...and I have nothing to celebrate.
Instead, it marked the end of the most excruciatingly painful and difficult week of my lifetime. It is with deepest sadness and regret that I announce a decision has been made for Lissa and I to separate. The process has begun for us to no longer be a married couple.
I am devastated.
Despite outward appearances, Lissa and I have been struggling for a long time now, so this isn't a sudden event or a surprise out of nowhere. It has been years since we first acknowledged that we had begun to drift apart and were failing to create a fundamental and satisfying sense of happiness in each other. We could still enjoy experiences together, but it was only a surface layer atop an underlying discontentment.
Over the past few years, we would periodically reach breakdown points where this discontentment would rise to the surface. This would typically culminate in an emotional, yet frustratingly unproductive discussion. We would acknowledge that there was a problem (again) but would ultimately fail to quantify it or develop a plan to attempt to remedy it. The discussion would simply continue to the point of exhaustion. Then, usually with an interval of sleep, we would simply move on, not having actually accomplished anything--sweeping it under the rug again, so to speak.
As I said, this has been going on for years in a sort of cycle. It is only now that I can clearly see the cumulative effect it has had on both of us. In the last few cycles I began to summarize our discussion as a choice between solving the problem or giving up. But even when presented with these clearly defined paths (the steps of each being not at all clear), we seemed to still fail to decide upon anything.
I believe this was just a stubborn belief on both of our parts that our commitment to each other would be enough to get us through. We do care about, honor, and respect each other and the vows we took in becoming a married couple 11 years ago. That much has never changed. But it appears now that it is not enough to sustain our relationship.
Last week Saturday we reached a breaking point. Things started much the same as they always have, but I reached a breaking point where I could not allow this cycle to continue. When I presented the options of working things out or quitting, I took it one step further and directly asked her if we were done. The option had been presented before, but this was the first time I had directly prompted for a choice to be made. I had intentionally avoided doing so in the past out of fear of the response. And now having done so, my worst fears were realized as Lissa responded that it was her desire to quit.
This would indeed finally break the cycle but was not a mutual desire. Despite our well-established inability to work toward the alternate option, I was driven to attempt to make the breakthrough that had eluded us for so long. I would rather fail having tried than to quit and not try at all. However, her decision to stop basically trumps my desire to attempt to work through it. Any of my efforts to repair are irrelevant if they are not willing to be accepted.
I was able to get Lissa to agree to take some time to think over the decision. She packed some things and went to her mom's house. This is somewhat ironic as this is also how our relationship began over 15 years ago. She was actually dating someone else when I realized my feelings toward her. At my own peril, I revealed them to her nonetheless. She requested some time to think it over, and the rest is obvious history. On this occasion, however, this period to think did not work in my favor, and I was not at all prepared for the effect it would have on me.
I'm not one to hide the details of my life, but I was uncomfortable sounding a general alarm over this situation while a decision was yet to be finalized. In the event that we could have worked through it, there would have been no need for me to even mention this with the vast majority of people. I wanted to talk about it, but not until I knew what direction it was going.
This left me in a rather powerless state quite contrary to my action-oriented nature. I look at situations as problems to be solved or challenges to overcome and I want to take steps toward that end. That is, if a situation rises to a level that I commit to taking action. Once I've committed, I'm virtually unstoppable. Unfortunately, I am well aware that one of my greatest failings as a person is poor or misguided allocation of that commitment. I am filled with regret that things had to get this bad for me to finally come to the realization that this situation demanded this kind of resolve.
But while Lissa was taking time to think, there was no action for me to take. I couldn't work on it alone. This helplessness tore me up inside with an intensity I have never experienced before. I was merely keeping up appearances, which became yet another stress point for me as it basically felt like lying (something else contrary to my nature).
I am tremendously thankful to belindashort and drewsifer whom I was able to muster the courage (or perhaps succumbed to desperation) to discuss this topic prior to the anticipated moment of finality. They were both very patient and supportive sounding boards for me. I think that without at least that much of an outlet for what I was feeling and going through that I may have had a complete breakdown during the week.
Outside of the lengthy talks with them as I tried to sort things out for myself, I just tried to keep myself occupied so that I wouldn't dwell on what, for several days, I could do nothing about. If my mind went idle for even a moment, I would come right back to it and the helplessness was crippling.
The situation severely affected my ability to sleep. Lying down in bed, of course, would allow my mind to idle and then return to thoughts about the problem at hand. To cope, I basically would just stay awake until I was physically unable to continue to do so. In that way, I could lie down and fall asleep almost immediately before I was overcome by despair.
