As you may have noticed, I am a person who often associates life with song lyrics. I have already cited Joni Mitchell, Pink, Eric Clapton, and Incubus, to name a few. I am a narrative driven person. I got a PhD in Latin American literature, I choose wines based on the descriptions (if there’s no description about its flavors, I just won’t buy it), and so many of my memories are tied to song lyrics. So this week I have decided to organize my blogposts according to different song lyrics and what they have taught me or reminded me about my peaceful divorce. And you all get to guess the name of the artist for which I will reward you with nothing but my praise.
Today’s post is inspired by the lyric “If you walk out on me, I’m walking after you” (Name that tune). I remember feeling that very deeply in the first several years of my relationship with my ex. I had been reading some short story by a female author whose name escapes me (so much for that PhD, huh?). The protagonist makes a similar statement to her lover. As we often did in graduate school, I shared that line with him and told him that I felt the same way. Of course, we were so in love that the idea of walking out seemed ludicrous. But I remember that it felt like an authentic declaration of the ferocity of my passion. And I meant it as an expression of the dedication that I had to our marriage. Divorce was never an option for me.
Years later when he actually did walk out on me, I didn’t give up the fight easily. While he was searching for an apartment, I kept coming up with arguments to make him stay. Arguments that proved to be futile. I was afraid that when he left I would be devastated, but what I felt was quite different. I felt relieved, relaxed, and joyful again. An incredible weight had been lifted from my shoulders, and that weight, in part, was my resistance to the breakup. It takes a lot of energy to fight against someone else’s will, and once that resistance was gone, I had so much more energy to enjoy myself, my kids and my life.
I know that it is hard when you are struggling to keep a marriage together, but if your spouse calls it quits, here are some tips for how to deal with it.
1) Give up the fight. We try so hard to control our spouses and often we try to convince them to stay with us. As the beautiful Bonnie Raitt song states, you can’t make someone love you if they don’t. My ex still loved me but he became very clear that he could no longer be married to me. Fighting him on that issue (as well as others) sapped me of my life force. I became so much happier when I let that fight go.
This piece of advice may contradict what you have learned all of your life about fighting for the person you love. But there is a difference between tender dedication to your lover and unhealthy struggle. When your partner has decided to leave, the best thing you can do for both of you is to eventually accept that. Finally I realized that my ex wasn’t giving up on us, like I thought, but instead was making a very difficult and risky decision to follow his heart. Honor your partner’s feelings instead of telling him/her that he or she is wrong. You will be amazed at how much better you feel.
2) Focus on yourself. Once you stop focusing on your partner’s betrayal, abandonment or rejection of you, you’ll often find that you have neglected yourself and your own needs. It is in this moment that you have to treat yourself with a lot of extra love and pampering. Do things that make you feel comforted, excited or alive. I dedicated myself to my yoga practice, which had fallen by the wayside. I started to make my friends and my social life a bigger priority and realized how much love I got from them. I got regular massages, bought myself wine to enjoy alone, and made nice meals for me, my kids and my friends. I started to ask myself what I wanted instead of expending energy wondering what my ex wanted or needed. I had a wonderful time reconnecting with parts of me that I had neglected. As a result, I felt like I had a whole new sense of self.
3) Make a list of how your life might improve now that you are single. Instead of thinking about all that I was losing, I decided to look for ways in which I might be happier now that I was single. I found that my relationship with my kids deepened now that I wasn’t spending time at home fighting with my spouse. I enjoyed little moments of independence like using the closet for all of my clothes and listening to the music that I wanted. I joined Match.com and started to date again, which was such a fun experience. I relished my time alone in the house, free to do whatever I wished. No matter how sad you feel, there is always a silver lining to the situation. Find it, milk it, cherish it and make it expand until it is the dominant feeling in your heart. Carry your list with you and re-read it whenever you need comfort.
Well, this post would not be complete without one more quote, one of my favorites from Joni.
Everything comes and goes
Marked by lovers and styles of clothes
Things that you held high
And told yourself were true
Lost or changing as the days come down to you.
This is of course a mournful song, as many of hers are, but I have always found an upside to it. Life all comes down to you. You make of it what you wish. So do you wish to wallow in pain and victimization or do you wish to find a way to celebrate life in all of its incarnations? As Joni says in the song, You can crawl. You can fly too.
So instead of walking after your partner, what might it take for you to fly? And if you aren’t going through a breakup, is there any other relationship or situation in your life that you need to let go of in order to be happy? I’d love to hear your thoughts.