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"I was dying a little each day." Why I decided to leave the man I love after 31 years.

After 31 years, I am ending my marriage with the man that I love and it is by far the hardest thing I have ever chosen to do. It requires me to trust what I know, have faith in what I believe and to surrender to the unknown. 

Over the years I have worked diligently towards creating a healthy and beautiful marriage. I’ve participated in marriage retreats, non-violent communication training, counseling, personal development and healing childhood wounds. I became more awakened and aware of who I am, how I affect others, and I was able to bring more honesty, appreciation, love and respect to the relationship

I was not, however, able to make my marriage the marriage I craved to be a part of. Nor was I able to create the family life I hoped for and dreamt about for my children.

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I was not successful in creating the marriage I wanted because I married someone that I was not supposed to. I knew the relationship was not the right one for me, and judging by his participation in it, it was not the right one for him either, but we went along with it anyway. Looking back it is clear that neither of us had the awareness or maturity to confront the truth and move on accordingly.

I didn't believe I could change Stephen as many people go into relationships thinking. I thought I could change me into what he needed in a wife. I wasn't conscious of this at the time. I just believed that he was a good person and my dissatisfaction in the relationship was because something was wrong with me, not him. 

I was coming from an abusive childhood, so for me it didn’t register yet that Stephen wasn't able to converse with me and didn’t seem to have any interest in doing so. What registered is that he did not call me names or hit me, was a gentle lover and genuinely cared for me, and for those reasons I believed I was extremely lucky to be in a relationship with him. The absence of outward aggression in Stephen made him a Saint in my mind, reinforcing that anything wrong with our marriage must be my fault.

So I spent many years in therapy, reading books, anything that could help me fix me so that I could need less and appreciate this silent but safe man in my life. I loved Stephen; I could not have been more in love with him. I thought he was the most beautiful man in the world. And I still do.

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I lit up when he walked into the room, but he never noticed. He was simply unable and not interested in meeting me where I was. He was not interested in any of the activities or interests that I was drawn to. He engaged in a few of these things in the beginning, but over time he grew to resent participating in any of it or feeling like he had to. My first response to this was to convince myself I did not need those things to be happy.

As the years went by and I realised that those were the activities actually nurtured my soul, I began to put pressure and express my disappointment that he didn’t participate in them. Part of my motivation was for my own pleasure, but the other was that I wanted to give my children a love of the outdoors, adventure and connecting with people. I wanted to introduce them to more of the world outside of our home. Because I loved Stephen, I eventually stopped expressing my disappointment. I knew what it was to feel like you were not enough, and I did not want to do that to him or convey that message to our children. I also didn’t want to feel like I was a victim, because of course I was not, so I quit asking and started taking the kids on outings by myself, as well as doing things alone.

I still longed to have a connection with my husband. I longed to have him interested in me and what fired me up in life. He loved me, he just didn’t need the things I needed. Connection for Stephen was just having me there. For a long time I thought I could stay married like that, but denying what I needed most was chipping away at my spirit.

Giving this much energy towards trying to make something work that was never meant to, took away from the rest of my life, including motherhood. There were times throughout the 31 years that I was discouraged, and depressed. I know I missed things during that time; more than I would have liked to. I, by choice, was pretending to be less to keep my marriage and it meant I was less in every area of my life and in every way.

Mamamia’s award-winning podcast The Split discusses navigating separation and what to do when your relationship is over. Post continues after podcast.

There is so much I can write about after 30 years of trying to grow a marriage that seemed incapable of growing, but I think the most valuable thing I can share is that sometimes things are not meant to work. When we genuinely and earnestly give our effort to something we believe in and it does not ever bear fruit, or enough to compensate you for everything you are giving, it is of utmost importance to pay attention to that. It is not working for a reason. It is not meant to. So often we pretend that that is not the case because much is required if we acknowledge it, but it is truly our gift. It is life/God/the universe/natural consequence (whatever you believe) telling us, “hey, this is not your path, it is time to course-correct.”

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I ignored that for years because I didn’t believe I deserved more. I believed I would be punished if I hurt Stephen in an effort to be happier, I was afraid to hurt my children anymore than I may have already, I was afraid of the unknown. Somewhere on this journey I grew spiritually and became much more self-aware. As fate would have it, we were given an opportunity to live separately for a few months. We were moving and Stephen needed to stay at his job for four months longer than I did. I went ahead with our only child who was still at home. Separated, all of the anxiety, depression and confusion that seemed a normal part of my life by now, lifted. It became blatantly clear that my unhappiness was a result of me denying what I had known for years. It was because I had created the most inauthentic existence and I was dying a little each day as a result.

I could tell you it is because Stephen didn’t know how to be present or have any interests, but it would be a lie. Because I know women who would be happy with what Stephen brought to the table and where he was in his own evolution. I wish I could have been me while allowing Stephen to be himself, but I was never able to do that without turning myself down.

So, instead I am loving and celebrating Stephen for who he is and giving myself permission to no longer be married without judging myself for it. I hope he finds and receives everything he needs to grow and expand into his full potential. I want to see him happy, and I hope that includes him finding a wonderful person to love and who loves him back the way he needs to be loved. What a beautiful thing for each of us to model to our children. It is never too late. 

With that said, it is not an easy journey. But it is one I am grateful for. I still worry that I am hurting him, even though I know this is the best thing for Stephen, myself and our children. Living my authentic truth is the best gift I can give to me and everyone I love. Each day that I do, I see the natural consequence of my choices and how it is beautifully affecting each one of us. 

Stephen and I have talked at length about this entire process over the last year. We have held each other through some painful moments. We have talked about the fear, disappointment, loss, hope, and our future together as family and friends instead of spouses and I know we are going to be okay. In fact, I know we will all thrive in a way we have not yet, as this new life of ours unfolds. When we live in truth, everyone around us benefits.

This post originally appeared on The Good Men Project and has been republished with full permission. 

Feature Image: Getty.