Waiting

For those of you who have written me or are thinking of writing me or are just starting to let a little light into the thought that you might need to leave your marriage to save yourself, I need to offer a warning:

It is not easy.

Getting out of a marriage, even when the relationship has been dead for years or never really existed, is a long, painful, complicated procedure. It's like chewing your leg off to get out of a trap, only you're also chewing your kids' legs off, too. You know it's the only way to stay alive for all of you, and that you can heal and go on to live better things, but it hurts.

These past two years have been about losing. Losing who I thought I had to be, losing what I thought was important, losing what I thought my kids were going to have. Losing time with them, and the ability to be home with them. Losing sleep, losing my standing in the community.

You will lose friends. Sometimes people are either too secure in their own marriages or too insecure in their own marriages to want to be around someone in transition. Some women will assume that you're on the prowl for their husbands. People will tell you you're not a good mother because you're ripping apart your children's family.

It turns you into both a mirror for other people's insecurities and a deep well of things they never thought were in you. It's unsettling, for them and for you.

People will tell you divorce is the easy way out. The only people who say that are people who've never gone through it. It would be far easier to just say nothing, to suck it up and try to make yourself OK with things, to shrink so far into yourself that the only thing left is your motherlove for your children. To know your children deserve better, but to be living as a shadow of yourself.

But here is the thing: At a certain point, you will not be able to stay. Staying will suddenly be the impossible thing, instead of the only thing you can imagine. And you will be ready to do whatever it takes to leave. No matter how hard it gets, no matter how many obstacles you run into, no matter how much you lose.

Then, once you are stripped down farther than you thought you could be, the helpers start to appear. New friends, old friends who were waiting for you, kind bosses and co-workers, the guys at the deli across the street who tease your kids, your friends on the internet.

You can do this. But it's going to make you cry. A lot.

Now, two practical suggestions, for no matter where you are in the process:

1) Read the book Uncoupling by Diane Vaughan. It charts the process of ending a relationship from both sides, in a non-judgmental way. It was super-helpful for me in understanding how it all happened from my end, and also in understanding where my kids' dad was in the process. No blame, just really good insights, like the idea that the first "betrayal" of the relationship is when one partner feels like something is wrong but can't verbalize it enough to share it with the other partner. No assumptions about sexes of partners or legal status of the relationship.

2) Do NOT Google or Facebook search former boyfriends or girlfriends. It will only make you feel bad about your current situation, while impressed with how your former partners have turned out. It's tempting, but don't go there.