I actually managed to get a number of projects and chores done as a result as I was basically distracting myself by staying focused on other things. But I have felt quite exhausted all week as I was lucky to get even four hours of sleep any night. At that point, my body was past the point of being unable to stay awake even though it was still very much tired. This, along with the toll that everything that's been going on as well as still going to work has taken on me, has left me completely exhausted.
Lissa and I met on Monday to discuss further. This was also helpful to me mentally and emotionally despite the fact that it did not at all make me feel as though things were headed in the direction I desired. But at least it felt like I was doing something--talking it through. I asked her to think specifically of what elements were missing for her so that I could determine if I could make adjustments to provide them or I am fundamentally unable to do so because they are counter to the person that I am.
By Wednesday, my helplessness had turned to hopelessness. In phone conversations I had had with Lissa, it was becoming clear to me that she was not leaning away from her original decision. Combined with growing physical fatigue and a frustrating day at work, I really felt like I was teetering on the edge.
Lissa and I met again on Thursday night. Much more discussion ensued, but I also got the answer that I had come to expect--albeit not at all the answer I was hoping for: she had not changed her mind. In spite of this, I still wanted an answer to the question I had posed on Monday. She said she didn't know. Things became a bit tense as I continued to press her for more. She finally revealed a small nugget that I was able to process and expand upon and retell to her for confirmation.
I won't go into all of the details here, but I feel as though we finally made the breakthrough that has been eluding us all these years. Unfortunately, it comes too late to turn the situation around. I really think this problem could have been solved. The basic issue is that at some point Lissa began to lose her connection to me. I wasn't giving her the type of care and attention that she needed from me.
As she began to back away, my efforts to try to reestablish this connection only seemed to have the opposite effect. The result was that I started to back off myself. It was a this point that I think we really began to grow apart. We found things to do on our own to try to fill what we were missing from each other. While some of them may have indeed been enjoyable, they were no replacement at all for what we truly wanted but were unable to communicate to each other and only widened the gap between us.
Throughout this entire time, I have still been very much in love with Lissa. Despite the growing distance between us and a general dissatisfaction with the condition of our relationship, just being with her was (and as I write this, still is) a magical experience for me. Unfortunately, Lissa lost that somewhere along the way.
It is now her belief that, even if we were able to repair all of the conditions that got us to this point, her feelings for me will not return. And that is the reason that she wants to move on. This is a startling revelation to me as it represents the biggest failure of my entire life. There has never been anyone or anything more important to me than Lissa and her happiness, and I have failed to deliver it. Lissa says it took both of us to mess this all up, but I just can't help but blame myself.
I had very tearful phone conversations with both Lissa's sister and mom. Of course both of them support Lissa--that's a given. But, in a very gratifying reassurance, both of them also support me. In fact, both expressed a fear of losing their connection to me--of losing me as part of their family. I certainly have no intent for that to occur nor does Lissa.
Lissa's sister also said something to me that has really helped me to reconcile some of my feelings of blame and guilt. She said that she knew that I loved her sister, that she never had any doubt of that, and that it showed. I was very proud of what Lissa and I had and I wanted people to know it. While I may not have loved Lissa in the ways in which she needed, I take heart that my love did not go unnoticed and that it was recognized.
I am a strong person. I know I have the ability to get through this despite how difficult it will be and how much it is counter to my own desires. But what scares me the most at this point is that part of getting through this means that some day I will wake up and I won't love her anymore either. I don't mean I won't care about her or make efforts to care for her. I think we will always be there for each other in that regard. I just mean love in the romantic sense that we once shared as a married couple.
As I sit in this house we have shared, it does not feel like home. It feels empty. I feel alone. I wish nothing more than for her to return to fill this void, but I have to accept that she has decided that is not to be. It's going to take some time for me, but I know that I will have to let her go so that both she and I will hopefully be able to find the happiness we once had again--just not in each other.
Lissa and I have remained very civil and considerate throughout the week. This has not been a fight in any way. Even as we have begun to separate our lives, we remain mindful of the effects such actions will have on each other. We still care for each others well being.
I have set a goal for us to come out of all this still as friends. Lissa is in 100% agreement. Lissa's and my lives together represent nearly half of the years we have lived. There is too much that deserves to be remembered and celebrated for me to even consider the possibility of us completely cutting each other out of our lives going forward. I can think of no bigger failure and the entirety of my efforts will be devoted to preventing it.