You might not know the truth even as you're living it. Each day passes into the next and you remain oblivious, always living and trying your hardest with the kernel of fear in your heart. Maybe you've gotten used to ignoring it, this dread as it picks at you, boring into you.
I was you.
Right after my first divorce, I said "yes." Inside I knew the time wasn't right, I knew my heart was too trampled to even embark on a love adventure. To my credit I had said "no" once, but then quickly and without hesitation, I dove into a shaky "yes" on the second reply.
The "yes" turned into another relationship, one whose demise I should have seen coming like a herd of majestic fantasies over the horizon, silhouetted against the sun. My hand against my forehead, I shielded my eyes and turned away. Knowing the end was coming, even as the beginning merely bloomed.
Years have passed, bringing an introspection you can only gain through multiple sunsets; I know how to identify the traits of the desperate relationship and now you will, too.
1. Fear. When you are honest with yourself, you will note the fear like a tide lapping at you. You may see it after many months, and when you do, be gentle to yourself in your recriminations. You did not enter knowingly and with the will to hurt your partner. You responded out of the various fears that were too much to bear in your life. And as the saying goes, you can only do what you are capable of in the moment... or something like that. Meaning, you had fewer tools to handle anxieties than you might now. Forgive yourself and use this lesson for your future.
2. Incapability of being alone. It takes you back to almost primitive emotions, the thought of being lonely, bored, a failure at not finding and keeping a mate when all around you people are partnering up like it's the rapture. One of the disservices we impart on our children is the failure to teach them the difference between being lonely and being alone. Loneliness is associated with abandonment, isolation and the loss of friends. Being alone is simply a person who is without company. Can you live in your home without company? Of course you can. Serving only you, and beholden to only your needs and wants, it's actually a lovely existence. It makes you stronger as a person and helps to distill what you need in your life to be your happiest. Be alone at least one, try for a year, six months at minimum.
3. Sad heart. The smile on your face? Pasted. The light in your eyes? Dim. Are you with someone who might be kind, might be intelligent and funny, but who does nothing to illuminate your soul? I'm not talking about a relationship where the love has fizzled due to busy schedules and raising children, where the passion still flickers, but conference calls collide. I mean, whenever you are with your partner you start to dream of what it could be like to really feel alive in love, or alove as I like to refer to it. Alove is a spark reigniting over time, whose flame grows low periodically, but never burns out. If you do not have this enduring passion, it's time to take action. Because you both deserve that flare, that feeling that the world is made of magic.
4. Obligation. Nope, nope and nope. I don't care if you are bound by family, children, mortgage, illness, or codependency. Obligation is never a reason to remain. Yes, if you have children, try your hardest if it is worth it. Children mean family and family means you take considerations where you might not otherwise. So be careful with your decisions and make sure they are deliberate and thought out, not whims arising out of anger or vengeance. Your littles deserve that. If you have taken every action to keep your family together, and nothing is working and you are all miserable, it's okay to pull the plug.
5. Messiness. Divorce and separation are messy. Determining a way to travel from point A to C, without having a clue of what the hell B might look like, is daunting. But you don't have to know all the answers in this very moment. You don't have to create two separate households out of thin air. You take it one day at a time. You start with smaller goals, gather information for your next steps. And most importantly, you have faith, because when you are fighting for your right to happiness these little actions, the housekeeping, the calls to lawyers, the research, it's all inconsequential. These actions are merely a check box next to an item on a list, attainable when you enter into your new reality with a calm mind and heart.
It might take a life-shattering illness nipping at the life you have built for yourself. It might take the close call of losing everything, or a job downsized and a stark financial situation, or it might take quiet contemplation. Once you realize you are in a desperate relationship, it's time to get real with yourself and your goals for the future. Because one fact about desperate relationships endures...they don't.
Photo credit: Flickr/Nadja Tatar
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