When I first met my husband, eight years ago, there were no big sparks, we didn’t catch eyes in a crowded room and fall immediately in love, I didn’t fall head over hills…Instead, we fell drunkenly into each other’s arms, and the rest, as they say, was history! This meeting of hearts took place in a seedy nightclub, cheesy tunes filled the smoke-infested air and we couldn’t hear a word that departed each other’s lips. It didn’t matter, because the music spoke for us and suddenly, it was 6.00 am and all that remained was a white wife-beater vest, on the left side of my bed. Fortunately, we exchanged numbers but if we hadn’t, how different life would be.
So, the seedy nightclub… not the most romantic of settings, but a place where many fall into relationships. Irrespectively, it doesn’t matter if you meet in a crowded room, a train station or at a bible convention. Love can be found just about anywhere. People don’t choose who they fall in love with, it just happens. Sometimes it happens instantaneously, other times it’s more of a work in progress. My husband and I, fell somewhere in between.
On paper, my husband wasn’t much of a catch. He was an average-looking, retiring rock star, working for Costa Coffee. Despite the fact he barely had two pennies to rub together, I thought I was the richest girl in the world. He enriched my life in so many ways, he was my saviour, my best friend and my soul mate. I couldn’t image life without him. As a single mum who had just escaped a destructive relationship, leaving me lost, broken and to put it frank, a wreck…I was even less of a catch. However, my husband saw something special in me. Together, we forget our troubles. It was ‘us’ against the world.
We led a normal life, we experienced both highs and lows. We went through better times, and we went through times that could shred a marriage into a thousand pieces. Each time our connection and love for one another grew. Or so we thought? In reality, many of our problems got shoved into an envelope and kissed shut with love. Sometimes we need those quick fixes, the ‘click your fingers and were better now’ kind of solution. If only life was so simple, unfortunately, we don’t live in that fantasy land. In the real world, problems, when left, fester…they bubble up inside. I have lost count of the times my husband and I have had ‘the talk’. We would draw the line in the sand, and everything would go back to normal…kisses included like nothing had happened at all. But how many lines can one draw in the sand, how many slates can be wiped clean? At some point, the tide will come in and wash away the line, one day the slate will become old and tired. Marks from the past will be engrained and relentless. When we have danced this repetitive dance for so long, isn’t it time we choose a new dance?
So the tap shoes come off and on go some cowboy boots. Let’s crack out some whips and get down to some rodeo. If only it were so easy. We would all be dancing a new dance! The key to saving a marriage that isn’t working is quite simply…change. If the boot doesn’t fit, try a new one. In my case, the long talks were not working and I needed to try something new. If you talk the talk, you’ve got to walk the walk. I wasn’t practicing what I preached, instead I kept falling back into bad habits and consequently, climbing back on that continuous merry-go-round, playing its same old tiresome tune.
When there is an elephant in the room, eating peanuts and occasionally blowing its trunk, it’s almost impossible to ignore. The elephant must be removed. However, such a weighty issue is never going to be easily fixed. The key is to find out ‘why’ the elephant was there in the first place? Where did it come from? If you get to the bottom of what’s causing the relationship to break down, you’re halfway there!
The questions to ask are; is the issue (or issues) fixable? Is the problem too big? Will you need help to eliminate the problem? It might take a whole neighbourhood to move an elephant out of a room! Metaphors aside, it’s important to evaluate whether the relationship is worth fighting for, or whether it’s time to chuck in the towel.
If the latter….
Take yourself back to the scene in the film, Titanic. Jack and Rose are clinging onto the raft for dear life. Inevitably, Rose knows that she has to let Jack go, he is freezing to death and by clinging on she is only prolonging his discomfort. In the end, she lets him go and he sinks deep down into the ocean, it’s an emotional scene but one that people can relate to. ‘Letting go’ is one of the hardest things about a relationship breakdown. Sometimes, we tend to avoid letting go, even when we know it’s the right thing to do. If a relationship isn’t working, and the feelings just aren’t there…the fear of losing that person can be so over-baring we are literally, clinging on for dear life.
Sometimes, we cling on because we are scared of the unknown. Sometimes we cling on because it’s our safe place. Sometimes we cling on because we still believe we have the ability to fix things. Rather than clinging onto the raft, shivering in discomfort, thinking about the ‘could haves’ and the ‘should haves’, it’s time to make that life-changing decision – do you climb back on board and ride it out one more time, Or do you let go, dignity still intact, ready to embark on a new adventure? The choice is only yours to make.
