I’m starting a new series today with Candace Walsh (@candacewalsh). If you’re thinking that’s a familiar name, it might be because she’s editor of Ask Me About My Divorce ,(Seal Press) a collection of 29 stories about divorce which I reviewed several months ago. The Ask Me About My Divorce collection includes Candace’s own story of leaving her straight marriage and following her lesbian instincts. She says her sexuality was not the fundamental cause of the end of her seven-year marriage – there were problems long before her decision to follow her instincts. I asked her to talk about how she knew it was time to leave. Here’s Candace:
It wasn’t a sudden realization – it was more a feeling that grew, becoming more uncomfortable. It became more obvious that things weren’t going to shift or change or get better and I was not going to be able to be happy. My thinking about being divorced shifted. It moved away from this “oh no” feeling of “I don’t want this to be, I want the happy story and have great-grandchildren with the person I married and be the little, old, cure couple walking down the street.”
Once I accepted that my relationship was only going to grow so high and that it was only going to give me so much, it was depressing. I could just feel what it was going to be like spending the rest of my life in this particular zone and it made me sad. It was sucking the light out of any possible thing that could happen.
Sure, I would experience good things but it was just this atmosphere of regret with debating everyday. I kept thinking,
“When I’m on my deathbed, is this what I’m going to want?”
To look back on a life that feels like this? Why stay with it because I’ve made vows and there’s an expectation that you’re supposed to stay married? What does that have to do with this one life I have to live and how I want to feel and the things I want to do and what I want to model to my children?
Then my ex and I started talking about what it would be like to split up, having conversations about logistics so it was no longer a dark fantasy. It was a conversation and I think when you start moving into a particular thing, whether it’s wanting to go back to school or move to a different state or country, the more energy you give that, the more likely things are to fall into place for that to happen.
As my ex realized how unhappy I was, he got to the root of how unhappy he was and we had even less to stand on because the two of us had illusions about the other person being more content in the marriage than we were. We were actually equally discontent.
There is obviously more to this and we’ll get to that in the next post but I want to break this here to reflect on how courageous it is for one partner in a marriage to admit to deep unhappiness and to confront that with their spouse. This creates the opportunity for honest dialogue that could lead to a better on-going relationship or as in Candace’s case, the realization that the marriage isn’t viable for either party.
Candace’s remark about the “cute, old couple” reminded me of my grandparents. I used to visit them most Saturday afternoons for tea and cards. I always thought of my grandfather as the perfect English gentleman – I’d never heard him raise his voice. Well, OK there was the one time when as a teenager I wore a skinny-rib sweater that barely met the top of my jeans so there was a little bare midriff showing. He told me in a very stern voice, simply to never, ever come to tea dressed like that again. Many years later, I arrived one afternoon to find my grandmother in tears in the kitchen. She told me he’d been shouting at her and she couldn’t stand it any longer. I tried to console her, telling her he wasn’t himself since his stroke and he didn’t mean any of it, to which she said,
“My dear, he’s been like this all his life.”
I didn’t know what to say then but like Kristi, who got divorced without her parents’ support, I know now that you never know what anyone’s marriage is truly like.
Candace is working on her second book, Dear John, I Love Jane:Women Write About Leaving Men for Women, due out in October from Seal Press. Candace also has an article, New Life After Divorce, published in Natural Solutions magazine.