By Stephanie March
Sometimes what is broken can’t be fixed in a relationship. The papers might say the couple is married but their hearts say otherwise. Yet some hold on for years, despite the misery they experience, hoping to get back what was once there.
In the process all we do is hurt ourselves and our partners even more. With marriage rates in a steady decline across the country, it is about time that we cut ourselves some slack and stop looking at our attempts as failures. At least we dared to open our hearts and try.
When children are involved, many couples stay together thinking their children will benefit from parents who stuck it out despite their unhappiness. They think the children don’t notice… but they do. And they often grow up with the same doubts about marriage as their friends whose parents divorced.
I left my husband due to extreme circumstances. Do I feel like that relationship was a failure? The answer is no. Despite the heartbreak and the challenge of starting over, that relationship hurled me forward to where I am now. A place, figuratively and literally, that I never thought I would be. It hasn’t all been pretty but I have changed. And I am so very thankful for the moments like the one I’m about to share with you that can only be described as pure grace.
On July 4th of 2013 I found myself thinking about what independence and freedom truly mean to people all over the world. How so many don’t have it, even in America and even in their own homes. I know how your own home can be your prison because I was once living that way. It was this knowledge that brought about some random inspiration right before what would have been my one year wedding anniversary. I had allowed myself to be sad for long enough. It was time to celebrate my newfound independence and give myself some of the closure I so very much deserved.
I jumped in my car on a beautiful sunny day, rolled the windows down, turned the music up and drove. I was nothing but happy. I had been in the mourning stages over the loss of the idea of my marriage. Driving that day I realized exactly what I had been mourning – the idea of the marriage and not the marriage itself.
It reminded me about an article I read on the stages of grieving in which the author, Wake Forest University’s Ed Shaw, eloquently states that “Grief is more of a journey, and everyone’s journey is individual”. It’s not always so cut and dry as the five stages we hear about. It’s a zigzag, or at least it was for me, and it has no set endpoint. Sometimes it’s a moment of clarity on a spontaneous road trip.
My very short marriage had definitely made an impact on my life forever. But my new awareness somehow stemmed the tears that day. I felt a feeling of peace wash over me. I knew that somehow, someway, I would find my way and that this was simply a beginning and not a tragic ending.
When I finally arrived at my destination I was so thankful for the inspiration to take my road trip. I got out of my car and walked out on the largest dock and stared out over the water. I knew what was about to happen would be one of the most symbolic moments in my life. My wedding rings sparkled in the sunlight in agreement.
Freedom, after all, deserves its own wedding day.
I looked up at the sky and thought about how much I have been through. I was not angry, bitter, jaded, or sad. I was thankful. Thankful that I had the courage and strength to walk away from a dangerous, destructive, sham of a marriage. Thankful that I was still alive to share my story. Thankful for the additional scars on my heart that gave me more strength, more compassion, and more appreciation for life.
I thought the moment of letting the rings go would be very difficult and sad. I was wrong. I held them up to my face, told him goodbye, and smiled. I held my hand out over the railing and, with a brief pause and a deep breath; I dropped the rings into the water.
I stood there as they sank immediately to the depths below and felt my heart and soul grow lighter. A weight that I had carried was finally tossed away like an anchor. I finally had what every broken heart needs, regardless of the circumstances. I had some closure.
I am a continuous work in progress. I am happy single and happy living alone for the first time in my life. I cherish my freedom and embrace who I am more and more each day. That isn’t to say I don’t ever get lonely. But I have learned to embrace the lonely and sit with it a while and know it won’t last forever. One day the right man will enter the picture but until then I am busy evolving, letting go, and truly being happy.
The wedding rings were the only keepsakes left from my marriage. I had paid for them. Not only in dollars but in a multitude of ways nobody but me will ever truly understand. I was ready to put them where I felt they belonged- buried at the bottom of a body of water to symbolize the cleansing of my soul, rebirth of my life, and my hope for the future.
Don’t think that you can’t do the same thing that I have done. Your letting go process might differ from mine and not involve tossing rings into water. You take a tiny step and then another. It’s miles away from easy. But one day you will have a moment when you find yourself looking back at the distance you’ve covered with those tiny steps.
You’ll see how strong you truly are and always have been. You’ll see how your life has changed and how your smile has returned. You’ll see the beauty in letting go.