A few months ago, a dear friend of mine that I met in a support group called me and she was crying and terrified because her gut was telling her (and had been for days) that her husband (who had already betrayed her multiple times) was about to confess to betraying her again.I listened as she questioned herself over why she had ever decided to stay in the first place. Why didn’t she leave after the first betrayal? Why didn’t she leave after the second? I told her, “Because it’s hard as hell to leave.”It is way harder than most people will ever admit. It is definitely harder than most folks will ever understand. I struggled for years over whether or not to end my marriage. It took over three years for me to get from the brutal shock of discovery to the point where I was ready to file for divorce. Everyone kept telling that I would just “know” when I was done. While this was true and I reached a point where I “done,” I was not always able to hold onto that place of certainty.In the early weeks after filing for divorce, I felt confident in my decision but, as the process endured, my confidence began to falter under the weight of immense grief. I have never in my life felt such despair that seemed to crawl around under my skin like a wild animal. More and more often I would find myself thinking, “I should just go back.” After a while, I began to worry that he might not want me back.Then my grandmother fell ill. Then I fainted at work and ended up in the emergency room. The worst part of that experience was having to list my mom as my “In Case of Emergency” person. I felt so incredibly vulnerable and scared to death of dying alone.Then…I went back.I allowed myself to start talking to him again and then realized that I wanted to try again. We did try to reconcile. We started couples’ therapy. We talked and hugged and admitted to how much we had longed for and missed each other. Once again, he promised me that he was finally the sober, awakened partner of my dreams.It lasted two months. Then I found out he was still lying to me and (more importantly) to himself. So, I made the decision to end it again. The weeks following that decision were some of darkest of my life but, the darkness gave me the clarity that I needed to know there was no way I could go back. Six months later, our divorce was final.I read this great article the other day by a woman named Heather Plett in which she talked about how there is no such thing as the “triumphant narrative.” In the article, she wrote that even though she is happier and more fulfilled than ever before, she is also at the heaviest weight that she has ever been. She talked about how we long for the triumphant narrative and, in her case that would mean that she was finally happy, fulfilled and skinny. But that’s not her story. It’s not her happy ending.I’ve been thinking a lot about happy endings because I am often looking for an inspirational movie to watch where the woman ends up on her own and happy. Outside of some of the recent Disney movies, there are shockingly few.Hollywood (and the world) seems to always want to pair us off. We are force fed this idea that we need to be coupled. It’s no wonder that, when trying to decide whether to end a marriage, the idea of not being coupled looms before like a dark abyss. It is dark and unchartered territory. Beyond this place, there be dragons. Yet, of course, there aren’t any.A few years ago, I would have said that losing my husband and being alone would be my worst nightmare. During the months when I struggled to start my own business, I held on to the fact that everything would be okay as long as we stayed together.It was so hard to let go of my old life because, even with the betrayal, so much of it was beautiful. I didn’t want to let go of that beauty. I was afraid that my life could only be beautiful as long as I was married but my life is still beautiful. It’s just way beyond the narrow borders of what I could have ever dreamed up on my own.
I BOUGHT A HOUSE, Y’ALL.
These days I walk around my house that I bought and decorated and it’s so pretty and its MINE. I literally never thought that this was something that I would be able to do on my own. There are moments when I’m staring at the subway tile and the apron sink and the marble hearth and I feel comfortable in my own skin and feel in my bones that it was all worth it. Everything I have been through was worth getting to this place in my life. Not just because I have a well-decorated house but because I feel embodied. And beautiful.My boys and I…we are still a family. I have friends that love me and see me for the amazing woman that I am. I have community. I have faith. I have love. I have everything I need.I have all this, which I don’t really have but rather, it has me, because I choose to wake up every day and recommit to my own self. It takes just as much commitment to remain faithful to yourself as it does to remain faithful to someone else. I’m not perfect. I still have moments of doubt. As the Big Book says, we strive for progress, not perfection.I know that many of you have witnessed my journey these last few years and, for any of you who might be facing your own crossroads, I say to you:
You don’t have to decide anything today.
Trust the process.
And remember that there is no triumphant narrative. Not really. Every day, you have to wake up and choose you. That’s one of the many reasons why it’s hard to leave and even harder to stay away from the unhealthy relationship. Over the new few months, I’m going to be exploring some of the many reasons why this is true. Or, at least, why it feels true.I’ll be doing this because understanding why we are choosing to stay or leave gives us power. It gives Emotional Sobriety and by that I mean that we are no longer allowing our emotions to blindly drive us to make decisions. When we understand what the emotions are behind our choices, we are able to make healthier ones.If you are interested in Emotional Sobriety and gaining insight into WHY we stay in unhealthy situations (either for yourself or someone you love), then you’re going to want to sign up to receive The LoveLetter, which you can do right here: http://www.jennirochelle.com/loveletters/Until next time…xoxo, Jenni