Healthy, meaningful relationships take work. Attention needs to be paid to what matters to each person involved.
It’s like each person in the relationship has a Love Bucket with a small hole at the bottom. In order for each person to feel loved and emotionally secure in the relationship, regular deposits need to be made into their Love Bucket. If regular deposits are not made, the Love Bucket slowly drains until it is empty.
This is not a good place to be.
In order to maintain a healthy, full Love Bucket, it is important to be aware of the following seven things:
When most people ask why my marriage ended, I usually reply that we were never doing the same dance. It was much more complicated than that, of course, but this describes the gist of it. I needed marriage to be a tango and he needed a line dance–two very different things.
I stayed a lot longer than I should have for a variety of reasons, one of which was that I did not want to be divorced. I did not want my kids to be from a “broken home”.
But since we weren’t doing the same dance, there was no love connection. Even though we were living under the same roof, in a sense we were already separated and our “home” was already broken.
In Grounded Spirituality, Jeff Brown writes:
..many seemingly intact families are deeply broken…a home is not broken when parents are separated or divorced. A home is broken when there is an absence of love.”
In a conversation about marriage, my wise sister, Chris, once told me,
Everyone has shit in their marriage, Karin. You just need to be able to talk about the shit.”
Over the past year, I have thought a lot about her advice and how much it describes what was missing in my marriage. It also brought to mind the marriage and relationship struggles my friends have shared with me, a few of which involved some pretty difficult things. Two friends in particular went through what most people would consider deal-breaking situations, yet in both cases, they worked through them and say their marriages are now stronger than they’ve ever been. They feel connected on a much deeper level.
Being able to transform the shit in a marriage or relationship made think about gardening and how the addition of manure helps to make a richer, healthier soil. Maybe the same is true for marriage or any other meaningful relationship. Depending on how it is handled, maybe some shit can actually be good.
Now that I am no longer married, I’ve decided to take a peek into the wide world of dating. Although I know I am capable of living alone, I’d much rather be in a relationship–to have that special someone by my side to share tacos, sunsets and all the other joys of life.
I want to be purposeful about the process—to be mindful and take it seriously–but also stay lighthearted, have fun, and try to see the humor in all of it. I’ve joined a few meet-up groups and have created profiles on a few dating apps. As I have been swiping left and right, I was amused to find the voice of Toni Tennille singing “You Better Shop Around” running through my head:
“Try to get yourself a bargain, girl
Don't be sold on the very first one
Good-looking guys come a dime a dozen
Try to find the one who's gonna give you true loving
Before you take someone and say I do, now
Make sure he's in love with you, now
Make sure that his love is true, now
I hate to see you feeling sad and blue, now
My momma told me, you better shop around”
I have noticed that for most people, the word divorce rolls off the tongue like any other word, but it is not that way for me. When I try to say it, I feel my throat tighten and when someone else says it, I feel myself flinch. The word holds pain and sorrow–so much so that when asked about my marital status, I prefer to say I am no longer married rather than using that word.
For a short period of time, I was seeing a great life coach who helped me with many things, one of which was re-framing this aspect of my life. She encouraged me to come up with my own definition for the word. I tried to see beyond what I was experiencing at that time, and came up with this definition:
Divorce: A deep, dark, difficult decision, out of which rises a door, through which discovery, development and a new direction are possible.
I was texting my friend Kevin awhile ago and he gave me a pep talk on staying positive. I replied that mostly, I am staying positive. I just wish the future wasn’t so muddy. He replied,
The future is muddy regardless…just sayin’!
I paused to think about what he said, then had to agree he was right. The future is always muddy. Regardless of well-laid plans, current health conditions, or whatever else is happening right now, the future is muddy and uncertain.
In the book, “The Immortalists”, one of the characters states that her mother gave her the gift of uncertainty. When I read this, I had to set the book down and ponder. Uncertainty is a gift? How is that even possible? I had to unpack this idea.
In his book “Notes on Love and Courage”, Hugh Prather writes:
“Yes there are other considerations. There is no end to the considerations: feelings of the people involved, your word, your commitments, the possible consequences. But a time can come when there isn’t much of you left, and all you have is enough strength to act, just enough to put an end to it by turning your back and walking out.”
These words so perfectly describe my struggle to separate from my husband. There was so much to consider, but in the end, I realized it was best to go. Coming to this heavy decision and moving out was by far the hardest thing I have ever done. I am normally a very high energy person, but the whole process left me exhausted. I spent the first few months in what could be called a cocoon-like state. Basically, I made it to work, ate and slept A LOT. I can’t remember ever sleeping as hard or as often as I did during those first few months.
As my energy slowly returned, I felt a very strong urge to document and work through what had happened and how I was feeling. I created a google doc titled “The D Word” and started writing. I have never been much of a writer, but something inside me was cracking open and all the feelings and thoughts I had stuffed for the past 25+ years came pouring out. Needless to say, there was quite a lot to process and express.