Since writing about my own experience in leaving a twenty-year-plus marriage, many women have admitted looking more critically at their own long term marriages, wondering if they, too, shouldn’t also leave. Here, for instance, is a typical query I am getting more of these days:
“I find myself wanting so much more in my life. I feel like I have outgrown our relationship. I have talked to him twice about separating but he was hurt and angry and said that it took him totally by surprise. I do feel guilty for leaving him in such a bad position trying to figure out what I’m going to do. How did you move past that with your husband? Did you ever feel guilty? How did you overcome the fear of the unknown?”
So to all of you with similar questions, here is my response.
When you say you have outgrown a relationship, perhaps a more correct way to phrase it is to say that you’ve outgrown the relationship as it currently is. Because long term relationships often end up in routines and habits that can feel stale and boring. Each partner is probably blaming the other, whereas the truth lies closer to each partner being approximately 50% responsible for the situation.
One of the biggest marriage killers is simply being taken for granted.
Now, before I continue much further, I want to make clear some presumptions about who I’m writing for: 1. There is no physical violence in your relationship. 2. There is no emotional violence of high drama in your relationship (i.e. screaming and yelling). These are both game changers, and different rules will apply. But if you are in a regular, but stale relationship that is pleasant but boring, then read on.
One of the biggest things is lack of communication, and presuming you know how the other will respond. You feel that your partner is predictable, and that there’s nothing that you don’t already know about them.
So, in the initial stages of exploring if your marriage has a future or not, talk to your partner about their vision for the future. Not the one they think you want to hear about, but what really lies in their heart of hearts.
Behind many pleasant enough marriages, lie many compromised hopes and wishes for both parties.
At this third stage of life, when any children are now old enough to be either fully or mostly independent, security as a priority doesn’t seem quite so urgent.[NOTE: If security is one of your highest values, I cannot help you. My advice is really for those who feel drawn to an initiatory life, pushing themselves into the unknown territory of possibilities and potential.]
Prepare the scene for life changing conversations. Set up a time, a date, a day out. Go to the beach, or go on a picnic.
Say something along the lines of, “I want to talk about the future. I want to explore how both of us could be happier. I want to hear about your dreams, and how I can help you. I want to talk about my dreams and how I’d like you to help me.”
So, first: TALK about your most secret dreams of the future. For yourselves. Your most ideal path as a Soul, as an individual making a difference in the world.
LISTEN to your partner’s revelations about their own deepest dreams.
Now, it may be that they don’t see anything wrong in their lives. Generally speaking, men are not used to being deeply introspective. Our culture doesn’t foster that sensitivity in them. Nor do they have the natural biological propensity towards such introspection as women do.
But, if you’re lucky, your husband may have a (long lost?) poetic, artistic, creative or musical soul, and can articulate his deepest desires. If you can give him advance notice, do so. Never spring this type of conversation on a fellow.
Avoid this kind of conversation when one of you is inebriated. The inhibitions of the left brain come down, and ruthless emotionality can be unleashed, which is rarely productive.
Make a time when the conversation can be leisurely, and no one needs to rush off somewhere.
Either of you can start.
Hopefully, you will be pleasantly surprised by his revelations. They may be compatible with your own dreams fro the future, or can be incorporated with some fine tuning adjustments from your end.
Explore how both of you have made compromises for the sake of your marriage, that may now need to be reconsidered, and whether they are still required or are now redundant.
You cannot claim a freedom for yourself without allowing others to claim that same freedom for themselves.
To be in integrity with your Higher Self, you must be willing to guide the connection of your spouse to his own Higher Self. (Yes, he DOES have one!)
The important thing is for you to explore whether or not you can have your Higher Purpose goals AND your marriage, or whether you have to choose between your Higher Purpose goals OR your marriage.
Your duty to yourself is to try for the first, and only if it’s abundantly clear that it can’t be both, then move on to the second option.
The first option can include things like:
- Having some separate time apart on a regular basis, to attend workshops, retreats or simply to do stuff you enjoy that your partner doesn’t. Or just some alone time. To write, to think, to explore. This goes for him, as well as for you.
- Doing couple workshops or courses, to help him discover and develop his own sense of higher purpose.
But what if you don’t know yet exactly what your Higher Purpose goal is, and all you only know is that you are being called to one?
Take the time, while still in your marriage, to develop any skills and/or qualifications you think you might need. At least this way, you do not have to cope with additional worries and guilts about how to keep a roof over your head. The last thing you want is to send your life back to square one. When (if) you leave, you at least want to know that your path will be committed to your higher purpose, and not on simply surviving.
Then, once you have your skills and qualifications, begin your Practice. Whether it’s by starting a website, writing your book, running some classes or taking on some clients, begin while you are still within your marriage. This becomes your platform for your life after marriage, and will be what guides your choices.
What if there is simply no chance, no interest, no desire to keep staying together?
What if your partner doesn’t want ANYTHING to change, even you?
You are no longer the woman he married. Nor is he the man you married. No one stays the same.
This is also where your spiritual rubber meets the road. Let compassion be your guide to right action. Pray, meditate on how to move forward with compassion, when needing to cross those scary bridges of decision making.
Let your husband know that these are your plans, and that he’s welcome to support you or not, but that either way you WILL be doing what you are being called to do. With him or without him, it’s his call.
And that if he chooses not to, then you will wish him well.
You can still say honestly say that you still love him, but that your love has transformed from Romantic to Agape (or other).
The logistics of going separate ways.
Your current financial obligations. This is the first big hurdle to overcome for many women, and is often the reason they stay committed to an unfulfilling marriage.
