Sara and I sat happily in our own little worlds at a table at the Depot, two cups of coffee and two wide-open newspapers between us — the adult version of parallel playing — when our shared solitude was interrupted by two fortysomething women at the table next to us.
“I’m just not happy,” the blonde said.
“You haven’t been happy for a long time,” her brunette friend said.
“But, the kids. I keep thinking about the kids. I don’t want to ruin their lives.”
“I know. But, I don’t know if I’ve given it my all. How do you know when enough is enough?”
Sara and I looked at each other, trying not to appear as if we were listening, which of course we were. But the blonde’s question is one every person contemplating a break up or divorce asks him/herself — when do you know it’s over? At what point do you say this marriage or relationship cannot be saved?
I wanted to keep my marriage together, even though I was still stinging from Rob’s affair. I knew it wasn’t going to be easy and I wasn’t happy, but I — like the blonde — thought of my kid; I didn’t want to hurt him. But I know the exact moment when I knew it was over — when Rob lied when he no longer had to.
A while ago the Huffington Post asked people to share when they knew their marriage was over. Some divorce stories are funny, some are sad, some seem as if they might have been hasty. But, who knows what goes on behind those white picket fences?
I remember reading something Joyce Maynard once wrote when someone asked her when do you know it’s over. She wrote:
A person who is profoundly unhappy in a marriage is also depriving his or her partner of the experience of being wholly loved and accepted, rather than endured. A person who silently cries out … “I can’t live this way” — and then does live this way, despite her cries — is also quietly teaching her children to ignore their own inner voices, and failing to convey to them what may be the most important lessons we can teach them: To be true to one’s self, and celebrate the extraordinary gift of being alive. To live one’s life to the fullest. To be the best person we can be.
OK, I agree: We must be true to ourselves. And to our partners, too. But, instead of living “this way, despite her cries,” I always wonder if we are doing all that could be done. What could she have been doing instead of crying? There are many truths — how do you know which is the right one?
- When did you know it was over?
- Do you still look back and say, yes, I did the right thing?
- Have you been true to yourself?
photo © Aaron Kohr – Fotolia.com