This piece, originally published at the beginning of our transition in 2015, is a powerful reminder of why we chose to break up and rebuild.
The phrase, " 'til death do us part," or some version of it, is carefully tucked into many ceremonies that bind lovers into the contract of marriage. If “death” in this phrase refers to the death of your body, what about the death that usually happens long before? That space where passion, libido, trust and respect languish and expire? What about the death of your individuality? What about the death of your very soul?
Why is this the only choice, and who decided this was THE way to living well? When a marital union lasts for decades, society applauds the duration. The duration speaks to commitment, fortitude, loyalty and, purportedly, love. When a marital union ends in divorce, society winces at the defeat. The end of the marriage alleges fault, shame, loss, and a lack of love.
But what about when the separation of lives and closure of the marital contract is the most genuine expression of love between two people? Society has no category for this scenario, and it makes most people really nervous. They are looking for the anger, the fight, the fault, the place to point their wagging fingers. Society also throws itself onto the floor in a full on panic over the children, begging,“ What about your children?!”
Yes. What about our kids?
Our kids are the impetus of our actions, every single day. Memories of their words and deeds are emblazoned into the tender precious spaces of our hearts. Their future selves live in our minds and dreams. Our love for them is immeasurable, which is why we must get it right the first time around. There are no dress rehearsals in parenting. Each day, the stage is set, and the improv takes its mark. Children don't live what there told to model; they live what they see, hear and feel.
Our children know us better than anyone. They see right through to our core and know when we are speaking from our truths and when we are speaking from our expectations. They lack the filters mutated by societal judgments or expectations because they still live through their wholeheartedness.
Expectations and appearances.
Living in our expectations rather than our truths, we model manipulations and distorted realities, thus giving our kids a front-row seat demonstrating daily lessons on how to tweak a life that does not resonate with who we are at heart. We model coping mechanisms that require great and consistent efforts of keeping up appearances. We expect to have an honest relationship with our kids while shielding them from the truth of our marital decay. A propped-up version of a happy bond with our spouses or not being our healthiest selves cannot yield more than its own image. In the name of keeping family in one unit, we inadvertently model limits on truth and growth.
Shifting towards growth, reaching to all potential—isn’t this the very essence of what all parents wish for their kids? It is for my husband and me. For all we cannot agree on, we have always been bonded to this one goal for our daughters. We have been deeply unified in the desire that they grow into adults who “can make their own happiness.” We shaped much of our co-parenting toward this goal. We poured vast energies into providing them outlets and experiences that would enhance their development. We talked, listened, supported and loved.
What we did not do . . . was model it. We did model lots of other things. There is a long, tiresome list of things we modeled that flew right in the face of “making your own happiness.” We showed our daughters copious amounts of stuffing our feelings, warping to societal expectation, and handling each other—not loving each other, but tolerating each other.
Loving each other.
We began our story loving each other—passionately, deeply and truly loving one another. Together, we brought two people into this world who will leave a love mark on everything they touch. This. This was the full purpose of our union, and we have met our mission. Now we must parent and shepherd them to adulthood—not as adults who tolerate life, but rather as adults who are fulfilled and can make their own happiness. We cannot accomplish this worthy goal by being tightfisted with self-expression. Nor can we accomplish this mission using fear and expectation as our compass. This goal is achieved by modeling courage—wholehearted, unabridged courage. They will see it, hear it and feel it. And, as it turns out, making our own happiness is best taught by modeling.
Making our own happiness.
With thoughtful approach, we are striding towards our individual happiness. There is natural sadness over the end of our marital contract. There is not anger, nor finger wagging, nor using our daughters to stab one another. Neither of us died to be released. Instead, both of us have reached for a healthier life, inviting growth and expansion in limitless directions. As a result, respect and compassion have resurfaced in our relationship.
And through all of this transmutation, we are creating foundation of genuine friendship that yields the base for healthy co-parenting. While it will no longer to be called a marriage, this union based on a deep partnership we enter into wholeheartedly, as our best defined selves rather than with the previous societal expectations we’d warped our souls towards. This union models truth in self-expression. What more could we want to teach our daughters than this- that we all hold the key to making our own happiness when we live through our truths rather than the expectations of others?
Seek growth, be true to who you are and you will be loved in the genuine reflection of your wholehearted self.
In choosing wholeheartedness over the expectations of others we've supplanted "'til death do us part" by "in life we support each other."
© copyright 2015 by Laura Phoenix Power • all rights reserved