I wasn’t really sure where to go with the Seven Years Later series this week. To be honest, I don’t feel ready to write too much about what turned out to be the next important relationship in my life, particularly since it, too, ended relatively recently. However, what I will say about him is that we had an instant and strong soul connection, which took us both by surprise. We weren’t prepared for the intense feelings we were having for one another and we had no idea how to navigate them. All of a sudden, our lives were turned upside down and, for me, it was the final catalyst in the series. First, my work was threatened… then, my health and now it was my relationship. The ultimate, universal “hat trick”.
As I contemplated the car-wreck of my life, which had unfolded over the span of less than two months, I realized that I had lost myself somewhere along the way and that I hadn’t been truly happy for a very long time. I had known for years that things weren’t good between my husband and I but I always thought I could fix them. It never occurred to me that I would ever contemplate ending my marriage.
I remember a time when things between me and my former husband were particularly bad and my therapist asked me to consider the possibility of ending my marriage. It was a shocking exercise, at the time, but turned out to be a really valuable one because it showed me how desperately I wanted my marriage to work. By the end of the exercise, I concluded that leaving him was not an option. I had completely ruled it out … but for all the wrong reasons.
I guess I was confused because I was so intent on making sure that my kids had the stable, two-parent home that I didn’t have growing up and I had made it the priority, above all else. I hadn’t yet learned the difference between “living a comfortable life” and the real happiness that comes from a sense of worthiness, safety and connection. That kind of happiness can sustain you when the going gets tough and meeting my new soul-mate shook everything up and forced me to make the discovery that I didn’t have it in my marriage…not yet, at least… but I was also aware that I had been on a journey to find it, somehow, for a very long time.
Becoming a therapist and opening Soul Spa was part of that journey. Not only was I longing for a deeper connection with myself, but with another human being, as well, but I hadn’t figured out how to cultivate it within my relationship. No amount of work I did on myself seemed to change our dynamic and, as time went by, I began to lose faith that it would ever get better. Of course, now I realize that it was a two-person job and I was trying to figure it out for both of us. But, regardless, I was in it for the long haul and I found ways to make myself comfortable and productive. I had found a certain kind of connection and a sense of worthiness through my work as a therapist and at Soul Spa, and that helped a lot, but it wasn’t until I met my new soul-mate that I understood what real, romantic connection actually feels like.
But, just as leaving my husband had not been an option, neither was an affair. In spite of our strong feelings for one another, my soul-mate and I both wanted to avoid breaking up our families and hurting the people we loved. What’s more, we each felt that there was so much about those relationships worth saving and so, almost as quickly as it began, we agreed to part ways and turn toward our marriages. As hard as it was, it was the only option either of us could live with.
But, I could not go back to the same life I had been living for the last several years. For my kids’ sake, I wanted to know if my marriage could work but the only way I could see that happening is if I could feel emotionally safe with my husband. I wanted to be seen and accepted for all of who I was, especially my flaws, and that meant being honest about everything. No holding back. If we were to have any chance at all, we had to create a new foundation so that our marriage could withstand anything.
To be honest, based on our history of almost 20 years, I didn’t really know if it was possible to create a new foundation with him but, in light of what was at stake, I was certainly willing to try. All I knew was that it had to be based on honesty and full disclosure. I no longer wanted to be in a relationship that could not handle the messy stuff. I was tired of protecting him from realities that he’d rather not deal with and protecting myself from his reactions. I was also tired of hiding my truths, mistakes and flaws in an effort to avoid judgement.
So, I did it. I came clean about every shameful thing I had been holding back. It was hard to do, but it was a wonderful feeling to finally unburden myself. Speaking about these things made me see how much I had inflated their importance and shamefulness in my mind. Relatively speaking, there was nothing I shared that I don’t hear from clients and friends on a regular basis. These things happen to the best of us and, I’m human, after all. Yes, even me :) As Brené Brown says, “shame can only survive in silence, secrecy and judgment” and when I shared the things I had been holding inside for so long, I felt liberated.
For a while, things looked optimistic for my former husband and I. We talked more openly than we ever had before about the state of our marriage and what we both wanted out of it. I shared ideas, dreams, possibilities that I hoped we could build on and he listened. This went on for a little while but, unfortunately it wasn’t sustainable. There was no traction. And then, then anger set in.
Cultivating safety and connection in a relationship that has, long since, defaulted to fear and disconnection is no easy task and I honestly feel I gave it my best shot, under the circumstances. It still breaks my heart that my kids had to suffer but, at least, I left my marriage knowing, without a doubt, that it was the right decision.
So, now … fast forward to Seven Years Later…