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I sat with a mess of memories in front of me. Reflections from our fishing trips, vacations to the beach, our wedding, the births of our babies – all in shiny ornaments to be boxed away with the holidays now over. The tree ornaments were a reflection of our collective identity as a couple. We had been compiling this collection for nearly a decade spent together.
The usual post-holiday sadness set upon me. But this year there was so much more – I felt desolation. I was aware my marriage was failing. It was hard, empty, and lonely. Our moments of heartfelt touches were fewer and farther between. Our daughters were young – one just out of diapers and the other just two years older than her sister.
I started sorting and separating. The Dallas Cowboys ornaments would go with him. The Shakespeare bust tied on a string to me. Our wedding, Our First Home – I put them in the bottom of my box. I placed the heart with our eldest daughter’s name and birth year etched in shiny gold in his box. I put our youngest daughter’s in mine as tears rolled down my cheeks.
The next year I felt embarrassed and heartbroken when I unpacked the boxes for the holiday season and remembered what I had done. We were still married. My marriage no better off than the year before – the only change the expanse of distance between my husband and me. I repeated the ritual of sorting and separating for two more years before we decided we would divorce.
Looking back I see I was attempting to prepare myself for the hardness that would be living as a divorced family. I was testing out the feeling of living separate but same for the sake of our daughters. The truth is the divorce decision is often years in the making.
It is not unusual that I see men and women on multiple occasions before they are ready to file. It can be months or years in between. They come back to me sheepishly cloaked in their embarrassment, regret, and sadness. “I don’t know why it took me so long.” “I should have filed years ago.” “Why did I think it would change?” “Why have I accepted this behavior (drinking, abuse, adultery) for so long?”
I can relate to these swirling incessant questions and the feelings of shame: Not only for seeking a divorce, but in having waited so much longer than seems healthy. Once the divorce decision is made, the hindsight illuminates the path we have recently traveled making our uncertainty seem confusing.
Whether you have arrived at the decision, are contemplating it or made the decision long ago, the truth about timing is that it takes time to separate from the commitment your heart made. There is no richer an investment that the one we make in our family. When you have given your whole heart to the beautiful collection of memories and moments, deciding to let it go is not an easy thing to do. But like the holidays, every beautiful season comes to an end.