by Angela Perin, Brisbane, QLD
When I was growing up (up until I went to high school), I didn’t personally know anyone that was separated or divorced. At the time, I had a notion that all the marriages I personally observed and knew of were ‘happy’ ones… (which included my parents). In retrospect, and as I got older, I realised that ‘happy’ was perhaps not the right or most appropriate word. ‘Committed’ or ‘dedicated’ may have been more apt or descriptive, because it described marriages and relationships that stayed together through thick and thin; separation or divorce wasn’t entertained no matter what was going on in the relationship.
I adopted a belief that keeping a marriage going ‘no matter what’ was a ‘good’ thing; that staying together was a great accomplishment and something to be heralded. The longer the marriage, the greater the commitment and love – or so it was portrayed to be. In contrast, whether expressed openly or not, marriages that did break down were somehow considered a failure, and were viewed with sympathy and sadness.
When I married for the first time nearly 22 years ago, I thought I knew what love was, and I thought it would be for life. This was also congruent with my religious beliefs at the time, and consistent with my experience of the marriages in my family and relatives which were all long term, and where separation or divorce was still largely outside of my immediate experience.
However, from the outset our marriage was not a truly happy or harmonious one, and was not consistent. I have often described our relationship as ‘up’ and ‘down’, and from one extreme to the other. Sometimes it was ‘good’ (or what I thought at the time was good, which in essence meant we weren’t fighting and were working together at a functioning level, and that still looked o.k. / successful from the outside), and at many other times it was ‘not so good’. (Keep in mind that during the total period of our marriage, we have always worked a business together (from home), so have spent a lot! of time together.)
Aside from financial pressures during our marriage, we were both strong individuals with our own opinions, and often fought and argued. We were both controlling, manipulative and abusive in our own ways (both with ourselves and each other) – a point which I really only took responsibility for a few years ago; prior to that I had adopted a ‘holier than thou’ approach, and considered that it was largely my partner who was at fault. Communication was always a problem, and there were many times during our relationship where we did not speak to each other: this was used as a way of manipulating the other person or controlling a particular situation or outcome.
During that 22 year period there were several times when I considered separation. Aside from the physical and practical difficulties in separating (together with our business structure, we now also had 3 children), and although my family supported me as best as they could during these periods, I still felt that separating would involve an admission of failing ‘something’ (i.e. an ideal or belief that I had not measured up to), or ‘someone’ (including myself, my family and my husband). I also felt that separating would represent an admission that ‘love’ had failed and was unable to hold the relationship together. By that I mean, that at the time, I thought I ‘was’ being love…
So even though it was out of a false sense of commitment to ourselves and the relationship, and further ingrained the belief that marriage was not easy, and that it took lots of hard work and courage to ‘stick at it’, we continued to stay together. In fact, I remember many times during this period that my family would comment on how strong I was and how proud they were of me. In retrospect, I can now share in reflection and with honesty that I unconsciously and consciously, revelled in the recognition I got out of my martyrdom (i.e. what I was putting up with) and the drama that our relationship presented.
When I was introduced to Universal Medicine several years ago, I could clearly see and appreciate that there had been no ‘true’ love in our relationship, because there was in fact no ‘self-love’, and that our behaviours and choices within the relationship had been governed by a false notion of love that we had both desperately clung to at the time – and that continued to be reinforced by the relationships around us.
As I began to work on ‘self-love’, this made way for us both to become more truthful and honest about our relationship and marriage, and also allowed me to let go of many of the false ideals and beliefs I had about marriage and separation.
We recently separated, but the beautiful thing is that our decision was actually based on what was loving and supportive for us both. It was not based on an ‘ideal’ that we should stay together ‘no matter what’, and we do not view our relationship as having ‘failed’ simply because we made the choice to separate. Quite the opposite in fact!
Although naturally difficult at times, my ex and I are developing a more loving way to be in relationship with each other every day – a way that is not about competition, comparison or judgment, but a way of being that has begun with ‘self-love’. For the first time in the history of our relationship we are now experiencing and developing a different way to be in relation to marriage and separation, a way that is finally about ‘true’ love…