My husband moved out 3 days ago. We started this process exactly a year ago this month. After yet another giant argument about sex, needs and responsibilities and ending with me finally saying out loud that our entire marriage has been us pretending, we noticed “the shift”. Our typical post-fight silence lasted a good two weeks longer than the usual day or so, until the awkwardness was too much to bear. Realizing we had to do something other than staring at the floor for the next 20 years, I suggested marriage counseling. He reluctantly agreed. It was one of the best decisions we’ve ever made. I know, it seems as though our therapist was not successful, seeing how I started this story by announcing he moved out, right? Well, let me tell you…our therapist was successful. Sweet baby Jesus, was she successful!
Here’s the thing: you think you are planning your life and making the decisions, but really…you’re just along for the ride. It’s like using an Uber driver fresh off the boat from Ukraine. He’s been here 2 weeks and speaks about 12 words of English. You gotta pay attention and take charge of the route or you’re going to end up on an unwanted tour of the city, stopping by his Uncle Vlad’s house “to pick something up”. Sure, your decisions affect how your life turns out and the direction it takes, and sometimes (well, most of the time, for me) you make shitty decisions that cause detours that make your journey a lot longer than it should be…sometimes years longer. And if you’re anything like me, you get in the habit of making those same shitty decisions, over and over and over again. You get to the point where you don’t even realize it’s you that’s making them. You tell yourself, “I’ve just got shitty luck”. You think that Uber driver and his Uncle Vlad are representative of all that’s out there. Eventually, though, if you happen upon a great therapist at the right time, and the stars and Universe align, and you work on yourself; that painful, exhausting, dirty, unpleasant work…you realize why you took that detour down that dark alley so many times and learn that even though you had to drive through 20 years of bad neighborhoods being touched and leered at by guys like Uncle Vlad, your destination is the same as if you took the highway. You’re just never going to arrive at that destination on the roads you’ve been taking. You realize that even though you’ve never even been on that highway, that some people have, and those people seem happy. And you know what? You want to be happy. You become aware that the reason you took the back roads is because you always felt like you didn’t deserve to take the highway. “Girls like me don’t take the highway. We have to hitch hike or ride our ten speeds through the ghetto to get there”. That’s how I always thought I was supposed to get places…on my bike, or even walking…but never on the highway. I always figured it just wasn’t in the cards for me, because that’s just how it had always been.
I met my husband when I was riding my bike. He had a nice car and liked to use the highway, but it never seemed like he enjoyed taking me on the highway with him. I think he resented me a little bit for tagging along. It was his highway. I didn’t care. Well, I did care, but it was so much easier traveling on the highway that I took those feelings of caring about it and stuffed them in a box deep down inside me. So, we spent 20 years together, driving on the highway together, yet not together. And after 20 years of that lonesome yet togetherness highway driving, I realized it wasn’t the highway I’d heard about, because it never ended. We never got off the exit. “Why aren’t we getting anywhere?!” It was an illusion…a never ending highway. Twenty years is a damn long time to be driving with no destination. The car fills up with half filled water bottles and gum wrappers, you spend all your money on gas and constantly argue about which way is the best way, and you end up wondering how you ever even tolerated that annoying sound he makes when he breathes. Then, one day, you realize that box you used to stuff all your feelings in so you could stay on his highway all these years is chock full. It’s so full, it hurts. So, you open it. The thing is, once you open it and let those feelings out, you can’t fit them back in. You try…you try hard, because those feelings hurt like hell. They are ugly and embarrassing and excruciatingly painful. You definitely regret opening that damn box, but it’s too late. They aren’t going back in. No fucking way are those giant feelings fitting back in that pathetically tiny box. They mock you for even trying. They are angry as hell for being trapped in there, and are either going to swallow up every last bit of your soul or you are going to deal with them. That’s it. Those are the two choices. So…I pulled up my big girl panties and dealt with them.
So, yeah…couples therapy didn’t work. But individual therapy did. And I mean…it really DID! It was like upgrading from your dad’s old fold up road map to the latest Garmin GPS…damn! Who knew there were so many different highways out there? Highways that actually GO places! And all those side roads that take you through great and beautiful neighborhoods! And the best part? I deserve to travel on them. Let me tell you, the most rewarding byproduct of my therapy journey is that I’ve transformed from worthless to deserving. That transformation was worth every tear, every painfully processed memory, every bit of that difficult and exhausting work I did, and continue to do, in therapy. So yeah, I got off that highway to nowhere and sat at a crossroads for the past few months, but I’m moving now. I’m moving slowly, but I’m moving. I’m checking out this shiny new GPS and plotting my next path. Maybe I’ll stay on it awhile, or maybe I’ll get off at the next exit. I’ll figure it out when I get there.