There was a point in my marriage I thought of leaving Sam nearly every day. At least every weekend. He would drink, we would fight, and by Sunday I was so miserable all I wanted to do was to walk out the door and never come back to the mess we’d made.
Because we’ve all been raised in a society that encourages our need to feel happy and comfortable above almost anything else, the thought of living as we were became unbearable. Everywhere I turned I saw/heard/read that I should leave. Because I deserved better. And when I didn’t go anywhere, I started to beat myself up mentally for that failure as well. I’d threaten to leave then went nowhere. Maybe around the block. It became a joke. The night before I actually did leave Sam, I told him I.was.done. He rolled his eyes and snorted. I can’t blame him, I probably had said those words a half million times.
When Sam stopped drinking, I still held leaving as a weapon for his behavior. Even if I didn’t say it out loud, it was always on my mind.
“If he pisses me off, I’m leaving.”
“If I catch him drinking, I’m leaving.”
“If we fight again, I’m leaving.”
Anytime he did something “wrong” or we argued, I experienced many of the feelings I had while he drank. Insecurity, insanity, the compulsion to control everything, and the ever haunting thought of separation. Because that’s what I was supposed to do. Leave.
I’d sit in my room, feeling enraged and used, yet terrified about what on earth I would do once I left as a single mother with no income. I made myself sick with worry and spend inordinate amounts of time on my life without him, which depressed me more. One day, after an argument, I had a sudden thought:
“I don’t have to leave.”
I realized in that moment that a lot of my fear and anger came from me having a sense of entitlement on what I deserved in a marriage. What our culture had convinced me on what a marriage should look like tainted my view on reality. I felt a sense of total relief. No one could guilt or pressure me into leaving but me.
It isn’t that I don’t deserve a good marriage, or a great husband. I already have both. He would do anything for me. But I had set the bar to “Perfection” level in my own mind. And my husband is human. He makes mistakes. He falls down. He disappoints me. He loves me in a way that isn’t always the way I want.
I’m just the same. I am his very imperfect wife. I make mistakes, lose my temper, make him feel like crap sometimes and do my best to love him through my brokenness. He has to feel the same insecurity and anger a lot of the time.
And he has never once threatened to leave me.
I thought, “What if I took leaving off the table? How would I react to situations where I feel like this? How would I handle things?” So I tried it. I decided to stick to my “for better, for worse” vows. In a situation where I wasn’t being abused, neglected, or anything other than feeling like an idiot – I had no right to bring up leaving yet again.
When I choose this, we end up with a better understanding of what went wrong. For one of the first times in our marriage, his mistakes don’t result in screaming matches with me strutting around pronouncing myself a victim and how I’m going to be gone in the morning.
It’s not always this easy to simply choose to not leave. There are cases (as there was with me) where you may need to leave to get a point across, because it’s unhealthy to stay, or simply for your own sanity. But it shouldn’t be a threat. It shouldn’t hang in the back of your mind.
You shouldn’t feel pushed to walk out the door every time you are wronged simply because our narcissistic society says if it’s not everything you ever wanted and dreamed of, if it isn’t Hollywood worthy, it isn’t worth hanging onto.
Because sometimes it is. Sometimes it’s worth fighting to hold onto even if you have to feel a little like crap in the process. No one should tell you otherwise – it’s unrealistic. It’s impossible.
Marriage – life – is taking the better and worse together and learning from it. There is a lot more happiness when you accept someone as a imperfect human, and know you are too.