For the first time in five years, I’m single. It’s admittedly a bit of a shock; I was in a relationship with someone I loved for half a decade and now I’m not. I thought I’d be aching for my ex, but the truth is that being with him was doing more harm than good.
Things seemed perfect from the outside but they really weren’t. Despite being in a committed relationship and having everything I could think of to desire, something felt wrong. I had a house and a spouse, but not a real home or a true partner. I thought that if I had everything I’d told myself I wanted, I wouldn’t feel like I needed more. That couldn’t have been more wrong.
I lost all the wonderful things about myself that I loved. When I spent some time on self-reflection, I noticed that I was lost in the body of someone who wasn’t me. To maintain my relationship with my spouse over the course of five years, I had to give up a lot of dreams and desires. We left a city I love for his job, I gave up having a dog because he didn’t want one, and I gave up the career of my dreams to have kids because he wanted to. I lost sight of the path I wanted to take when I got with him and that was a big mistake.
I missed the old me. I consider myself a good mother and a good spouse. I make sure the house is clean and the kids are fed, but that’s not who I used to be. I used to attend gallery openings and drink with friends until the early hours of the morning. I used to run with my dog late in the afternoon and spend full afternoons in libraries, just relaxing and reading. I never had the chance to transition out of my adventurous young adult phase; I was torn out of it abruptly and didn’t get to say goodbye. It seriously sucks.
I was the one making all the compromises. In the beginning, when I viewed everything through rose-tinted glasses, it made sense to follow love wherever it wanted to take me. If being with my spouse meant moving, it was right to do that. However, thinking back, I noticed that my spouse never made compromises for me. I’d never planned on having kids, nor did I plan on living so far from my hometown, but when I brought those things up, they were shut down. I was told that if I truly loved him, I’d go along with it. And I did. What was I thinking?
I felt selfish, but I wanted my life back. I loved my kids and would always put them first, but I also needed to make myself a priority. Staying in my relationship was doing nothing but making me miserable and I knew I needed to get out so I could start rebuilding my life the way I wanted it—I just didn’t know how I was going to do it.
My spouse started to notice the difference too. After I had the groundbreaking realization that my life was no longer the life I wanted, I was tired, bored, and moody all the time. My husband got irritated with my behavior; he wanted to understand why the house was suddenly messier, why I’d stopped cooking family meals and started ordering in. I didn’t know how to break it to him that the problem was him.
Once I was honest with him about how I felt, everything changed. It took months for the truth to come out. I fell out of love with my husband and our life so quickly that it shocked even me. Everything he did drove me crazy, and I knew I was driving him crazy too. When the tension finally hit its climax, it took only a five-minute conversation to explain that I didn’t love him anymore and needed to leave.
I had to start making compromises with myself. Ending a relationship is never not-messy, but it’s exceptionally more difficult when kids are involved. I wanted the chance to get back to my roots. I wanted to explore my career options and get an apartment where I used to live, but that meant a big change in my relationship with my children. I had to make some hard choices; I found an apartment nearby and moved into it less than a month after I left my husband.
Everything was a mess and I loved it. There was no heartbreak on my end, so the hardest part of the split was making arrangements. We had a visitation schedule for the kids, and I was still paying for half of the care cost for them, in addition to rent on my new apartment. I had to find a job as soon as possible, but I’d been out of work for three years by then. I took the first thing that my college degree qualified me for, and it was one of the most exciting things I’d done in years.
I finally went after the life I wanted and it was the best decision ever. Nothing was in order anymore. My abrupt departure from my relationship was messy, disorganized, and hard for many to understand. It took a lot of explaining to my kids and other family members. I was juggling a full-time job, divorce proceedings, custody arrangements, and a sweet dog I adopted from a local shelter. Everything was a wreck, but for the first time in five years, I felt like myself again. I wouldn’t trade that for the world.
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