If you do decide to climb back on board, please do so, with caution. Quick fixes are few and far between, if you really want to work at it, then ‘work’ is the essential word and that is what you must do. Rather than setting yourself up for failure, drawing lines upon the sand which are likely be broken, accept, that as human beings we make mistakes. We can’t always get things right. Some rules will be broken but don’t let this be a reflection of your entire relationship. Accept that accidents are made along the way, you don’t even have to talk about them, just hold your hands up, make your apologies and move forwards. Easier said than done… I know only too well, how hard it is to place my anger, hurt and heartache into balloons and let them float into oblivion. I’d be catching the string as they take off, unable to let them go… but what about that time you hurt me? …But what about that time you said you didn’t love me? …But what about the times you betrayed my trust? ….ENOUGH BUTS!
Let go and move forwards.
Going back to the elephant in the room, some people will continue their lives knowingly avoiding it. They avoid the confrontation, upset and heartache. This is a somewhat unhealthy life to lead, because with unresolved conflict comes the inevitable ‘1 year, 5 years…..20 years down the line’ when the elephant has eaten too many peanuts he explodes peanut juice everywhere, and there is no escape, no rug in which it can be swept. By all means, you can carry on living such an existence. Deep down you know there are serious problems, but every morning you put on this façade and suddenly, everything is okay….only, under that smiling mask, you cry tears that tell a different story. I have hung that mask up, for it has done me no favours. Are you ready to hang up your mask and face the world? Or will the elephant forever remain hostage in the room?
So if you haven’t removed yourself from the room altogether and taken voyage on your water raft adventure, then there is one more thing to do. REMOVE THE ELEPHANT. This can be done in different ways. As I said before, you need to find out why the elephant is here. This might take a professionals help, like a counsellor or therapist. If you are inclined to dance that same repetitive dance, then STOP! So many of us fall into this trap and just accept ‘that’s just the way it is’. It doesn’t have to be this way. We are all fully capable of dancing a different dance. If things aren’t working, then try something new. Imply new rules to follow or just go with it….and see where it takes you. If you are both desperately unhappy and have been for quite some time, then ask yourself, what is there to lose?! That’s right…absolutely nothing. Who knows, you might even find the happiness you have been dreaming of, whether it involves your partner or not.
Another trap I fall into, more often than what is healthy, is stressing. Someone once said that 80%-90% of our worries aren’t actually worth worrying about at all. So, if you’re fretfully worrying that your future is left untold…stop fretting and EMBRACE IT! Again, you have nothing to lose, but possibly, happiness to gain.
So, it was getting to the point where my husband and I would argue until the cows came home, grabbed the milk out of our shaking fists and took themselves off to bed. Life became more about finger-pointing and game scoring, than loving and appreciating one another. We both grew unhappier and fell more and more out of love with one another. It broke our hearts. Things had dramatically changed. The hustle and bustle of everyday existence came between us. When we looked at each other, suddenly, we had stopped thinking how lucky we were and instead we begun to question where the love had gone? Could we ever get back what we had? Once you fall out of love, can you fall back in love?
I wish marriage came with a manual. Easy to follow rules on how to be a good wife. How did I become so stuck? And why do I feel like such a failure? Failure is a common emotion associated with the break-up in a marriage. It’s the same with anything we can’t fix, we curse ourselves and feel a sense of failure. It’s time to stop feeling like you have failed, and go out and succeed. If things don’t work out, you’ll be okay. Humans have this amazing resilience to just pick themselves up, brush themselves off and carry on. However, we can’t do so without feelings, painful feelings. I can liken the break-up of a marriage to having your heart ripped out of your rib cage and trampled on by that elephant we were talking about. It undeniably HURTS. But with time, the scars will fade and one day, you will find that smile again…without relying on your husband, or anyone else for that matter.
The beautiful truth is; you don’t need to be loved as long as you love yourself. Take control over your own happiness. I spent years and years waiting for happiness to come to me, as though I was going to open the door one day, a big sparkling present, labelled happiness, was going to instantaneously change my life. Guess what!? That present never came, and I grew tired of waiting. I decided to take control of my own life.