Last weekend my husband and I broke the news to our kids that we’d be living apart from now on. After 10 years co-habiting, seven years of marriage and two kids together – plus one I brought in from a previous relationship – we think it’s better to go our separate ways.
In so much as people who share children can go their separate ways, of course. There will still be birthdays, and cups of tea, and dinners and outings together sometimes. We’ll still be together at swimming carnivals, footy games and ballet recitals. Next week we’re all hunting for Easter eggs together.
But the part of our relationship where we love and support each other through whatever life throws at us is finished. The bit where you can get a big warm hug after a tough day – that’s finished. It’s not for me to say publicly why our marriage ended. That’s a story the two of us share, and I respect my ex and our children too much to tell stories that aren’t just mine to tell.
What I can share is my experience of the end. There has been sorrow. There has been anger. There has been frustration. There has been depression. So much emotion. So much sadness. And, lately, a whole lot of numbness.
Because before a relationship ends, it has to get bad enough that you want it to end. It has to get to a point where you don’t see enough hope that you can find your way back to each other, to the way you were before. When you loved one another fearlessly and couldn’t imagine a life without the two of you. When you kissed for minutes at a time and the sound of their voice saying your name gave you butterflies.
That process of going from butterflies to wanting it to end takes a long time. We saw counsellors. We tried to steer our ship against the tide that was pushing us towards a massive wreck but we failed. The tide was too strong and our ship had taken on too much bullshit.
Could we have done more? Maybe. We’ll never know. All we can know for sure is that we are making the best of the decisions we’ve made.
We decided to separate in January but, for a bunch of reasons, we stayed living together until now. We didn’t tell the younger two children because we thought it would be confusing. So we waited.
And we lived in limbo for three months. Those three months were exhausting.
I haven’t written any personal posts in all that time, because I didn’t feel like I could write honestly about anything except for the enormous weight I was carrying with me everywhere I went.
Everywhere I looked, there it was. It was so huge, so heavy, so all-encompassing, it was all I could really think about. But I couldn’t share that weight, so I kept pretty quiet.
But now the secrets are finished. That time has finally passed, and now is the time for great changes.
My husband moved out of our house this week. Even though it’s been a long time coming, it still felt strange and incredibly sad.
We will share custody of the children 50-50. That’s weird too. My kids are lucky enough to have two loving parents who want to spend as much time with them as possible. So as much as I just want them here with me all the time, I know they have much to gain by spending time with both of us.
So all I can do is embrace this new life. A life where I have more spare time. More time for me. Something us mothers miss when we have kids. Last week I couldn’t pee without three people asking me questions all at once. Now freedom is falling in my lap.
What should I do? Curl up in a ball? Cry about how much I’ll miss my kids, and how I’ve failed as a mother and a wife?
That’s one option, but I’m choosing something different.
This is our new reality, and I’m walking towards it.
I feel lighter because I choose to feel lighter.
I feel ready to start my new life.
I am a strong, capable woman and I feel like I have clear air around me to think straight, to be myself.
I can be unapologetically happy for the first time in a very long time.
Because ending a marriage means being acutely aware of your failings. I know all my flaws and faults. They’ve been laid out for me. We all have them, but I’m sick to the back teeth of apologising for mine.
So now is a time for me to reconnect with myself. To celebrate what makes me brilliant. To drink champagne and dance on the tables. Naked, if I’ve got the blinds down.
Not to celebrate the fact that the man I thought I’d spend the rest of my life with has moved out, but to mark the start of a new phase in my life.
I can wallow in the swill of my marriage failure, or I can seize the opportunity I’ve been given. A fresh start. A new beginning. Independence. Joy.
And I’m choosing joy.