I just reread Elizabeth Gilbert's memoir Eat, Pray, Love, and I found myself tearing up when I read, "The only thing more unthinkable than leaving was staying; the only thing more impossible than staying was leaving."
You see, I remember that feeling. I'll never forget that feeling.
I Am Divorced
I have two ex-husbands and a now a third husband (thank God the third time's a charm). This is not something I'm proud of, but it's part of who I am, and each of these relationships mashed up together in the butter churner of my life to spit me out the other end as the person I am today. And I've never been happier.
But back then, when the only thing more unthinkable than leaving was staying, when the only thing more impossible than staying was leaving, I couldn't imagine I'd ever find joy again. I only knew I had to try, that I couldn't give up on this little girl dream of sharing my life with someone who would let me be whole -- without giving up a part of myself to squeeze into a relationship that didn't quite fit.
Lately, my path keeps crossing with people who are unhappy in their marriages or miserable in relationships with loved ones, and I can't help thinking that life is too short to live in pain, just because we said, "I do."
Don't get me wrong. I'm the product of parents who were married for 40 faithful years before my father died, and I feel blessed to have been raised in such a stable home. I'm hoping to offer my only daughter (to whom I gave birth with husband #3) the same kind of stability I had. But not at any price.
Leaving Sometimes Requires Leaping
As a Pink Medicine Woman coach, I help shepherd people through times of change that often require big leaps of faith. Leaving a lover is often just such a leap. One of my clients had been married for 22 years to her high school sweetheart, and things were...good. Good, not great. Comfortable, not close. Friendly, not passionate. Easy, not intimate.
For years, she went through the motions in her marriage, feeling like a vital piece of herself had been doped up with halothane. She then went through a phase of being more proactive -- reading self-help books, going to see marriage counselors with her husband, signing up for workshops. But nothing changed between them. He was content with life as it was. She just wasn't.
When I asked her what was missing from her life, she said, "Connection" -- and burst into tears. In that moment, she knew -- she had to walk away from her marriage, even if it would hurt the kids, even if her husband would feel rejected, even if she would suffer financially. Some small, long-silenced voice from within was screaming so loud that she knew she had to take a leap of faith -- by trusting that after she walked through the fire her divorce would require, she would arise a phoenix.
You might think my client and I are both cavalier about leaving a marriage, but trust me, neither of us ended our relationships without intense soul-searching that included the full range of self-doubt, introspection, fear, shame, guilt, panic, and ultimately, peace that there was no other path to joy but through the pain.
As Yusuf Islam says, "To be what you must, you must give up what you are."
If you or someone you love is facing the end of a love affair, let me share a few things I've learned along the way, aimed especially at those doing the leaving.
15 Ways To Leave Your Lover (With Love)
Are you thinking about leaving your lover? Are you getting in your own way when it comes to making a decision? Sign up for this free Get Out Of Your Own Way mini e-course for tips on how to get out of your own way and leap into your dreams.
Have you ever left a lover? What did you learn? What tips might you share with those who are considering taking a leap of faith and leaving a lover? Have you ever been left? What did your lover do right? Or wrong? What's the kindest, most loving way to end a relationship that's just not working?
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Lissa Rankin, MD: Founder of OwningPink.com, Pink Medicine Woman coach, motivational speaker, and author of What's Up Down There? Questions You'd Only Ask Your Gynecologist If She Was Your Best Friend and Encaustic Art: The Complete Guide To Creating Fine Art With Wax.
Learn more about Lissa Rankin here.