Sometimes you will leave. Sometimes it will be the hardest thing you ever do. Sometimes it will hurt so badly you want to check for blood and bruises and open wounds because it hurts that much.
But what choice to you have? You have to pick yourself up and start again, no matter what. You have to try and put all those confusing thoughts aside and Get the Fuck On With It, get on with this business of living. Tell yourself The Trick is to Keep Breathing and say This is Water and all that bloody stuff. Because one day, it will be true and you’ll stop checking your scars and the places where you hurt and wondering why you weren’t Goddamn Good Enough or Worthy Enough or Worthwhile or Worth Fighting For and you’ll be at peace.
Because it always gets better. It always does. Maybe not now, or tomorrow, but in time. Because you are worthy. And you don’t need someone else to make you understand that.
I’ve quoted this woman too many times, but hey, when it makes sense, it makes sense. (I’ve edited this for length).
As Trying noted in her letter, I struggled with these very questions mightily in my own life, when I was married to a good man whom I both loved and ached to leave. Your letters brought me back there, to the most painful era of my life.
There was nothing wrong with my ex-husband. He wasn’t perfect, but he was pretty close. I met him a month after I turned 19 and I married him on a rash and romantic impulse a month before I turned 20. He was passionate and smart and sensitive and handsome and absolutely crazy about me. I was crazy about him too, though not absolutely. He was my best friend; my sweet lover; my guitar-strumming, political rabble-rousing, road-tripping side-kick; the co-proprietor of our vast and eclectic music and literature collection; and daddy to our two darling cats.
But there was in me an awful thing, from almost the very beginning: a tiny clear voice that would not, not matter what I did, stop saying ‘go’.
Go, even though you love him.
Go, even though he’s kind and faithful and dear to you.
Go, even though he’s your best friend and you’re his.
Go, even though you can’t imagine your life without him.
Go, even though he adores you and your leaving will devastate him.
Go, even though your friends will be disappointed or surprised or pissed off or all three.
Go, even though you once said you would stay.
Go, even though you’re afraid of being alone.
Go, even though you’re sure no one will ever love you as well as he does.
Go, even though there is nowhere to go.
Go, even though you don’t know exactly why you can’t stay.
Go, because you want to.
Because wanting to leave is enough.
Get a pen. Write that last sentence on your palm, sweet peas—all five of you. Then read it over and over again until your tears have washed it away.
Leaving a relationship because you want to doesn’t exempt you from your obligation to be a decent human being. You can leave and still be a compassionate friend to your partner. Leaving because you want to doesn’t mean you pack your bags the moment there’s strife or struggle or uncertainty. It means that if you yearn to be free of a particular relationship and you feel that yearning lodged within you more firmly than any of the other competing and contrary yearnings are lodged, your desire to leave is not only valid, but probably the right thing to do. Even if someone you love is hurt by that.
I didn’t just up and walk out on my ex-husband one day. I desperately wanted to not want to leave. He knew I was ambivalent, in spite of my true love for him….. I tried to be good. I tried to be bad. I was sad and scared and sick and self-sacrificing and ultimately self-destructive. I finally cheated on my former husband because I didn’t have the guts to tell him I wanted out. I loved him too much to make a clean break, so I botched the job and made it dirty instead.
… Divorcing him is the most excruciating decision I’ve ever made. But it was the wisest one too. And I wasn’t the only one whose life is better for it. He deserved the love of a woman who didn’t have the word ‘go’ whispering like a deranged ghost in her ear.
It wasn’t until I’d been married to Mr. Sugar a few years that I truly understood my first marriage. In loving him, I’ve come to see more clearly how and why I loved my first husband. My two marriages aren’t so different from each other, though there’s some sort of magic sparkle glue in the second that was missing in the first. Mr. Sugar and my ex have never met, but I’m certain if they did they’d get along swimmingly. They’re both good men with kind hearts and gentle souls. They both share my passions for books, the outdoors and lefty politics; they’re both working artists, in different fields. I argue with Mr. Sugar about the same amount as I did with my former husband, at a comparable velocity, about similar things. Others have praised both of my marriages as admirable; in each, I’ve been perceived as one half of a “great couple.” And in both marriages there have been struggles and sorrows that few know about and fewer still were and are capable of seeing or understanding. Mr. Sugar and I have been neck-deep together in the muckiest mud pit too. The only difference is that every time I’ve been down there with him I wasn’t fighting for my freedom and neither was he. In our nearly sixteen years together, I’ve never once thought the word ‘go’. I’ve only wrestled harder so I’d emerge dirty, but stronger, with him.
I didn’t want to stay with my ex-husband, not at my core, even though whole swaths of me did. And if there’s one thing I believe more than I believe anything else, it’s that you can’t fake the core. The truth that lives there will eventually win out. It’s a god we must obey, a force that brings us all inevitably to our knees. And because of it, I can only ask the four women who wrote to me with the same question: will you do it later or will you do it now?