Moving from “WE” to “I”

There you go baby, here am I. You go your way baby and I’ll go mine.
Now and forever ’til the end of time.

It Doesn’t Matter Anymore~ Paul Anka

“When do you stop saying we?” my friend said to me late this summer while we were having dinner. She, like me, had been in a long term marriage with children-although she had been married for 30 years and had twice as many children as I. Essentially, she had spent half her life as one part of a unit.  She was expressing quite cogently what many of us no longer marrieds had felt at one time or another.

When at first your commitment dismantles, you feel a wide variety of emotions. The breaking apart of the “we” is at once nauseating, excruciating and outrageously surreal. Sometimes you get lost in the reverie of various scenes from your marriage that remind you that at one time you and this other person made a life together. Then, once you begin to accept that it is over, you move from loving the “we” to loving the idea of “we”.

I think that this is the part where many of us struggle the most because we live in a world of enforced coupledom. I remember the separation as a time of profound pain and grief. Yet, the first question people asked me was “Have you met someone yet?” Or, “Are you dating anyone?” I wanted to scream! As much as I knew that this person and I could no longer be together, I still longed for my family unit. Outwardly, it had the appearance of happiness and stability and success. So, no, I am not seeing anyone!

Then, of course, if you are not dating yet but your not quite ex-spouse is, you really feel like a loser. It is the ultimate in rejection once you find out that he or she has quickly moved on to another “we”.

But enough of that nonsense!  “We” can be vastly overrated. Especially when the “I” gets lost in the translation. I am absolutely certain that this happened to me over the course of my marriage. I came to believe (and still do) that as long as I was a mirror reflection of my spouse, then everything was fine. I could not ask or do anything for myself or even express myself. So, while the ending of my marriage was at first a failure to me, I began to understand that the best part of myself was about to be reborn.

In lots of ways, I had it easy. I had great a support network- girlfriends, family, my faith community, therapy. I had a terrific and rewarding job. I was in graduate school where I could hone my intellectual skills. It was in the latter that I realized once again how smart I was! Not only had I buried my emotional needs during the last part of my marriage, but I had stowed away all of my intelligence as well. My enthusiasm and energy in graduate school were legendary. I know that it was there that I began shedding the layers of the person I had become. My graduate friends were witnessing all of it and I hope that they found it enlightening and entertaining!

In other ways, though, it was quite lonely. The door had been shut on my old life. I could see the door of my new life at the other end.  But the journey back to myself was like a walk down a long, dark hallway. When graduate school was over, I spent a lot of time alone. My oldest was now in college and my youngest was spending more time with his father. Sunday afternoons were the worst. I had neither the means nor the wherewithal for the middle-aged (jeesh!) bar scene. Hey, I had had a very wild youth anyway. No need to go there again!

But being alone and at times even lonely is a good thing. You are forced to sit with yourself. The time you take to just be without the distractions of dating, drinking and drowning your sorrows in unhealthy choices is really a holy experience. I remember really figuring out what I wanted for the rest of my life AND what I didn’t want.

Then a wonderful man arrived in my life via my late mother. When we first met, I was not sure that I wanted to be in any relationship. When we corresponded and talked on the phone, I still wasn’t sure. I did like him, though. When he visited me for the first time, we spent 11 hours together talking about everything. Then I gave him my “take it or leave it” speech. He called four days later and asked if he could see me again, stating that it was the most honest conversation that he ever had with a woman. I was hooked!

So here “we” are and here “I” am too. Though we live far from each other, we both agree that we like it this way (well,mostly! ) for the time being. I like my space. I like recreating my own life here. But I also like knowing that we are both equally committed to the relationship. I am still amazed and astounded by the level of loving respect, encouragement and support that I receive from him. For me, this is the essence of intimacy. We both get to be “we” and “I” equally. I get to breathe, filling the space between so every little piece of me is seen.*

Thanks to the song, “Breathe” by Michelle Branch*

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