Instead of “I can’t,” hand the problem over to your higher self/God/The Universe, and ask them, “How can I?”
Get practical. Minimise your debts. Consolidate them. Pay them off. Have garage or eBay sales. Sell assets, if necessary. Downsize. Create a Freedom fund to help you set up in a new place, a new town, a new state, or a new country even.
Declutter your finances. Declutter your wardrobe, declutter your paperwork, declutter your photos, declutter your books, declutter your music collection. Anything you feel you may leave behind, take photos of, or digitalise it. Declutter everything that is YOURS to declutter, and put that money aside for yourself.
Declutter everything that is jointly owned, and put that money towards paying down joint financial obligations.
Decluttering is not only financially rewarding. It also helps to declutter your mind and your thinking. It also helps to declutter your Soul, energetically, to allow new insights and solutions. Open up new, unconsidered directions and opportunities.
The next question: Where would you actually go to?
Think about this in terms of climate and lifestyle you yearn for.
And yes, I do believe that you will want to relocate away from your current community. You are at a point of major reinvention of your life. The last thing you want is people from your current life still holding on to the person you used to be.
So think about where you would go. What kind of countryside calls to you? Warm and balmy? Mountains? Valleys? Forests?
What kind of lifestyle appeals to you? Bohemian and artistic? Rural? Magical? Austere? Off grid?
Are there any cities that strongly appeal to you? Any countries? Either long term or short term?
Are there any people that you really feel called to be around? Either individuals, such as special friends or family members, or certain types of group, such as writers and artists?
There is an discipline called Astrocartography that matches up your astrological birth and time alignments with the astrological alignment of the place that you’re considering going to, and will give you a compatibility forecast.
When I had one done for the place that I moved to, it proved to be quite accurate, even down to forecasting that I would have some problems with electricity in my new home. The power did indeed keep cutting out whenever I had too many appliances on at once, so I’ve since learned to choose low voltage ones.
So, coming back to the question of how to cope with the guilt …
Do it with love. Do it with compassion. Do it with empathy and support for your partner’s own future. Do it with lots of time for adjustment, and don’t just pull the rug out from under them.
Acknowledge that they will feel hurt, sad and angry, and that you will too. Even done in the most graceful possible way, it is still a difficult and agonising process, but with no way around it, except through it. It requires a firmness of commitment to the highest good for both of you.
The challenge with time is staying committed to your own course of action, and being prepared for various strategies designed to undermine them. If you do, indeed, waver, then don’t despair. Your life journey is self-correcting, and there may be further useful things to learn in the interim. Some of the learning may be painful, but which will inevitably strengthen future resolves.
What also helped me with the guilt was to refuse to see my husband as a victim, or as helpless. He made choices that, to me, seemed the harder path to travel for him. But I had to honour his resistance to being guided towards certain outcomes.
I also had to let go of feeling responsible for his happiness, and recognise that he was both a competent adult human being, and an independent Spirit who had come here for certain lessons to learn.
One of my longtime personal sayings has been, “If one of us has to be upset about a decision, then I prefer it to be you.” Because then at least one of us will have what we authentically want.
Consider the following parable – another personal favourite teaching of mine:
Imagine you are travelling around the world by yourself, backpacking. Imagine you find yourself, say, in India. And while you are taking in the sights, you come across another solo backpacker. So you pair up, and take in the sights together. And you share many interesting and fun adventures, that you may or may not have had if you didn’t pair up. In fact, you really, really enjoy each others company.
But then, you arrive at the end of your time in India, and it’s time to move on. Your next intention was to visit Japan. But your partner’s next intention was to visit Peru. Unfortunately, Peru is totally unexciting for you, and Japan just doesn’t do it for him. What to do?
You have four choices.
1. You can give up your dream of Japan, and go to Peru with him. You will try your best to like Peru, but when things get shitty, you will remind him of what you’ve sacrificed for him.
2. He can give up his dream of Peru and go to Japan with you. He will sigh loudly and often, and resist enjoying himself. He’s letting you know, in no uncertain ways, that he’s here under protest.
3. You can both compromise, and choose, say, France. Neither of you really strongly love it, but at least you’re both equally unhappy and at least you’re together, right?
4. You can really appreciate the time you have had together, and be grateful for the experiences and the memories. You lovingly release each other to follow your hearts’ bliss, and wishing for each other future happiness and fulfilment, with other companions.
Overcoming fear of the unknown.
Two words. Trust & Confidence.
- The world is a safe place
- That people are basically good at their core.
- In the wisdom of your Higher Self, that it knows what it’s doing in asking you to follow its guidance.
- That you will be provided for, one way or another.
- Your capacity to handle whatever comes your way
- Your resilience in being able to not only bounce back, but in assimilating and building upon wisdom earned by pain
- Your readiness and ability to endure initiations that your Soul is asking your Ego to go through, most of which will involve lessons in detachment and letting go of how you think things should work out.
- Your ability to walk your talk, meaning that your beliefs and theories actually holding up in the “real world” in potentially stressful situations.
Ending a marriage with someone you still care for is never an easy decision to make, and once made, it’s never an easy process to go through with. You will meet a lot of your own psychological baggage, and need to dodge a few well-planted land mines that your partner puts into place, hoping to delay you, if not stop you with your plans.
There may be higher forces, like karma, at work. There will be unique personal circumstances that few others can really understand, making it impossible for anyone to give you definitive advice about what you should do. Only you can decide.
My last piece of advice: Make it with your heart and soul. Make your decision viscerally. Do not make a rational, logical decision. Your intellect can talk you into anything.
My best wishes go with you.