I lived two lives during my 13-year marriage. There was the mask I put on when was out in public -- it showed my husband and I living the American Dream, with a 3400 square foot house in the right neighborhood in the right town, with the mommy van parked in front.
We socialized with the neighbors every evening outside when the weather was warm, organized block parties and social dinners. We took vacations to all the right destinations and even had the blond hair, blued-eyed daughter. Our house and garage were filled with all the latest gadget and toys that marketing campaigns assured us would keep us living "happily ever after".
Then there was the reality of my life. I was in a loveless marriage. This was the life that I kept to myself. It was a place of loneliness and pain. Looking back now I see we didn't have a deep emotional connection to start off with. Each of us changed over time, but we did not change together with common goals or priorities.
With the lack of open communication, arguing and control issues took hold. I chose the path of shutting down emotionally to not deal with the arguing, which allowed us to co-exist under the same roof -- just going through the motions of life. Over time, life stopped being fun and was an effort. I was existing day-to-day like a hamster running in the wheel of its cage. Always on the move, but going nowhere.
At the time, it was important for me to keep up the façade of the happy family, and I did it for years. I frankly was embarrassed to be in a miserable marriage and thought that if I kept up the façade long enough, what I felt on the inside would change to magically match the outside. How wrong I was. It took a lot of energy to live the dual lives.
Deep inside I was ashamed of being a fake to my family and friends. Finally, the day came when my emotional gas tank was empty and I made the conscious decision that I needed to change my life.
Dropping my outside mask of the perfect family was the beginning of my journey of stepping into my authentic self. In the beginning it was scary, mostly because I had lost the essence of who I was in my marriage. I was so far removed from me; I wasn't sure how to reconnect to my inner self.
I was also concerned that people would reject me because of being a fraud for so long. The opposite was true; people rallied to my side in support because I was showing my vulnerability and the pain I was in. It was through the support and love of friends and family that I made the decision to leave my marriage after months of marriage counseling.
For me, it was the beginning of a new and joyous life. It took work, a lot of self-reflection and lots of Kleenex to make the necessary changes. Today, I am authentic and am comfortable in my own skin. I have goals, priorities and a zest to embrace the one life I have today. Life is good.
Follow Debbi Dickinson on Twitter: www.twitter.com/@DebbiLewisSTL