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The Most Important Lessons I Learned During Our Marital Separation

It was 2009 when my six-year-old marriage came crashing down around me. ‘I need to sort some things out,’ he’d said before he moved out and found an apartment not far from our home on rent. That was when it hit me. You know in life, the lessons we need the most are the ones we are most resistant to. THAT is a universal problem. And I learnt about its presence in my life, too late! You see, I had lived this whole time believing that I was living my own ‘happily ever after,’ even when there were no traces of it around.

I met my husband about a year before we tied the knot at a mutual friend’s party. He was, as he told me much later, intrigued by the ‘aloof’ girl who was seemingly immune to his charms. Of course, I told him much later that his six ft, hunky n handsome persona would ‘never’ fail to impress – but yes, I had consciously chosen to be not one with the horde that was swooning over him that night. Worked well for me! He pursued me for a while, in the classic chivalrous style he knew I’d love! A dozen thick, lovelorn letters, some really romantic dates, and about three lunar cycles later, we moved in together! You can do the math for when I walked down the aisle – you have all the info now!

couple in love

Image source: Google, copyright-free image under Creative Commons License

Suggested read: My husband cheated on me… but I stayed anyway

And if you have calculated right, you’d see that our story, by any conventional standard of dating in the digital era, was a sort of whirlwind affair – something that the tech-genX-hippies would call ‘that-like-swallowing-the-entire-mozzarella-ball-crazy!’ Now don’t take it wrong – of course, we went the ‘let’s-know-more-about-each-other’ way during those handful of dates we had with each other and had quite THE friendship shoehorned betwixt us during the months we lived together – so marriage just seemed the ‘next logical step.’ Today, we know it was anything but logical. I guess we were under the effect of the ‘chemical madness’ that Fitzgerald had talked about as infecting everybody in youth. And in those early days, my husband and I were mad – mad for each other and LOVE.

couple disagreement

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But it wasn’t long before the thin veneer of madness gave way to a different mad inside – instead of being mad for each other, we were mad at each other – all the freaking time! We were fighting about everything – money, family planning, and even what to do on a Saturday evening! And even as real life trickled into the original fairytale, our beautiful love story, I held onto its compelling version, afraid to let go of what I thought was, indeed, my ‘happily ever after.’ I don’t know if it was the fear of being alone or the fear of an acrimonious divorce we’d both seen our parents go through, or simply, the inability to embrace our differences as we’d embraced all that was similar in us, during those early phases. Yes, we were yelling and screaming – but even as we did argue, we were skirting the real conflict, for we were both afraid – in our own ways, of being separated. So, we placated until the resentments began to build. Until that day when he couldn’t hold it in any longer and moved out. ‘I need to sort some things out,’ he’d said.

woman sad

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In those six weeks of marital separation that felt like years, I gave him time to sort whatever he thought ‘twas that needed sorting while I thought I’d do well to do some digging around of my own. Of course, the excavation came hard in between sobbing in my ergonomic office cubicle, the stairwells, freight elevators, bathroom, bedroom, and even in front of the open refrigerator in the kitchen, and those long-drawn out and strained ‘we-will-work-this-out’ calls, replete with awkward silences that didn’t help the crying! The incessant tearworks made it THAT much harder to realize what I was doing wrong, what I had done wrong.

But between all the collapsing into beautiful memories of the past, the allure of our love story and trying to throw up the ‘grimy muck’ of ‘what-went-wrong’ and hyperventilating, I learnt a few important things about my marriage. These lessons, had they come from another soul who declared itself an expert on marital separation, wouldn’t have registered. But because my marital separation came in at a time when I was introspecting as well as looking at the hollow 140-character love-tales emphatically declaring the bliss of living with their one-and-only on my social media feed, it hit home.

woman thinking

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Suggested read: A letter to all the men I have loved before

