(In which I explain myself to judgmental critics that may or may not exist in reality but definitely exist in my own head.)
Think of one of your friends that you quite like, but that you have no romantic feelings for, and that you are not sexually attracted to. Now imagine you marry that friend. They’re now your romantic and sexual partner for the rest of your life, even though you don’t feel that way towards them.
Now you’ve got a new partner, and it turns out that what you want out of life and what they want out of life are very different things. You’re the one that gives way, that helps them achieve a life that most closely resembles what they want, and over time you set aside everything you wanted. The life you’re living is highly stressful to you, but you power through it anyway because you feel duty-bound to do so.
Now ask yourself – does that sound like a life you’d enjoy? A relationship that would thrive? Something you’d want to endure for a lifetime?
My relationship was fundamentally flawed from the start. We have romantic notions about marriage that somehow disappear when we discuss ending a marriage for any reason other than abuse, abandonment or infidelity. If one of those three things aren’t involved, well, you should just try harder. Suddenly preserving the institution of marriage becomes more important than the romantic notions we have surrounding it.
Work until you’re not miserable in your marriage, even if there’s nothing to work with. Don’t walk away from it, though. People sniff judgmentally over the end of a marriage where there was no obvious villain that could be blamed. You’d better not make a mistake when choosing a partner, there’s no grace for that kind of mistake. Get it right the first time.
It’s possible that my view of how the average person in the US views marriage is skewed by having grown up with conservative Christianity. Of course, in the kind of conservative Christianity I grew up in, women were judged even for leaving a relationship when abuse and infidelity were involved. They just needed to work harder until their husband repented and changed.
An institution arises to serve the needs of a human society. The humans within that society shouldn’t be told to ignore their personal needs in order to preserve the institution. The institution then becomes something that crushes people within the society it was meant to serve. It’s true of government, religion, marriage, etc.
I know I haven’t arrived at a place where I’m 99% certain I’ll be ending this marriage lightly, without thought. I’ve put quite a lot of intense thought into it. I’ve even left myself that 1% possibility that some staggering change occurs within this next year that allows us to build a new relationship on a new foundation.
Trust me, “I put myself through this for nothing” is not the conclusion I’d prefer to have arrived at. That I invested half my life on an endeavor that was flawed from the beginning, an endeavor that left me a shell of what I had been, an endeavor that was not wanted but also not needed, is not a welcome conclusion.
Sometimes, in a small moment of weakness, I tell myself that maybe it’s not so bad, maybe I can keep going this way indefinitely. And then I have to remind myself that the flaws in this relationship were such that it brought me to a point of not even being able to remember what being happy felt like. That I didn’t have the strength to prevent it from reaching this point before, and that I have even less strength for that fight now.
I need to have an existence that is neither the frying pan nor the fire.