Michelle has managed to build a collaborative parenting relationship with her ex with a combination of him becoming a better parent and her consciously choosing how to treat her ex. She says their relationship and certainly their communication is better now than it was by the end of their marriage. That inevitably leads Michelle to wonder if she could have saved her marriage. Here’s Michelle:
When I play that out, I still don’t know. It doesn’t make me want to get back together with him, let’s put it that way. It’s not like, “Wow, I made a mistake, we can fix this.” It’s like, “No, no, no this is still the right decision, but boy, it’s too bad that we couldn’t get here when it was not too late to salvage the marriage.”
I suppose everything works out the way it’s meant to, right? For other people who are going through the brokenness phase that I went through for so long, I think there were definitely some times in there when maybe things could have been shifted, but for whatever reason, his journey and my journey individually and together, this is what was meant to unfold for us.
I think of several points along the way where maybe had I had a little more courage or a little more self-esteem or something, I really could have said, “Listen, this is a deal-breaker for me” and maybe we could have fixed it before it got to be too late, I don’t know. I was always afraid of the ending, I was too afraid to say what I really felt because I think maybe deep down I knew it would end. Or my fear was that it’s going to have to be over, and I didn’t want to be alone, I didn’t know what that meant for me, and I did take my commitment really seriously.
Even though there was definitely writing on the wall, I still wanted to stay married. I wanted the family dream, I really did, and that’s been the hardest part about it, is losing the family unit, like going on vacation. I took my kids on vacation last spring, we went to Hawaii and we were at this resort, and it was all families with mommies and daddies, and just sometimes I get confronted with that and it does make me feel sad.
It sneaks up on me, it hits me at weird times. The first year we separated the holidays were fine. I think I was so mentally prepared or so on-guard about it…we actually did everything except that he didn’t sleep at our house. He came over Christmas Eve, we had the same people over, he came back Christmas morning, we opened presents, I think he stayed for dinner. Everything was the same except he didn’t sleep there anymore. But then Mother’s Day, I was totally depressed. All of my perceived failures as a mother because I didn’t keep the family together reared up. I was making such a strong connection between being a mom and providing a stable nuclear family, and I hadn’t been able to do that, so it was really hard.
Last year was totally different because now he does have someone else in his life, so Thanksgiving we didn’t get together, because if he was my boyfriend, I wouldn’t want him to go have Thanksgiving with his ex, you know? We’re having to navigate that new territory and that’s a little sad for me too because I don’t have someone in my life. I’m facing the idea of if they go with Dad on Christmas, I’m alone. My family doesn’t live in the area so I’m a little nervous about how that’s going to play out. Some of those times when the family stuff comes to the foreground is when I kind of grieve that loss.
It’s nice because he really is negotiable and he’s like, “I don’t want you to be alone on Christmas” and again, I really do think that him finding someone else was one of the best things that could have happened to me.
Divorce is the same as other major life events over which we have control – it’s human nature to look back and wonder how your life might have been different if you had made another choice. Wishing that you had made a different decision is a really unproductive even unhealthy perspective but that doesn’t mean there’s no value to this introspection. The benefit comes when you can understand the reasons why you made the choice you did and to accept that you made what you believed was the best decision at the time. The growth comes from understanding how and why you would make a different decision now.
I can empathize with Michelle: there were issues in my marriage that I couldn’t confront at the time; I thought that by working around them and avoiding the confrontation that was how to make my marriage last. And like Michelle, I do now wonder what would have happened if I’d had the courage to confront those issues at the time, the strength to tell my husband that some things weren’t working for us. I’ll never know the answer except that it would have changed the course of our marriage.
Do you ever wonder if you could have changed the course of your marriage?
Michelle is a life coach specializing in eating disorders. Overcoming the struggle with bulimia was one of the unexpected side effects of divorce for Michelle. You can read more about her practice at her website and follow her Unlock Your Possibility blog. Follow her on twitter and Facebook.
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