(Contributed by Maureen-an Oregon follower.)
I still love my ex-husband. I love him like a recovering alcoholic loves her drink of choice – with fond memories, from a great distance, and with absolutely no desire to rekindle. Sobriety has gifted her with wisdom to understand the chaos of such reunion. The problem isn’t with the alcohol or the alcoholic. The problem is when they are in a relationship together.
My ex and I both love our children with fierce dedication. He’s an excellent co-parent: He returns my calls and gladly lets me borrow needed items. The lines of communication about our kids and their needs are very open. We cooperate while also maintaining healthy, new boundaries set after the divorce because, when children are involved, divorce does not end a relationship, it only changes it.
In fact, we filed for divorce together, submitting a stipulated judgment reached in agreement through mediation. The legal part was fast. It was reaching this point that was painfully slow and exhausting. After several rounds of pastoral and secular counseling, both as a couple, and individually, and only God knows how many tears and best efforts, I could state without reservation there was nothing left to try, no more effort to make.
By coincidence, we filed for divorce on July 8 – our anniversary – so, poetically, 14 years to the day we ended our marriage on the same day it began. Officially, the judgment was entered into the record six days later, but who’s nitpicking? That would mess up the way I’ve chosen to remember things.
And that’s the scary, and the beautiful part. It is my choice to remember things how I want to. Some may say I’m lying to myself, but we all lie to ourselves, all the time. I’ve chosen to stop hoping things could’ve been different. Rather, I’m grateful for how things are, which is the best definition of forgiveness I’ve found. I could list his failings and the compounded disappointments leading me to finally decide there was no hope for a shared future. But, then to be fair, I’d have to provide a list of mine. I don’t want to.
I was not perfect. I did things I am not proud of. Words were shouted. Names were called. Doors were slammed. Tires were squealed. Spit was spat. Yes, we’d known for years we were making each other miserable. I also knew if we split, he’d stay alone for approximately five seconds. I understood a separation would be permanent. I solved the problem of being forced to make this decision by lying in bed and crying about it for two years.
When I finally reached out to my friends, my sister, and my parents, their reactions told me I had no more time for such indulgences. They assured me they’d be there every step of the way and that if I returned to him without a full reckoning by both of us; they’d be forced to accept they could never take me at my word again. I knew once I started to share the truth of how far my marriage had gone off the rails, they’d expect me, and hope for me, to choose to do right by myself and my children. I fondly called this the Nuclear Option – drastic and irreversible, once begun.
On December 3, 2013, with the help of my sister and my parents – who could have so easily said, “I told you so,” but instead swooped in like a professionally trained search and rescue team, I pushed the red button by moving out and everything, I mean everything, has been better.
The process itself was brutal. Maybe I should say I wouldn’t wish it on anyone, but that isn’t true. Life is full of pain and disappointment and the sooner one acknowledges it, the easier it gets. Everyone is carrying their own sack of rocks, why whine about mine? Instead, I put together a team I fondly called my Circle of Stones. The inner circle was my sister and my parents, and my dear friend, Mindy, who was the first to be told and the first to withhold judgment. I honestly don’t know where I’d be if she hadn’t been the perfect friend to me in the exact time and way I needed her to be. Her nonjudgmental response gave me courage to reach out to my family – a family that, through my silence and shame of feeling like a failure, I’d metaphorically been giving the finger for over a decade.
Added to the Circle were my brothers and their wives, whose humbling, unexpected and greatly appreciated generosity arrived exactly when I needed it. Donna, Ellen, Debbi, Marta – a.k.a “My West Coast Mom,” Jim, Andrea, Ree, Char and so many others joined the Circle as did my doctor. She wisely put me on a short round of antidepressants when I asked her for something to help me sleep. And then, at just the right time, I learned of a reunion of female first cousins, some whom I’d never met or seen in over 30 years. Being with these strong, beautiful, caring women buoyed me, reminded of the stuff I was made of, helped me remember where I came from, and gave me the support and perspective I needed.
It’s taken time, counseling, grief and being embraced by this Circle but yes, I still do love my ex-husband. Mr. Rogers in his book The World According to Mr. Rogers said, “Love isn’t perfect caring. It is an active noun, like struggle.” It is an active choice to behave in such a way that is beneficial and nurturing to all involved. Dr. Maya Angelou is credited with saying, “love liberates”. So it is my choice to love myself, my children and my now ex-husband enough to liberate, or set us all free. I also choose to stop hoping things could’ve been different and instead be grateful for how things are. Rather than dragging my bag of rocks, I stand solidly inside my Circle of Stones and know I am forgiven, I am free.
We all are – or at least we can be. We only have to choose to liberate.
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©Copyright. November 2015. Linda Leier Thomason
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