We’ve all had moments where we seem to just instantly connect with someone– there’s good chemistry, witty banter, and lots of common interests. When you are both on your “A game,” it is very easy to keep this going for quite a while. This is what we call the honeymoon phase, and the reason everyone says “enjoy it while it lasts” is because we all know that eventually, real life creeps in and abruptly interrupts your fairy tale romance.
Now, remember this saying: you don’t know what you don’t know.
It’s not until you live under one roof and experience challenges together that you get to truly know someone. This is when your partner’s problems unfortunately become your problems too. So maybe the stress trigger that brings out the worst in someone is the loss of his/her job, a sudden drop in his/her financial resources, a death or major illness in the family, or a child from a previous relationship that starts acting out. Perhaps you thought you were on the same page about the importance of saving or how much to spend, but that theory isn’t playing out well in actual practice. Or sadly, there are plenty of occasions when a person only discovers after the exchange of vows that the other individual failed to disclose an illness, addiction, or other ugly secret that completely changes how one would view that person’s suitability as a life partner.
Whatever the case may be, when you suddenly realize that the person you are with isn’t the person you thought you knew, it seriously bites. (See last year’s blog about being sold a bag of goods.)
Initially, you might feel stupid. You will rewind the tape a thousand times in your head to see if there is a scene you missed that should have clued you in to what was coming. Did you dig your head in the sand like an ostrich, or were you truly blind-sided? In the end, what does it matter? The point is there is now a stranger in your bed. If you are a conflict avoider, maybe you will suffer in silence for a while and not say much, but really how long can that last?
Try as you might to live separate lives, household expenses require a workable budget. If your partner’s spending is out of control, you are eventually going to have to say something because savings is ultimately all about financial security, which for many is a non-negotiable necessity. Similarly, how much you spend is all about life-style choices and how you choose to enjoy your income. If you and your spouse are not on the same page about money, this will breed anxiety, resentment, and often it leads to financial infidelity. When you cannot trust your partner with money, it basically means you don’t feel safe with him/her, and that is not a situation you can sustain long-term while sharing a home with someone.
Similarly, if your spouse has betrayed you not just by failing to disclose a major issue, but simply by acting in an unkind manner towards you, failing to be considerate, being dismissive of your feelings, making snide comments, or just shutting down and avoiding you, there is no way you can keep this up for long. The accumulation of all these slights, coupled with the mounting loss of respect you both feel towards one another, inevitably will tip the scales in favor of parting ways versus suffering daily unnecessary humiliations.
It is very sad when you drift apart, and it will take time to heal from this ordeal. But like I said in the beginning, you don’t know what you don’t know. With each harsh life lesson we learn, we grow wiser, stronger, and hopefully a bit more humble.
Having humility is a strength, not a weakness. It’s a recognition that you are far from perfect, just like everyone else, especially when it comes to inter-personal relationships. This is a human experience that we all share.
Twenty years ago, right before I took my own marital vows and embarked in my career as a divorce lawyer, I could not fathom how so many couples once so in love could give up on each other. I also could not understand how some of my peers and close relatives would choose never to marry, while others might be willing to give it one shot, and afterwards (either as a result of death or divorce) stay single. But now, these single adults make up over 40% of those around me, and after everything we have seen and lived through, I get it.
Marriage is a huge gamble. It takes a tremendous amount of hard work, and sadly all that effort may not even pay off. Through no fault of your own, your spouse may go off the deep end, and despite all you do try and mitigate the damages, that fool may never appreciate it.
But here is the upside: most will never regret giving it a shot, especially if you got some great kids and/or wonderful memories out of the whole bargain. These are gifts that will last you for years to come. And in the end, you will appreciate re-gaining your freedom. The freedom to exercise your freewill and live your life as you see fit, free of drama and unnecessary conflict, which is something you will never take for granted again.
By Regina A. DeMeo, Esq.