The day I finally admitted to myself that my marriage was over I was primarily dealing with a deep-seated fear of personal failure rather than being sorry for what I'd lost and mourning the death of love. Even though the divorce rate is soaring in most 'first world' countries I still felt the pressure to keep my marriage going 'cos that's just what you do. You get on with it. Hide your problems from the world. You can be as miserable as you like once you get home but in public keep acting like the perfect couple. It took me another six months to be able to deal with the emotional issues and consider my options.
Once my husband and I came to terms with the fact that the only option was divorce I was struck by the sudden uncertainty surrounding my once all-too-clear plans for the future. They all revolved around my marriage. So now I wouldn't be having kids, or living in that house we had our hearts set on, or working in the local school for the rest of my life. What on earth was I going to do?
Since making my separation public I have had so many people tell me "I admire your courage" that I have finally come to the conclusion that many more people than we realise are unhappy in their marriages or long-term relationships. For most people the realisation that 'it's over' builds up slowly until it becomes the unavoidable truth. So many people choose to ignore it, hope it will go away, or succumb to social pressure to stay together, as I mentioned above. And it's hardly surprising. But not only that. It's also because when you are in your mid-thirties (my case) or older it is just too scary a prospect to wipe the slate clean and start over, not knowing what or how or where to begin again. Once upon a time you knew what the rest of your life would be like, the path was so well mapped out. And then all of a sudden there's a landslide and you're teetering on the edge of a cliff.
I am no longer scared. I embrace my new-found freedom and see my life now as an adventure with no script, no rules, no ties. There's a huge blank canvas in front of me, just waiting for me to paint it however I want. It's exhilarating.
The small print.
Life's too short to be frustrated and unhappy. It does take courage to take that step into the unknown. But it certainly beats being miserable, spending all your free time arguing, living with someone you used to love and now are starting to despise... and worst of all feeling like a stranger in your own home.