They share one thing: the tomb they inhabit called their marriage. It’s as cold and lifeless as a mausoleum’s marble walls. Merely coexisting in physical proximity to each other, they rarely utter a word—only when necessary. Long ago, they gave up occupying the same bed—even the same bedroom. Detachment characterizes their marriage.
Is it a marriage? Legally, yes—emotionally, no.
Years ago, Beth and her husband underwent a psychological divorce, a condition of disengagement and indifference. The original intimate connection they once shared and enjoyed is broken.
The growing gap between them became evident to Beth after their children left home. At that point, Beth realized that she and her husband live separate lives, each absorbed in pursuing their own individual interests.
Beth sought counseling because she can no longer endure the way she is living. “I’m lonely in my own house,” she lamented. Although they are mutually involved in various social functions, “we’re not companions,” she said. “There’s no life in what we do together.”
Her marriage has been reduced to a habit, not something she cherishes. Feeling stifled in such a cheerless and deadening existence, Beth wants a divorce. But fear of the unknown anchors her. Although hardly rewarding, her marriage is familiar territory, representing a comfort zone. So staying together assures security and keeps Beth from having to deal with the unknown.
Another roadblock is guilt. She’s tortured by the thought of hurting her husband. Yet, in reality, Beth is hurting him more by living dishonestly. Maintaining the illusion that all is well—merely going through the motions—is a form of deceit.
“If he knew the truth,” I asked, “would he choose to stay married? Would he really want to stay in the relationship if he knew you were there only because you can’t bear hurting him and because he’s a comfort zone for you?”
Beth suddenly got that distinctive “the lights just came on” look. After a few seconds of gathering up her thoughts, she said, “I have never–ever!–entertained that thought before.” She relayed how she found that both “disturbing, yet strangely freeing.”
Physically she’s still married, but her spirit has moved on. “You didn’t cause that to happen, Beth, so it’s not something to feel guilty about. We can’t tell our soul what to accept, what to do and where to be.”
Divorcing her husband isn’t a hostile act waged against him. It’s an act of honoring truth, while also honoring herself and her husband.
Since Beth can’t be what she isn’t and can’t feel what she doesn’t, she should love him enough to release him to pursue more gratifying connections with others.
Call it a higher form of love.
“If the relationship is no longer rewarding for you,” I said, “it can’t be rewarding for him either.”
Yes, it will be painful for him, but better to experience the pain of truth, than to go on living a make-believe existence.
Fantasy doesn’t nourish—it leaves us empty and unfulfilled.
When relationships end, our knee jerk reaction is to cast blame—aimed at the other person or ourselves. Sometimes that’s appropriate . . . but in Beth’s situation it wasn’t. In fact fixating on causes and blame can distract from the deeper truth:
Life is a flowing stream—change is an inevitable fact of life. Nothing stays put even if we would like it to.
We also tend to believe that divorce entails turning off the love. Not so. In fact, such thinking merely amplifies suffering because souls are tormented by estrangement.
Soul bonds never die—they undergo a metamorphosis.
Ironically, for Beth, living a lie has created more distance than falling out of love. The fearful and guilt-ridden side of Beth has clung to the status quo, while her more alive self is pulling her in the opposite direction—toward a life relevant to where she is now in her growth.
“Embrace your life, Beth, and go where your soul wants to take you.”
“Then what do I tell my husband?” she asked.
I told her to warmly convey her truth along with her heart’s regret. “You didn’t anticipate or plan this,” I said. “Something in you shifted. You’re not the same person you were twenty years ago. It’s something you hadn’t counted on. Tell him that.”
Sadness and grief always accompany letting go. I urged her to join hands with him and walk through the pain together.
It’s the loving way to say goodbye.
Names are changed to honor client confidentiality.
(c) Salee Reese 2019