerable and to apologize for taking another, your spouse, for granted. And it’s no wonder. Up until now, no one has reassured you that you won’t be or feel even more alone in the future, when or if you decide to end what isn’t working. You’re at a loss, what some experts call, an inflection point and only you can make the call to figure out what to do.
(BTW: I’m totally serious when I say that working on your marriage with a counselor and/or a coach is a noble, worthwhile option!)
But usually, the affair or the drinking or the frustrations and lack of intimacy don’t pull people back together again, those behaviors drive them apart.
Let me do a little reassuring: going out on your own is scary. It’s also the best kind of re-rack your life will ever go through if you get yourself help and guidance. You can’t do this on your own! And it’s not easy facing the future without a life partner. (May I remind you that you haven’t really had a partner for years though or you wouldn’t be thinking about walking out the door.) One of my mentors made me realize that the thing I was most afraid of happening in the future, was actually present in my life in the moment. Wow! That meant, the loneliness and fear of being alone that I was afraid of, was actually in my kitchen sitting next to me all the time anyway.
Once you realize your marriage is over (for whatever the reason) then your fear must be contained. It’s never going to go away completely – after all, we are fearful animals. Your worry over being alone and lonely in the future has to be addressed and your courage must be created. That’s a tall order for someone who hasn’t had a little love in ages! Or a little encouragement and support, never mind sex or affection from their spouse! No wonder, many people would rather feel lonely in their marriages than step out on their own!
So how do you do it? How do you generate the stamina and heart to step out from under a lonely, boring, unhappy situation?
You find a teacher, or many teachers to help you put yourself and your well-being first again. You find your way back to your thoughts, your feelings, your heart, your imagination. You create hope and faith in something bigger than you. You literally sit down and get quiet. You allow yourself to think through options and figure out the next step. You stop all the crap you took on trying to get your partner’s attention: the drinking, the carousing, the smoking, the gossip. You go back to work and start to become self-disciplined. You eat right, you save your money. You figure out how to live on less and you put a smile on your face and act as if you’ve got it all figured out.
None of this is romantic or dream-like. Divorce demands respect and conquering loneliness and fear is an inside job. No one else can do this work for you but having hope and faith on your side, as part of your belief system sure goes a long, long way toward getting the kind of life your heart and soul demand of you. Your life is yours to create. It’s not something you simply settle for. Haven’t you settled long enough?
Now, I hear you, you’re telling me… “Sure, Laura, you’ve done this, you’re good at this, I can’t do what you’re asking me to do. I’ve no idea of how to live on less or go back to work or move or downsize.” I get it! I didn’t either when I left my second marriage. I hadn’t had to live on less for years. I hadn’t worked for years. I hadn’t moved on my own in years. You’re right, it was scary and hard, and I was emotional and messy, and scared. Yep, all of it.
But, being lonely in a marriage with addictions, unhelpful behaviors, boring conversations, mean-spirited antagonism, gossip, unhelpful partnership, or a sucking of one’s life force is way harder to deal with than figuring out how to make a move across town! Having your kids watch your spouse sit on a couch all day or yell at you or call you names is a lot more damaging then working with a coach or a therapist and getting your mindset right again. And living on crumbs, always worried about being taken for granted, and not being able to care for yourself is a lot more expensive than hiring a career counselor to help you find a new life path.
You see what I mean?
You can do this.
You can opt for hope and faith in yourself. In God. In something bigger than you are today. For your children, your future, your heart, and your soul.
And it’ll be worth it. For being alone and happy sure beats being miserable with someone you call your husband or wife. Way more worth it.
It takes a few baby steps to begin this shifting from what you know and how you see yourself to creating confidence. It takes deliberate attention and focus. You will want to imagine the life you’ve always wanted. What does it look like? (Go ahead, close your eyes for a minute and see what it is that you’ve always wanted.) Are you happy, waking up each day next to a partner, a lover, who cherishes and respects you? Are you able to be loving and kind with this person and with others, like your children or your colleagues? Are you feeling good about yourself? If you’ve said yes to even one of these questions, then you’ve already got the raw ingredients inside of you (called imagination and heart) to begin creating a new future for yourself!
Your imagination and heart lead the way out of the situation you find yourself in today.
You’ll be inspired by your own actions. Your belief in what you envision and the steps you take to make it real will help you feel proud of yourself! You’ll be able to admire your willingness and courage. You’ll work out how to do it (we all do!), you’ll become resourceful and stop having to hide behind that veneer or perfection. (News Flash: you’ll want to appear perfectly happy and put together, but we can usually see through it, so don’t bother trying!) And you’ll be a leader for those stepping into their soul’s rightful place on this planet.
If given the choice between staying in an unhappy situation, maybe even life-threatening (on a spiritual sense unhappiness is always life-threatening) or left to carve out a future for yourself, which do you choose? I believe being single and lonely but content (if not happy) way surpasses feeling lonely in partnership any day of the week. Will you feel lonely at times? Of course! Will you pine for a lover? Yes. Will you wish it was easier? All the time! But will you be able to look yourself in the mirror and admire what you’re creating? Every day of the week.
So go ahead, find yourself that mentor. Find someone who has been right where you are and recreated their life. It’s important to know that you can change how you’re living and what kind of lifestyle you’re tolerating, and move it to the kind of life that’ll make you smile.
Brush up on your marketable skills. If you opt-in for staying in your marriage, get yourself a counselor! You need a counselor (or two)! And if you choose to leave your marriage, your situation for a life you can call your own, visit my thoughts on divorce and separation at laurabonarrigo.com. Join my Scarlet D™ weekly Letters. Understand what it is you’re doing, and how you will change. Opt-in for doing separation and divorce well. Your future depends upon you being your best and stepping into that courage you’ve had to hide. I can’t wait to see what you create for yourself.
I so believe in you!
Laura Bonarrigo understands divorce. For most of Laura’s life, divorce dictated who she was. Her first divorce occurred at the age of 7 – her parents’ – and she has spent most of her life thinking about or healing from the experience. She married young and divorced in her early twenties when most people are just beginning to think about marrying. Then two decades later, after 15 years of marriage to her second husband and the father of her children, the stakes were higher and the decision more difficult. Through a lot of soul searching she ultimately knew the best thing for her family was for this second marriage to dissolve. 3 divorces have forced Laura to learn the hard lessons of forgiveness, understanding & patience. See http://www.laurabonarrigo.com to learn more about and from Laura Bonarrigo.