My kids may have been the biggest reason I’d be willing to stay in a painful marriage. But here’s how I know I didn’t wreck them by asking for a divorce. Even with excruciating fears and doubts; we weren’t being role models for big love.
The more I thought about what was going down over the years, the more I’d cringe with thoughts of how we were (badly) modeling love and marriage to our kids. The form of communication we practiced was the worst part of this; defensive, impatient, righteous and unconscious. And yes, I’m describing behaviors for both my husband and myself. I’ve tried to take responsibility for the parts I know I could’ve done better.
No matter how the years passed, or what situation we were problem-solving, the way we communicated set a tone, and the tone was about who was right. The big, conscious, kind and mutually respectful love I’d hoped to model, faded away and we were left with weekly arguments, trying-too-hard intimacy, and a roommate situation. Not the story I’d imagined. And definitely not the one I wanted to demonstrate for my kids.
I realized the life we were living had become the opposite of the one I wanted my kids to learn. I ached to tell them a different story and give them different options than the ones they were seeing every single day of their impressionable lives. I didn’t want to wreck their lives, but I started wondering if staying in a marriage that felt sad and less than alive wasn’t going to wreck them more.
I’m convinced whatever decision I made would have been okay though. Meaning the kids would have navigated their way through their own lives, healing their own wounds and learning the lessons they needed to grow and become who they’re meant to be.
I’ve learned a thing or two about healing over the years. One of the biggest lessons of my own life since having kids has been that the healing I do automatically trickles down to them. That is and continues to be one of the biggest motivations I have to do the healing work, even when it feels like I might die doing it.
I’ve watched the process in my own parents. As they’ve made their way through their lives and decided (or not) to look at their wounds and do the healing work, I’ve felt the effects; both good and bad. I’ve been aware enough to feel that. Knowing what I do now, I’m waking up to live a conscious, compassionate and fiercely alive life. I’m aware these efforts directly impact my kids, even if I can’t see it in the moment.
So I live that way; paying attention. The decisions I make matter. And this one, one of the biggest of my life, I’ve prayed and prayed wouldn’t be the one I fucked up.
Out of anything I’ve ever decided to do, messed with my mind in a way I never saw coming. Choosing my own happiness by doing something that seriously affected the lives of my kids created the most confusion, pain, doubt, fear, and shame I’ve ever experienced with any piece of healing I’ve ever done.
I finally realized something about that though. Making the decision to stay; to continue to shrink myself, live dampened down, continually defending myself and fighting for everything I stood for—that was going to wreck them more.
I had to be brave, no matter how many demons showed up along the path. I had to look at this in a different way and battle against what I was taught to believe; that I should’ve tried harder in my marriage or that I wasn’t good enough as a wife.
The problem with letting trying harder be the thing your kids see as the main event in a marriage is they learn that no matter how they feel, they should do more, need to be more, or sacrifice themselves for someone else.
Sacrifice is okay, until you’ve lost your soul and you’re sitting staring at the walls wondering if this’s how it’s meant to be. It’s not.
I want my kids to know full-on joy, big, ecstatic love, and mutually respectful, conscious, kind and positive, on-purpose relationships are worth going for. That they’re possible. And that it’s okay to feel the way they feel, no matter what’s going down, who’s involved and how life’s presenting itself in the moment. That listening to that inner voice and intuition, no matter who’s telling them what’s right, is the voice to trust.
I want them to know their vulnerability is their strength. That their wounds are their biggest opportunity for healing and transformation and fear can be a way to know what they need to face and conquer. I need them to know they’ll never be alone—even if they don’t have a spouse.
Even now, just a few months out of separation, in the middle of navigating my new life and their new lives, I yearn to show them the pain they feel is okay and survivable. I know part of my journey will involve showing up for the hard stuff, teaching them how to surf the waves of emotion, and how to use their joy to consistently point themselves in a direction their heart and soul shows them. I have the opportunity to show them what’s possible and give them powerful tools to achieve that.
That’s how I know I didn’t wreck them. I’ve made all of these things they way I do life. The vulnerability, the feeling, the awareness, the courage, the bliss, the love, the intuition, the positivity. These things don’t wreck people. They lift people up.
Even in the middle of what feels like the hardest, most excruciating decision, there’s a way to know you’re still okay; by checking in with yourself, trusting what you feel, and moving in a direction that serves the big love.
And big love, big love will never wreck you.