When the happily ever after isn’t so happy after all

Conscious uncoupling for beginners

It is hard to put my finger on the exact moment I fell out of love. It’s been a slow, creeping process, and if I had realised what was happening at the time, I’d surely tried to stop it. 

It didn’t help that back then, I had found myself neck deep in depression. Partly induced by living in a place I didn’t belong. Partly enforced by living in a marriage that felt it had gone numb – when all I wanted was to feel. 

So where did this all begin? There are a thousand little reasons that, coming together, make for one that is big enough to want to leave. We didn’t fight. We didn’t cheat. In a way, it would have made it easier if we did – it’s almost harder to explain why I want to leave when, on paper, our life together seems perfectly fine. It is complicated. (Isn’t it always?)

The best way to describe it is to say that my husband has been emotionally disengaged for a long time. Ever tried talking to a rock? At some point, I gave up asking for my needs to be met. I stepped back from the relationship in the hope that he would realise what was missing and step up his game. That day never came. Instead, I was left brewing in a soup of built-up resentments and hurts and finally just wanted out. 

At the same time, I haven’t been the best at a) taking my own needs and desires seriously and b) voicing those clearly. 

It took more than a lot of courage to utter the words ‘I want to leave.’ And as soon as they were out in the open, we had a ‘let’s rip the Band-Aid off and get on with life’ moment. At the same time, we realised that there’s got to be a better way to separate. One that is accompanied by kindness, understanding and generosity. One that doesn’t mean you are traumatising your children and packing up your issues only to have them come up to the surface in the next relationship. Or that lets you build walls so high that there won’t ever be a relationship again. 

After more than a year of individual therapy and a couple of months’ worth of couples’ therapy, we have gained a lot of clarity on how we got where we are. It takes patience, empathy, time and a lot of red wine to listen and truly understand. And to dig deep to make yourself understood. I’d lie if I said it wasn’t painful, but hopefully, at least we will both learn something from the mess that we made, rather than repeating and reinforcing our individual patterns. 

We still share a special bond that doesn’t have to end only because our marriage ends. And only because separation means hardship, drama and cruelty for some people, because ‘that’s what people do,’ doesn’t mean we have to follow. We’ve always been doing our own thing – why would we have to change now?

Part of the process we are going through (if you’ve ever heard of Gwyneth Paltrow you will have heard of Conscious Uncoupling…) requires us to free ourselves from a desired outcome. For me, that means letting go of wanting out right now. For my husband, it means letting go of getting back together right now. 

Neither of us rules out either of those outcomes in the future. But for now, it is not important. 

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