I was never going to be the statistic. Having gone through my parents’ 10+ year divorce, I vowed that I would always find a way to make it work.
My marriage would be different.
A summer romance on the island of Santorini, Greece in our early 20’s, an international move to Canada that saw a Greek boy in +35C, one day and -35C the next, could have provided the backdrop for an interesting romance novel or foreshadow the many struggles that lye ahead.
As students, from completely different backgrounds, struggling to make ends meet, we were quickly introduced to how challenging marriage can be. Throw in there, a lack of self awareness, language issues and the self righteousness and stubbornness that came with our 20’s, and we had a melting pot for severly deficient communication.
Five short years and 2 degrees later, after exploring counceling and therapy, we made the decision to get a divorce. It was amicable and logistically easy, given we had very little assets to our name. A quick purchase from Indigo provided a DIY divorce kit that we filled out and filed ourselves.
From the outside looking in, I desperately tried to appear strong and courageous. But on the inside, I was crushed.
Searching for distractions to help me through the pain and disappointment, I took a job in a new city across the country. I wasted no time wallowing in self pity. In fact, I didn’t pause long enough to absorb or think about what had happened.
I equated moving, with moving on.
In my attempt to occupy every minute of my time, I took on any and all projects at work. And to ensure I never had a second to spare, I decided to sign up for a marathon in Ireland and in the process, learn how to run distance.
Indeed, all these things succeeded in occupying my mind and guaranteed I had little to no time to process my grief, while numbing my emotions.
And the years passed by…
Seven years later, on my way home from an extended period of time traveling around the world, I made a pitt stop to visit family. It was on that trip, I bumped into my ex-husband and so it began, the unraveling and re-wrapping of a relationship that felt strangely familiar, yet completely new.
To do or not to do?
We had both changed over the years and it appeared that not only our paths had crossed, but so had our priorities and goals, so we decided to give our relationship another try. This time in a completely different country, learning a new language and starting a business together.
And just two years later, we were expecting our son. There were cracks in our relationship but the anticipation of his birth kept us connected. I chose to ignore, rather than confront, the issues we were experiencing and for the first couple years our son was my greatest distraction. Things may have looked good from the outside, but once again, they were falling apart.
Do people every really change?
Unconscious and unsure of how to communicate with each other brought us back to a councellors office, trying to figure out our path moving forward. This time the stakes felt much higher with our son as part of the equation.
I found myself constantly searching outwards for solutions as opposed to slowing down and quietly looking inward. The fear of admitting my mistakes and my lack of self awareness, left me feeling lost, lonely and completely unsure of myself.
One night, when I was alone with my son who was sleeping soundly in the room beside me, I experienced a moment of peace and clarity. Maybe it was the culmination of things: a disagreement with my husband over a trivial event before he left on a business trip, the tears that flowed the night before, while visiting my grandma in the hospice or the calm I felt in my home that night with a moment of quietude while listening to the sounds of Zac Brown playing softly in the background. Whatever it was, it suddenly dawned on me that my desire to not be a statistic and stubbornness to keep our marriage together, may be doing exactly the opposite. What if trying to make this work for the sheer purpose of making it work, was the wrong approach?
What if after months spent discussing, reading and learning about relationships, I needed to stop and be still. Maybe I did have some of the answers. And that’s when the questions started:
What if … shielding our son from the pain of divorce was not the objective? Pain is something we all walk through at different points in our lives. What if there were lessons here for all of us?
What if … our current situation was actually worse for our son? What if we were teaching our son to have this kind of relationship? Would I be happy for my son if he was in a relationship like ours?
What if … this was an opportunity to redefine what family means? What if our son could still have joy, even if not in a nuclear family.
What if … we could all be happier if we did not live together? What if our son could even flourish in a different environment?
Redefining our Relationship
This was unfathomable to me at the time. In my mind, divorce equalled failure. I had spent so much time and energy trying to make it work, that it never dawned on me that there could be another way, that might even work better for us all.
But that night the veil of illusion that clouded my judgement for so long was lifted and I stopped anticipating and worrying. A space opened up that sparked me to redefine what divorce meant and what it could mean for our family.
Let me be clear. I am not advocating for divorce. I do believe if there is a way to make it work so that all can thrive, that is best. I am however advocating to do the work and define what is right for you and your family and not allowing the rules of society dictate what that is.
And five years later, as my son and I sit on our patio, I am reminded once again, that it was the right decision for all of us.