When we were married, Jeff and I had our fair share of "normal" marriage problems, in addition to his addiction issues (which were the straw that ultimately broke my back). You know, things like financial disagreements, communication issues, everyday annoyances, not fulfilling promises or changing in the ways that we had hoped we would. These are things that kill marriages every day, although on their own they probably would not have killed ours.
One of the most surprising and affirming things for me, after we separated, was how light and free I felt. I realized how burdened I had been for those years, by all those issues. Jeff and I continue to be great friends and co-parents. Indeed, we function much better as friends than as spouses. (After we separated, I joked that I had found the secret to a perfect marriage: don't live together or share finances.) But during those years we were together, I did my absolute best to work at it. As a coping mechanism, I had gotten really good at telling myself that "happy ever after" is just a mirage. Every marriage has issues. Every marriage loses its luster at some point. You can't stay as intensely "in love" as you were at the beginning. It's just not physically possible, like from a neuro-transmitter perspective.
But as time has worn on, I have begun to be seduced by "happy ever after" again. After almost four years, I have lost the immediacy of my marriage experience and the knowledge that that kind of sublime, transcendent love for the long haul is a myth. I have allowed myself to desire it again, and (even more alarming) I have begun to be upset and entitled about it.
I'm so great . . . I want to share myself with someone . . . I deserve that kind of love in my life.
Do you hear what I'm saying? I'm allowing myself to get upset that I'm not experiencing a myth. Absurdity.
Almost all of my friends are partnered or married, so I still get a big glimpse into what the marriage struggle is like. And I regularly find myself congratulating myself that I'm not married anymore, when I hear about the kinds of mundane, daily ridiculousness that they have to put up with from each other. And then there are also the big, capital-P Problems. My friends' marriages have those, too.
For instance: in my home, there is no question about who will be taking care of the children. Because I'm the only one in my home who is going to be taking care of the children. Of course, this can be stressful and wearing. But, at least there is no additional friction from another adult about who is supposed to be in charge. Know what I mean? There is no resentment about who buys groceries or cooks dinner or takes out the trash or folds laundry. I do all that because I can't expect a 3- or a 5-year-old to do it. And thank God I don't have to do all that, on top of arguing with someone.
I never, ever have to call someone to ask about why the bank balance is so low. I'm the only one who can make the bank balance low. So I only need to ask myself about that.
I have begun to forget about how nice it is to be the only one in charge, the only one who is responsible for either getting things done or creating problems.
If I were to marry again, I would suddenly have to renegotiate all of that. And then my warm, rosy "happy ever after" feelings would vanish, for sure. It would be back to work. Would it be worth it? Perhaps. But it certainly wouldn't be "happy ever after."