It may take two to tango, two to tangle tongues, and two to say “I do,” but the regrettable truth is that it takes only one partner to end a marriage. If this statement seems obvious to you, then I’d say that (1) you’re married and are operating from simple logic, or (2) you’re divorced and you have lived the horror of learning what this really means. We can intellectually understand that, of course, one person can end the marriage, but when you have to emotionally live this for the first time as it unfolds in your own life? Well, it’s a shock of the highest order.
The mind races: But what about the vows? The partnership? The years of togetherness? And what about marriage’s inherent promise to keep trying to connect with each other, even in the inevitable dry seasons of life?
That’s what is so heartbreaking about hearing the words, “I’m done with this.” It’s the end not only of the marriage, but of marriage’s mystical and binding belief that you and your spouse were joined together in the commitment to be partners, always.
I had to give myself some time to let that hard truth in. I thought my ex-husband wasn’t allowed to unilaterally end our marriage because, well, we were married. But realizing the he had the authority, and the right, and the desire to stand up and say, “I’m done” was for me the first step toward letting go of him. It was the first “aha” moment in the years of learning that the end of my marriage ushered in: Chris and I were not actually bound together; we were merely two well-intentioned humans doing our best to make it work.
Realizing Chris could do this on his own, was the beginning of my learning to accept life’s fragility. It was also the start of my learning that not everything that happened to me in life was up to me. Even though I was tempted to make everything his fault (I did try that later), in the very beginning I was able to see that he was ending our marriage because he truly thought he couldn’t survive it. “Wow,” I thought to myself. “That’s pretty heavy duty.” The first part of the end of our marriage was up to him; how the rest of it played out was, thank goodness, at least partly up to me.