The author of Ecclesiastes once said: “The end of a thing is better than its beginning.”
I’m not sure that the author of Ecclesiastes had ever been divorced. If he had, perhaps he wouldn’t have been so quick to talk about what a good thing an ending is.
I am the last person who ever expected to be walking through this story. But I’ve learned in the past year that we don’t get to choose the stories we live, only how to live inside the stories we are given.
And in this story, “happily ever after” ended after five years.
If you haven’t been beside us, in and out of every awful day since we fell apart almost a year ago, this might come as a shock to you. You might look at us and think that we’re giving up, that we didn’t fight for it, that we didn’t even try. And you couldn’t be more wrong.
If you’d been beside us, you’d have seen hours and hours spent talking on couches and in cars and at bars as we looked one another in the eyes trying to find our own reflection there again. You’d have seen tears and prayers and therapy bills and conversations that scraped the very floor of our souls. You’d have seen bottles of whiskey and wine, opened and shared between the two of us as we ran circles around each other again and again. You’d have seen us walking the block of this old neighborhood in the fall, and then in the bitter cold of winter, and still in the spring sunshine. Walking side by side, looking for a way to get home again. Never quite able to find it, no matter how far we walked.
This is our love story: Once upon a time, two best friends fell in love. And they lived happily, but not ever after.
And that’s ok.
You probably have questions. I know I do. I have questions that have utterly reshaped my soul, turning me forever inside out. Questions like – “if only…” and “what if….” and “how…” and “what now…”
I wish I had more answers than I do.
I’d like to have answers for you. But mostly, I’d like to have answers for myself. I do not.
I’ll try to find a few words anyhow.
This was always my first question when I’d hear about a marriage ending. What happened? How did “till death do us part” become splitting up a home? This is usually the first question, and the most difficult to answer. Because there is no one thing that happpend.
What happened was two kids wildly in love but incredibly unprepared for life as adults — much less married adults with kids — threw themselves at each other and hoped that love was enough to make it stick. Sometimes it works. In our case, it did not.
What happened was the world that we lived in dissolved, and we became lost in the frightening world where we found ourselves. What happened was a complete failure of every system on which we had built our lives, systems where rules keep you safe and principles guarantee success and trying harder will keep love from leaving you.
What happened was brainwashing and programing and shame-based religion and rigid gender roles that twisted our minds and left scar-tissue on our souls long before we ever met each other. We didn’t realize it until it was too late.
What happened was newlyweds who had to become adults too soon, who moved too often, who never had quite enough money. What happened was kids who had kids of our own, while lost at sea. What happened was identity shifts and career changes and faith lost and found and lost again. That doesn’t shipwreck every couple. We weren’t able to stay afloat.
Do we still love each other?
You’re probably wondering this too.
Yes. But also,
Love changes. I won’t even attempt to put words to the coming and going tides of desire and romance, of friendship and choosing, of all the strings that hold us to another — until they do not.
I’ll say only this: Love changes. And for us, love doesn’t mean waking up and sharing the first cup of coffee together each morning and building a home where we can live out our days side by side. Not anymore. Now love means letting go, and cheering each other on, and wanting the very best for each other, and knowing that we are no longer that very best. Love doesn’t end. It only changes. And that’s ok too.
What about the kids?
If you’ve ever met our boys, you know that they are two of the most beautiful creatures to ever live on this planet. Both of us love them with all of our hearts and will spend the rest of our lives loving them. We won’t be living all under the same roof anymore, and there are challenges that we must face in the months and years ahead as we work together to love them well in this new chapter of life. But we will both always be their parents, and we are both committed to caring for their wild and precious hearts.
Do you regret anything?
Of course. This isn’t the story that anybody sets out to write. I regret that we weren’t somehow able to change the ending for ourselves. But I don’t regret that we tried. I don’t regret the years we were best friends, the years we were married. I wish it had ended differently, or not at all. I wish we had both known how to love better. But I don’t regret the trying.
What do you say?
What do you say to two young kids like us, already at the end of their marriage? You might be at a loss for words. That’s ok. You don’t have to say “I’m sorry for your loss” or “I had no idea” or “I wish there was something we could do.” I know. Just say, “I’m proud of you” and “I love you” and that’s enough. That’s enough.
Now we are dying and being reborn. Now we walk forward in kindness and courage as we each figure out life in a world that looks very different from the one we’ve known.
If you love us, love us still. Love us with space and with prayers and with listening and with silence. Love us without questioning and without speculation and without second-guessing and without commentary and without agendas. Love our hearts. Love our boys. If you can, try even to love our story. After all, it’s the only one we have.
And we will go on into infinity. Not as a solar system revolving around the same star, but as a constellation. Diamonds scattered lightyears apart in the same galaxy. Not linked by any lines visible to the human eye, but telling a story all the same if your heart is open to see it.
[ image: Brian K. ]
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