What I Learned From My Marriage Breakup

August 2016

I have been absent for a while. 

It's now been around six months since I created a post. I have gone from posting twice per week to posting nothing in six months. The reason is a simple and unfortunately common one, my marriage of eighteen years came to an abrupt end late last year. 

While the seeds of the eventual separation were sown many years ago, the last half of 2015 will not be remembered as one of my happiest. 

I am not going to go into any detail on why my marriage failed but I am going to write about what I have learnt about myself, and about long term relationships, during both the eighteen years of marriage and the during the final, uncomfortable last few months leading up to Christmas 2015. 

You cannot control how your partner internalises your shared reality 

When you fall in love with someone it is natural to assume over time - particularly if you initially share the same interests, like and dislikes - that your partner experiences the world or reality the same way as you do. 

This is actually a type of psychological projection. You are projecting your own version of reality onto your partner. For years I assumed my partner experienced the world the way that I did. The separation forced me to come to terms with the fact that it is arrogant and narcissistic to assume another person thinks and experiences the world the way I do. 

My version of reality may be far different from my partner’s, even if they appear to be sharing and experiencing the same version. 

The past can cloud your perception of the present! 

Looking back on my marriage of eighteen years I can say that about fourteen or so of those years were filled with fond memories. Now that I am out of the relationship - and out of the fog - I can see a lot clearer. The last three years of my marriage where far from ideal, however the memories of the good times kept me stuck in the delusion that we would return to these great times at some point in the future. 

If I could have learned to just accept the present and see it for how it was, I would have either been more proactive in trying to seek help for our marriage or simply left the marriage. 

The past is the past; if your present is not ideal, then your happy memories of the past are not going to change it. Face what is happening to you in the now and deal with it in the now. 

My children constantly surprise me 

While any break up can be hard on children, I am still surprised at how much I have learnt about my children during these difficult times. My children were aware that something was potentially wrong with our marriage before I was. Children also learn a lot about themselves and how to deal with difficult emotions during this time as well. The other surprising change is that I get more quality time with the kids now. As I only see most of my children for half of the week, I make sure that time counts. With no dysfunctional relationship to contend with, I also have a lot more energy for the children. 

Getting married too young may not be the smartest move 

This is one bit of advice which I will be annoying my children with when they are finally old enough to leave home. Getting married before you really know who you are, is probably not the best idea. Getting married before you know what sort of partner would really suit you is an ever dumber idea.

I would suggest taking your time, getting to know yourself and experiencing life before you get married.

The other major issue with getting married young is that it can take time to grow and heal from any core trauma that either partner may have experienced as a child. These issues may not manifest themselves until well into adulthood. Better to have these issues resolved before you meet your life partner. 

I was in love with being married and having a family 

Looking back on my marriage, there is no doubt that love was present initially, however I have now come to believe that my experience of love changed over time.

 For myself, I think eventually I was in love with the idea of marriage, and of being a good husband, father and provider for the family. This idea or construct is what kept me in the marriage even though I eventually grew to know that something was amiss or broken. 

Your partner should be your best friend 

Your partner should be your best friend. Let me put it another way: if you were not romantically involved with your partner, would you still choose to hang out with this person and be great friends with them? Would you share some common interest and be able to talk with them for hours?

If you don't have a great friendship, then how can trust and love be maintained long term?

While sexual intimacy strengthens a relationship I honestly believe a solid friendship is what creates a solid foundation for any long lasting relationship. 

Self-awareness 

Having a sense of who you are as an Individual is critical to maintaining a healthy relationship with both yourself and others. Many of us, do not have a clear sense of self when we are young. If you marry young then your sense of self may be distorted, as the marriage may create a sense of ‘us’ and not ‘self’. This may limit your own self-development and self-awareness. 

Owning a business and maintaining a healthy marriage both take nerves of steel and hard work 

I am not going to lie or sugar-coat this one: owning and operating a businesses is hard work and at times very stressful, even though it can also be very rewarding. 

It helps greatly if your partner is supportive and interested in the business. I am not saying they have to work with you, but they need to understand that if your business is important to you, it should also be important to them. 

This is where friendship is critical. 

From adolescence to adulthood 

I am starting to notice that most of us go through a shift around the age of forty. This shift causes many of us to go through a sort of mid-life crisis. If some of us have experienced any type of trauma as a child, consequences from this often occur during this time. 

If we make the decision to change and grow and learn about ourselves during this critical junction in our lives, we can be assured that the second half of our lives with be far brighter and peaceful than the first half. If however, we refuse to change or learn about ourselves, then this new chapter in our lives may be filled with a lot of chaos and despair. 

I believe many relationships end around this time in our lives due to a sudden shift in each individual's level of self-awareness and/or the inability to deal with past trauma. 

All part of the plan 

I have nothing but fond memories of the majority of the years of my marriage and I have four beautiful children as a result of it. 

Incredibly I have also experienced more happy moments over the last three months than I have in the last three years. I now realise that while the initial breakup was painful, this pain was a requirement on my life journey so that a new beginning could emerge. 

Regardless of who causes a marriage to dissolve, I believe holding onto blame only limits your own growth. The truth is that it is never just one partner who causes a relationship to fail. 

The pain of any relationship breakdown forces us to confront aspects of ourselves, and other individuals, which may have been ignored for many years. 

If we choose not to let the pain of separation crush us, we can instead see it as a doorway into a new level of self-awareness which then allows us to create a new and brighter future for ourselves, at any age.

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