I, a mom of three small children, left my husband and kids.
Tonight I am not there to put my boys to bed. They are being put to bed by their dad, while I sit alone in my apartment down the street.
I can picture the scene right now in my home: The twins are doing their best to convince their dad to let them watch just 10 more minutes of TV, while the 4-year-old makes a million excuses as to why he has gotten back out of bed. Their dad is undoubtedly patiently navigating through the toughest hour of his day, as he calmly yet decisively repeats the same catch phrases in unison with hundreds of thousands of other parents around the country.
“No. I said five minutes and that was 15 minutes ago. It’s time to go to bed.”
“Get back in bed. I already laid with you for 10 minutes.”
I wish with every ounce of my breaking heart I could be there, tag teaming with him, lying with one, while he snuggles another, but I can’t.
I can’t because that is selfish.
Staying in a relationship with one of the most amazing people I have ever known was wrecking us all. It was killing the very life we sought to create for our kids.
For the last year or so, I had convinced myself I had to stay for my boys. I thought I had to find a way to fall back in love with him and make him fall back in love with me... for our boys.
I became obsessed with a certain outcome, the one I deemed necessary for the health and wellbeing of the family unit. Every thought I had to the contrary was quickly shot down as being selfish and completely out of the question.
How dare I even consider breaking up the family, I thought.
I knew I had to save our family. I had to stay and portray the picture I had helped create.
I believed the very foundation of each of my boys’ lives was being built upon our foundation as a nuclear family, living happily under one roof with a dog and a brightly colored, weed-free flowerbed.
However, our foundation had begun to crack.
Soon, on a daily basis, new cracks were seen. At first they were small, almost unnoticeable and to be expected. I saw them as natural shifts all foundations make as they settle and give way to the pressures of life. By simply applying a bit of caulk or sliding a plant over to cover the imperfection, I thought we could forge ahead and continue our lives in happiness.
Soon, we became each other’s kryptonite.
The love was gone and was slowly being replaced by a growing resentment toward one another. Overtime, our ache for something the other could no longer give us trumped our ability to pretend the other was all we needed.
Our outward displays of love soon became impossible to fake.
We each began coping the best we could. I chose alcohol. He chose avoidance.
The foundation was beginning to crumble beneath us, so we diverted our attention further.
When we felt the pieces give way below our feet, we simply moved to another room. When a large crack began to form down the center of the house, I bought a bigger rug, covered it up and sat back down to drink a beer or three, while smiling at my boys as convincingly as I could.
On days when the cracks were unavoidable, we chose to confront one another and point out the visible proof of the others shortcomings. Each crack had a story, involving the culpability of the other.
Soon, you could no longer navigate through our home without stepping on one and when we did, we’d shake our heads in judgment and mutter the other’s name, recalling the story we had created to explain its existence and his or her responsibility for it.
This became our daily life.
We were both emotionally starved, exhausted and our souls were dying.
Naturally, this is when many begin trying to make sense of “what went wrong.” This is where hundreds of questions surface demanding answers so as to make sense of the “failed” family unit.
But that doesn’t matter, at least not right now.
It’s not about what went wrong. It’s about how to make it right. it’s about acknowledging the detrimental effect the relationship is having on us all and doing something about it.
We need neither understand nor explain how the cracks formed. The only important response comes in acknowledging they have formed and how to begin to heal our own foundations and become whole again, as individuals.
What if we are never able to figure out exactly when or how the cracks began? What if there is no blame attributed to any person or act at all... ever?
What if we simply tell the story as one in which we saved our family unit by breaking it apart?
In an unexplainable moment of clarity, I came to understand the foundation upon which my boys are building their own identities is not our family as a unit at the expense of our individual happiness.
I realized I had to leave in order to save us all.
Instead of staying for my boys, it was clear I had to leave for my boys.
Their health and wellbeing is not being determined by our ability to remain in a relationship that is no longer good for any of us. The foundation upon which my boys should be building their own is on top of each of our foundations as joyful, growing and loving individual humans.
The best way we have of supporting our boys and creating an environment in which they can thrive is by modeling mutual respect for one another and ourselves.
Ourselves being the key.
For it is impossible to give love and compassion to another human being until you have love and compassion for yourself.
My boys are in great hands tonight.
They are being put to bed by a man who recently regained his freedom from a relationship that was killing all that is good about him. Tonight, he is able to be patient and loving because he is beginning to once again love himself.
And when I pick them up on Monday afternoon to begin their time with me, I will also be fully present and kind and loving. I will be able to help build their foundations upon mine by modeling the love and compassion I have found for myself.
And after they go to bed tonight, the love of my life will sit in silence and continue to heal his wounds. How exactly he got them will not be the focus, as they needn’t be. The salve he chooses and the care he is taking is what is.
So, selflessly, I sit here alone. I made a to choice to love us all enough to let go of an idea. I decided to love my husband enough to set him free. I decided to love myself enough to leave.