Marriage is hard work.
I began to observe this fact at a very young age. I studied my parents, grandparents, other relatives or friends of our family and their relationships.
There were some great examples of couples who were actually doing the work, which resulted in thriving marriages. Others were sad cases of two people having grown complacent, ignorant, destructive in their conversations and even hateful in their interactions.
I learned from both, or so I thought.
When I decided to tie the knot, I was only 22 years young and in a very vulnerable place. I was basically dying of anorexia, desperate, lonely and had no sense of self. I yearned for love more than anything and I needed it like a life vest on a sinking ship.
I fell in love with a man that madly fell in love with me, wanted me to move in with him right away (which I did), gave me a ring 3 days later and married me within 2 months. I was happy, safe, floating on a boat of bliss, strength and apparent invincibility.
That was two years ago. Today, everything has changed. I recovered, developed a strong self, found my worthiness and started to realize what I really wanted in life. I was reborn and began to take baby steps in a direction that was the real me, the true Anne-Sophie.
How Everything Changed
That’s when things in our marriage unraveled. We fought, didn’t talk for days, fought some more, cried, yelled, threw things around the apartment, got ignorant and I basically just checked out.
Our marriage mirrored my parents’ marriage and for the first time, I opened my eyes to it. It had been that way from the start, but I was too busy being grateful for the chance of survival that I couldn’t see reality.
And yet, I refused to let go. I wouldn’t deal with the fact that I was going to give up, ruin my integrity, compromise my beliefs and do what everybody had told me was going to happen from the start: getting a divorce.
I didn’t want to be the cliche. Not me. Not Anne-Sophie. I was not going to run away (again). I had done that most of my life in order to survive, but this was different, wasn’t it? I was a fighter, am a fighter.
Had I not sworn to myself to only be with one man in my life and to have a healthy, happy family and a loving, amazing husband? Had I not refused to ever even consider doing the unthinkable and join the fate of one third of all married couples myself?
Yes, I had and if everything about me had changed, my willpower hadn’t.
We began to talk again. I explained myself, my new ways of thinking, my resurfaced dreams, my crystal clear view of who I was and where I wanted to go.
We worked at our relationship, were willing, desperate and yearning for a breakthrough of finding a connection again. We went away for weekend retreats to see what was left of our us. We had better days than before, reminded ourselves why we fell in love in the first place. He made me smile, belly laugh, think and trust again.
He was happy. Me too. On the outside.
In reality, I was laying awake sleepless, drank more than I should have, went back to eating disordered behaviors, struggled with doubts, oh so many doubts and so much guilt.
Throughout this time one question, the question, never ever left my mind:
When do you know that your marriage is over?
Is it when you fly away more and more often, not missing your partner at all and being happy to be away from it all?
Is it when you wish your partner would just leave you alone, like all the time? When he or she makes you squirm and is annoying the heck out of you by simply wanting to give you a kiss?
Do you know when you have to force yourself to pick up the phone when you see his or her name on your display because you couldn’t care less?
Do you know when your desire for intimacy is non-existent?
Or is it when you make more and more plans in your head without the other person, wishing that you could be free to live the life you were originally meant to live?
Or maybe it is when you become so careless that all of the other person’s efforts don’t resonate with you at all anymore?
Is it when you are scared to death that you’ll end up just like your mom, in a marriage that should never have been and that you’ll just repeat the nightmare you’ve experienced as a child?
Maybe it is all of the above?
Or is it the moment you realize you’ve gotten married for reasons that, though noble and innocent at that time, were not the right ones and were not done with a healthy, sane mind?
When, oh, when do you know?
Only You Know the Answer
I’m no expert, but I’ve learned that there is no point of reference, no universal standard to go by. There is only you. You, your values, your truth, your efforts and your heart.
Can you live with yourself if you go with what you feel inside now or do you stick to your decision and make the best of it?
Do you compromise your life to make the other person happy even if your inside screams at you to go the other way?
Do you continue to believe that you will work it out, that you and your partner will change and that there will be a day when you will feel completely happy in each others presence again?
Do you solely focus on the positive sides of your relationship, your partner and what you have together?
Do you give yourself a few more months or years, just to make sure, just to see how your relationship evolves?
When you’ve found your answers to those questions, then, and only then, you know if your marriage is over or not.
Just never ever compromise your own ideals and do not give up your own self.
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