My grief-induced Google searches weren’t the solution to dealing with marital separation, nor those hysterical calls to my best friend, nor anything I thought I could do to ‘fix’ my crumbling marriage. It was ME. I could be and should be responsible for my own happiness. And that was the day I realized that it wasn’t just me, but even my husband, fighting with happiness whilst deluding ourselves with the ‘story’ of a magical ‘happily-ever-after.’ We believed in the capacity of our swoon-worthy movie-love story so much that we amplified its capacity to sustain us for the proverbial forever, ignoring the fact that we needed to work toward it. In our ever-increasing friction and the frothy boil of life, our bubble popped. And when it did, we learnt the lessons we were, indeed, most resistant to – but which were, really, the ones we needed the most:

1. We are all responsible for our own happiness

This one seems so obvious and yet, it is the ONLY one that the routine humdrum of life drowns. My husband and I were both squabbling over things that we never ever talked about. And to expect someone else to fulfill something you never cared to communicate was somewhat like asking Harry Potter to work without a wand! If I took care of things that’d not upset me, I’d be better positioned to care to find out what were those that’d set him off.

2. Ignoring/avoiding the problems does NOT make them go away or any less acute

When you do not sit down to hit the nail on the head, you end up bringing off the plaster from everywhere around. That is precisely how we were making our home-y haven a mess. Marriage thrives on open communication. Some parts are harder to put forth – but none of it is impossible. All we needed to do was open up and try.

couple disagreement

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3. An intention to change isn’t the same as changing

The first week during our marital separation was fraught with frantic calls to my husband, begging him to come back, telling him that I would do whatever it was that he’d need and much more to try and ‘get it together.’ Didn’t work. We both needed the alone downtime we’d refused ourselves in the initial phases of our romance to fight our demons and learn what it was about ourselves that we needed to bring about a REAL change in.

4. The magic of meet-fall-in-love-and-happily-ever-after is all genuine hard work, real talk, and acceptance

The MOST important change I needed to make was to let go of the story in my head, the power it had over me, the illusion I was feeding myself, and the evasive coping strategies I had for everything that didn’t fit the ‘ideal’ in my head. I needed to stop loving the potential of him and the potential of who we could be. I had to learn to love myself and him and us as we were – to be able to live my REAL marriage, for real. And that isn’t like a story – not at all.

5. Love is as simple as you choose me, I choose you, we choose this

Marriage is often like being at a crossroads. You could take a left and exit or you could keep turning right to choose your partner. There might be times that you may experience temptations, distractions – even wavering feelings and self-doubt – but choosing your partner when they are struggling is TRUE LOVE. I chose my husband and waited. He, meanwhile, was doing the same. We never gave up on each other – only became more aware of the roadblocks, detours, and potholes on our way to truly finding and loving each other.

couple in bed

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Today, as we celebrate our twelfth marriage anniversary, I do not narrate the ‘how-I-met-my-husband’ story but talk of our ‘married life’ with a warm, fuzzy feeling that is hard to put into words. I talk of how I stay up waiting for him to get back from work so he can come home to a hug, of the weekends when we fight over whose turn it is to scrub the bathtub, the mornings that he tells me he wants to call in sick for the whole week coz I am beautiful, and those others when we are bathed in paint making our daughter’s art project! But none of it is enough – enough to capture the love we feel for each other, the love we had found, the love we almost lost, and the ever-so-more-beautiful love we regained and live every moment!

Suggested read: A letter to my future husband – things I’d love for you to do

I look at him across the room looking at me, my eyes welling with tears and mouth a silent ‘I love you’ as I declare him mine on the microphone in front of a hundred people. No, it isn’t another grand addition to our story – we are done with stories – but tonight, we will sure replay the entire journey tucked in between the sheets – and not before we have resolved the squabble over who-the-f**k invited Uncle Ted to the party, whose turn it is to fluff the pillows, and make the bed. After that, I will fall sleep in his arms, his hand resting on the small of my back – coz that’s where I belong!

Featured image source: Google, copyright-free image under Creative Commons License

Article Name
Lessons I Learned During Our Marital Separation
Marital separation is usually seen as simply a PAUSE button to delay an inevitable THE END. But it can sometimes be a new beginning. Read my story.
Sejal Parikh

Sejal Parikh

"I'm a hurricane of words but YOU can choose the damage I do to you..."