Leaving My Marriage Was A Death My Body Remembers

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woman that looks sad

“When did you first think about leaving Dad?”

My son asked me this question as we sat around the kitchen table in my new apartment. I’d moved out a few weeks before this conversation took place. 

“To be honest? Fifteen years ago.”

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“Oh, that would’ve been bad,” he replied. “I would’ve only been 6. I wouldn’t have understood then. But you could have done it 3 years ago and I would’ve gotten it.”

They say the body remembers trauma — that it remembers the dates when the trauma happened. Every October I feel it return. The unbearable tension. The difficult struggle.

Five years ago this month, I made the heavy decision to leave my marriage and move out.

I felt the weight of this decision in my body. I felt it in my shoulders, my back, and of course, in my heart. And every October, I feel it creep back in for a brief visit.

My body remembers.

Fifteen years prior to moving out, I’d been traveling with my mom and my two sons. They were 6 and 3 at the time. We’d gone to the east coast to visit my brother and his family.

My ex didn’t come along. Work obligations or something. That was fine with me. Our marriage had become so heavy and hard. When it was just me and my kids, we could relax. We could be our goofy selves.

My ex didn’t tolerate silliness. We were always on pins and needles when he was around.

On this trip, we let out hair down.

As I got on the plane to go home, I felt sadness and resistance building in my body. I could feel the tension returning. On the inside, I wept.

I didn’t want to go back.

For many years, every time I’d hear his car pull up as he arrived home from work I’d think damn. He’s home.

I certainly wished him no harm but, I’m not going to lie. There were days when I thought an accident would have been easier. I didn’t want to be divorced.

The sigma. The pain. The untangling. It was a hurdle I didn’t want to jump over.

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But I knew the life I was living wasn’t good. I knew I was unhappy. I knew I couldn’t continue living this way.

The spring before my youngest son graduated from high school, I finally let my ex know how unhappy I was. For far too long I’d been hiding how I felt behind the happy face I wore for my kids and him. For far too long I’d been persistently and patiently trying to make my marriage work. And after months of personal therapy sessions, I finally mustered the courage to tell him.

Out spilled my longing for intimacy. My angst of never feeling cherished. Of feeling unsupported.

Shortly after this confession, we began couples therapy together. We went for nine months but there was nothing to indicate that things would change. I wanted to call it quits.

The therapist then asked if we’d commit to 6 weeks of being all in and making our marriage the only priority. We were to try as hard as possible to see the other person. To listen and understand.

I agreed to try.

During this time, I secretly began looking for apartments. I found one that would’ve been perfect. I confided in a friend about my find and asked her what to do.

“Aren’t you supposed to be all in right now?” she questioned.

Oh yeah. I forgot about that.

Because here’s the thing. I was done trying. During our therapy sessions, things were becoming clearer.

Although I was finally letting out all my hurts and frustrations, my ex didn’t understand. He didn’t see our marriage the same way I did. He kept saying he was providing all I ever needed.

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A home. Food on the table. The basics.

But I wanted more than that. I needed a partner. I wanted a lover.

He was fiercely independent and expected me to be the same. In some marriages, this scenario may have worked — each person doing their own thing. But that’s not what I wanted. That’s not what I needed.

And I couldn’t do it anymore. A new way of being and relating within my marriage wasn’t going to happen. The patterns we’d established had become too ingrained. They worked for him, but they didn’t work for me. I had to face the difficult fact that divorce was on the horizon for us.

It felt like death.

Death of a dream. Death of a union I’d vowed to make last. Death of what I thought my future would be.

In October 2017, I walked out the door. I can’t say every day since then has been sunshine and rainbows, but most days are far better than when I was married. The tension has left my shoulders and back. My kids and I can joke around and be ourselves. Our time spent together is relaxed.

And oddly when the divorce was finalized it no longer felt like death. It felt like a new beginning. My new life had begun unfolding. Interestingly enough, my divorce decree arrived in the spring when nature comes to life again. As the flowers began making their way out of the barren earth, I was unfurling too.

The feeling of death is now tied to the month when I left my marriage that fall day — to that time of the year when the leaves change before dropping to the ground. That’s when the pain of my loss feels the greatest.

And every October, I feel the shadow of that death return. Even with all the good that has happened since the day I left, there’s still a small sliver of trauma that remains.

My body remembers.

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Kasey Sparks writes about making mistakes, gathering lessons, and finding meaning in everything.

This article was originally published at Medium. Reprinted with permission from the author.