Or: I don’t care what other people say
It’s been one of those days. Days when you question yourself in your capability as a parent, when you doubt your own feelings and when fear threatens to take over everything you think or do.
The kids are alright. We painted, roller-skated and watched a movie. We shared stories and pizza, and they went to bed happy. It is in moments like these that I question my decision to rock the boat and potentially destroy the bubble of domestic bliss.
For the most part, the course of my life has been determined by curiosity rather than fear. Throwing children into the mix has changed everything. I have never been afraid of the unknown, and I’m still not. But I would never want to create the kind of limbo that my children could find overwhelming and potentially anxiety-inducing.
At the same time, I have to be authentic to myself. Even if that includes not wanting to be romantically involved with their dad anymore.
For the most time, living together ‘Consciously Uncoupled’ has been incredibly enriching and helpful. Neither me nor my partner would have learned so much about each other individually and in the context of our relationship. I never once saw our marriage as a failure. Even though part of our relationship has run its course, and it has changed drastically, it has also created so much more positive than negative, and there is still room for growth and a lot of warmth, understanding and love between us.
But, of course, nothing great comes easily, and it certainly isn’t easy to be 24/7 around the person you are trying to get over. Or to introduce new people into the mix when one party of the previous couple has difficulties letting go of what has been, or even more so of what could be.
It is hard to admit, and even harder to write down, but having children certainly has been a killer for our relationship. Being my authentic, independent self is where I unleash most of my energy – but how can you be authentic in the truly selfless act of raising small children, when even the tiniest things like using the bathroom by yourself become a luxury? What I wanted, what I felt and what I needed has taken a backseat again and again in those first five to seven years of raising children. And while I do not regret a single moment of it, I do regret not to have spotted this earlier and not taking the space and freedom to be my true self in our relationship.
Taking a backseat has become so engrained in the fabric of our relationship, that even once our children were bigger, I couldn’t get back into me-mode. For some reason, and without being asked to do so, I avoided making my partner feel uncomfortable at all cost. Even if that meant being uncomfortable to the extent of depression for myself.
My partner isn’t great at that sort of healthy confrontation either. As a result, we have become lost in one another. Boundaries dissolved, unhealthy symbiosis, loss of identity, suffocation…
The last two years have been intense. Personal growth, relationship counselling, conscious uncoupling, soul searching… I have learned so much about myself, and I have found a way back to access my authentic self. The one that isn’t afraid of the unknown and that lives up to her own truth.
Just as I choose to be happy, I choose to let love be my guidance. Fear has no place in my decision making process. Of course, fear of being run over by a bus when you blindly walk into traffic is absolutely valid. But this reckless kind of behaviour is not what I am thinking of.
So many people ‘endure’ life because of fear. It’s all ‘better the devil you know’ and ‘what would XYZ say?’ Well, to begin with, I don’t give a rat’s arse about what other people think. Mostly, their reaction to my living situation is a reflection of their own fear, not an accurate assessment of the way I chose to live my life.
Of all the couples that I know that have been in 10 year plus relationships, I know of exactly ONE couple that has a fulfilled relationship. People cheat on each other, live in sexless marriages, communicate with resentment, bitterness and resignation, or don’t talk to each other at all. The women in those relationships often feel like they have gotten the short end of the stick – either confined to a life that evolves around relentless household and childcare chores, or spreading themselves thin between jobs, external childcare arrangements and often the same amount of household chores.
The discrepancy of living in a system that has been designed to support the family model of the 1950s and the more recent female self-image of equality, independence and self-determination makes for extremely unhappy relationships. Why else would more than 50% of all marriages end in divorce and 50% of the other half vegetate into the above mentioned state?
And what’s even more interesting – how is that situation better than the home I create for my children? Why would I grant people the right to judge the way I choose to live my life? Especially when our family life is a place of love, understanding, growth and generosity?
When I find myself questioning what I am doing and if it is the right thing for myself, my children and my partner, I try to imagine having that conversation with my older daughter, were she in my shoes. It’s a very good way to keep my own baggage of eternal guilt and deeply instilled worthlessness out of the equation. And the answer mostly is something like that: of course you deserve happiness, darling. Act with kindness, love and compassion, and know how incredibly deserving you are to get the same in return. Be aware of your own boundaries and be assertive in the way you communicate them. Trust that the rest will fall into place. And choose love over fear anytime.