It’s been a year since #MeToo swept the nation. So this month I decided to open up my platform to allow some other amazing women in my life to share their anger as well. Want to be a guest writer for Angry Feminist as well? Let’s talk! – Darci
The decision to get a divorce was not made lightly. I have been unhappy in my marriage for the past 5 years, but not every day. There were always days that felt good, moments we shared that I thought “this is why I married him.” We didn’t talk about anything real anymore, but he still made me laugh when he was in a good mood. We started traveling, and he let me make some decisions and followed my lead. I could see ways that he was trying to be better and make it work.
After years of asking and hoping that my feelings would change, that he would be able to give me breathing room and not feel the need to be in control, we went to marriage counseling this year. This was a huge step that gave me hope, since bringing up counseling in the past had always caused a huge fight. Here he was finally saying that he knew we needed help and he was ready to do the work.
Except he wasn’t. At our first session, which we had planned months in advance, we were given an article about communication to read, and he forgot. And by forgot, I mean he put it in a drawer after looking at it on the table for a week. It seems small, but this was one of the ways he told me he wasn’t ready to put in the effort our relationship needed. He had already established a pattern of changing just enough to mollify me and make me feel guilty for wanting to leave; and putting the article in a drawer and not reading it was just another example of how little he thought he needed to work. He was willing to go to counseling, but he didn’t want to talk in the sessions. He wanted to show me he was trying but couldn’t be bothered to put anything the counselor suggested into action. Because our relationship had been full of criticism from him towards me, the counselor suggested that he should ask me before giving me critical feedback. He was not open to this idea.
We talked in counseling about the darkest days of our marriage, and the counselor asked if I had been traumatized. My husband’s response was to say that it had been a really hard time for him. He apologized for me feeling like it was abuse but asked for understanding that it had been a really difficult point in his life and I should try not to hold it against him. He focused again on how he didn’t finish his degree, he didn’t get the job he thought he would, he wasn’t making as much money as he planned. This response, along with everything else, showed once again that he did not believe he had really done anything that bad. He defended and excused his behavior. He had a tendency to gaslight me, tell me that my perception of reality was wrong, that I was making things worse in my head than they really were. And he did this in our final counseling session, when I told him I would not be coming home and we would be getting a divorce.
He told me things weren’t actually that bad, and I was making it worse than it had to be. I should just forgive his behavior and move on, because he loved me. But I could not forgive abuse that was still ongoing. And he couldn’t see how he was still abusing me. He couldn’t see that when he “talked me up” to friends, it felt like an act. I know he genuinely cared for me, and was doing his best to show it, but it never seemed to come from somewhere deep. It all seemed to be driven by showing everyone else what a good husband he was or showing me why I should forgive him and do what he wanted. He couldn’t see that telling me to talk less and not answer questions about my job, but instead talk about how great he was, isn’t a healthy relationship. There are a million versions of quotes about “don’t let anyone dull your sparkle,” and that is exactly what he wanted me to do. Take up less room so he could take up more. After 6 and a half years of marriage, 5 of which were unhealthy and unhappy, I finally told him I would not be trying to fix us anymore.
I am no longer in that relationship. I am living by myself for the first time in my life. The weight of constant fear and worry that I was going to disappoint him, upset him, make him feel less than, not pay enough attention to him, talk about myself too much, see friends too often, not have enough sex, is gone. I can put the eggs in the fridge any way I like.
But more importantly, I can breathe.
My head space is not constantly filled with worry. My thoughts were always preoccupied with the weight of my failing marriage, and I’m no longer aboard a sinking ship. This is an opportunity for me to learn about myself, and to be sure I don’t fall into the same pattern again. And honestly, I could not feel more confident in my decision. I get to be my own person, to take time to reflect on my relationship and how I contributed to it. I get to read books whenever I want, listen to whatever music I want, and no one tries to tell me my choices are wrong.
This entire process, from marriage to divorce, has been a journey that didn’t turn out the way I planned, but I don’t think I would change it. My marriage and its failure has taught me many lessons I needed to learn. I have so much empathy for people who choose divorce and am much less quick to judge. I am no longer the conservative person I was when I got married. I firmly believe in equality in relationships, and in the division of emotional labor. I can now recognize narcissistic personalities easily and avoid them. I learned to speak up for myself, and that only good things will happen when I do. I learned that I am strong, independent, thoughtful, intelligent, beautiful, and worthy of a life that is happy. I learned that I should be able to ask for what I need in a relationship and expect my partner to respond. I learned to recognize emotional manipulation, and what it feels like when someone makes me responsible for their emotions. I learned that I am valuable, and I do not need to be in a relationship to be loved.
I worried that I would wake up full of regret for leaving my marriage. I was sure I would feel guilty for ending a promise that I made for life. But guilt is not a reason to stay married. I realized my feeling of guilt over wanting to end my marriage was the only thing still keeping me in it, and now that I’m out I do not have that feeling. I was not struck by lightning. My family did not disown me. My friends did not judge me, either for staying too long or not long enough. I gave my marriage my best honest try, and ultimately made a decision that is healthier for both of us. I listened to my own voice and made the choice to end it when it was clear that the relationship was unhealthy and beyond repair. My family and friends have been unendingly supportive, and I. Feel. Free.