When your marriage is not a happy little boat…

happy little boat

There’s a moment that happens before you get the divorce when you realize that you’ve been in this boat with your spouse and that you’ve each been paddling in opposite directions.  Or maybe you realize that you are the only one paddling.  Or maybe your spouse not only stopped paddling but they took an empty coffee can, the old school, big Maxwell House kind (not to be confused with the tiny, adorable European Illy cylinder of delicious espresso) – and they started dumping water into the boat, trying to sink it.

Okay, maybe your spouse wasn’t intentionally being a douche and trying to sink your marriage boat.  Maybe your spouse just had their eye on a different shore, but you were each so busy paddling that you ended up going in circles and feeling really frustrated that you weren’t getting anywhere.  However douche-y (or non-douche-y) your spouse was, at some point you took a pause from the paddling, and you noticed that you were not paddling in the same direction.  You realized that while you were paddling toward financial security and a college fund for the kids, your spouse was paddling toward his 12th year of working on his bachelor’s degree.  Maybe that was just me.
I looked up and I thought, it really doesn’t look like we are headed in the same direction (my actual thoughts involved more swearing, but in the re-written version of events I call my “memory”, I approached the whole thing very logically).  What’s worse, other people seem to be getting much further, much faster, and with much less work.  What am I doing wrong?  So I asked my then husband to meet me for coffee.  It seemed that this kind of conversation might be cleaner,somehow, if we were in public.  If the piles of laundry, newspapers and toys that were strewn around our tiny house weren’t making me feel so suffocated, maybe I could hear some nugget of hope.  I was yearning to hear something that could help me push through a little longer, to get to the place I thought we both wanted to go.  Because I was so exhausted from supporting our family alone, while desperately wanting to be more present for our kids, that my body was not well, I was overweight, my hair was falling out and I was pissed off, nearly all of the time, at every one.
Too make a long story short, I had been juggling two kids and a law career for years, while my husband was going to school to get his teaching credential.  I thought this was all a temporary struggle that would result in his eventually going back to work and relieving some of the pressure from me, so I could enjoy our family more.  Turns out he had decided (which I learned at the coffee house) that he didn’t want to be a teacher, he wanted to be a poet.  Which is awesome, except for the part where I think we’re both working toward a goal of me working less and he was working toward a goal where I earned more so he could have a career in a field that doesn’t pay.  And there we were – each of us paddling furiously toward a destination we could never get to together.
Of course, my ex-husband’s dreams of being a poet weren’t the only reason we had to end our marriage, but in every relationship, you sometimes have to look up from your paddling.  If you find you aren’t aiming for the same shore, you have to decide if you can find a destination you both agree on – or if you need to get out of a sinking boat.  The key is remembering to look up.

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