By Denise Boehler
Emotional truths that really hurt.
When I came to the end of a very long path of healing from divorce, I made peace. With myself, my former husband, my marriage. Following is a short story to share, for all women going through such challenging transformation, in the hopes that it may inform and relate—that the path toward emotional wholeness is never traveled in solitude.
Your marriage is finally over. Big breath. Let it out. Take another. Viscerally, you now get this one in your bones. Until now, you held on, held out, hope. That the two of you might reconcile. After the healing, after some time passed. But you now feel, in the depth of your bones, why your marriage broke apart in the first place. It wasn’t because he was awful and you were spoiled. Or that he didn’t love you or you were too lonely. It was that your lives together were no longer compatible. Your life together was irreconcilable. It’s why they created the option on the form for a petition for dissolution of marriage: irreconcilable differences.
They weren’t kidding.
And, ouch. Clearly and plainly, you see it. In a way you never saw it before. You get it.
That the one he has chosen to be with now makes him feel less. Want less. He no longer has emotional entanglements, difficult encounters. He is not challenged any longer, and he is at peace. Maybe, you even tell yourself, he’s sleeping at night. Again. Because he didn’t sleep with you, a pain you also grieved.
Take another breath. And know, it’s really over. Three years of grieving, struggling, paining, suffering. Comparing, dreaming. In delusion, in the future. Because a woman’s heart invariably takes longer to heal.
At the end of the day, no matter how long we’ve been at a marriage, it’s the finality of the end that gets us the most. Rips at our very core. Makes us feel that we somehow failed. Couldn’t get it right. And it doesn’t really matter, who we were to each other, how ironclad we felt our relationship, how unique we felt from the others. When it’s over, and really and truly over, we feel the disappointment as much within ourselves as we do with the other person. We tell ourselves the sad stories. Somehow we didn’t try hard enough. Somehow, we shouldn’t have done that thing, that final thing, that sent it over the edge. We should’ve held out and held in for longer. Somehow, we could’ve overcome what-have-you and what-not, to give it all time. To heal, to understand. Space, to let it unfold.
After enough head-banging, power-struggling, wrenching and screaming encounters, pleading and repetitive brain-draining moments, you completely and totally get it.
Endings are the hardest thing to accept in our lives. They are our little deaths. It’s tempting to run into the next thing – from each death comes a new life, a new love, a new chance. It’s why we run out, adopting that new puppy when our 17-year dog has died. We despise the endings. What do they all mean, anyhow?
But over is just that, when it finally happens. OVER.
Which, as I think more about it, I’ve never been good at endings. Ever. I imagine it comes from having scarcity thinking. My family was small. It sent me out the doors my childhood apartment into the larger world to find other people to call family.
I know what it’s like to live without. It’s a big-big world. It’s why when a relationship is over, I hang on. In obscure ways. Worry about his well-being. My heart may be shattered in bite-size pieces, bleeding all over the ground. I may be devastated, at the emotional upheaval and wrenching heartbreak of it all. It may have been so glaringly apparent, that we were no good for each other – he hated music, I had it on 24/7. He disdained my cluttered kitchen, I felt safe with more spoons in my drawers. He stopped having sex long before it was over – replacing himself with the ultimate Christmas gift – What’s this, a vibrator? I couldn’t get dressed for an evening out without echos of criticism ringing in my ears (Are you wearing that WENCH SHIRT again?) I had been through two major relationships in my life, long-term; his were two years (and that was just the one).
None of these things mattered, when the relationship was ending. Would he be financially okay? (He had bounced more checks by writing off your account and forging your name). Would he be homeless? (You had just sold your last favorite horse to pay off a 5-year old debt with the IRS, because he was hiding under your social.) Would he ever find love again? (He had cheated on you, as you walked in on him on top of your then-friend.)
The ways in which women can expend their hearts on men are inexhaustible. The ways in which we can put our own needs aside, endless. The ways in which we continue, again and again—despite our worst nights and our hoarse voices, despite the relentless nagging in the backs of our hopeful minds, that we can make it all alright, once and for all, cannot be overemphasized. We fix, we encourage. We complain, we plead. We demand, we beg. We trade, our bodies. In the absence of pleasure, in the absence of willingness. We do it all, in the name of love. Because we didn’t get it from our fathers, or we didn’t get it from our very first boyfriends. The ones that broke our hearts, early, taught us how to hold on and hold out. For continual love, everlasting, to come, once again. We do this, again and again, until we finally exhaust all effort and then finally, one day we realize, he will be fine without us. He has moved on, or moved in, with another. Or into a nursing home, had that stroke, the one I once dreaded he would have, as I watched him pile bacon bits atop that salad I begged him to eat. He did wind up a stable boy, after all, sitting in front of a trailer home, unmarried, poor, destitute. Until friends took him and cared for him. It all happened, the way that I dreaded it would, when I took leave for my own life and left him his.
And it would happen, continually, again and again. I would worry, about the well being of those I left. Because that’s what I do. I worry about the men whose hearts I have broken by leaving. I worry about the ones with whom I couldn’t make it work. I worry about them, because then I don’t have to worry about myself. Because then, I really won’t have to think about my own breaking heart.
Denise Boehler is many things. She has walked enough paths in life to be well rounded — from a life spent loving animals to cultivating a voice on their behalf; from writing for legal publications and living in a legal world for over twenty years. These days, she spends more of her time writing on behalf of both the strength and authenticity of women as well as wildlife; dancing and challenging herself with as much life as she can take on. She lives at altitude above Boulder, but hails from Chicago more than two decades ago. She has a Bachelors in Anthropology and a Masters in Ecopsychology from that great hippie institute, Naropa.