Marriage and Mental Illness

Separation is Like a Lifejacket

The past two days have been the hardest I’ve had to face in a very long time. Emotionally, I swing wildly from regret and doubt to acceptance and relief. I simultaneously feel guilty that my kids are now living in a home where their parents are in the process of separating, and then I go through a moment where I know I’ve done the right thing by shielding them from the unhappiness and instability we have been living with for so long.

I’ve turned to my sister for support, as well as a support group for spouses like me, and I take each day minute by minute. One woman in group shared a quote that very much resonated with me.

If you leave a toxic relationship, you are not giving up on anything. You are giving to yourself.

That’s something that has been especially hard, the feeling that I’m giving up or that I’ve failed. It’s almost like it’s programmed into us in America that separation or divorce are evidence that you didn’t try hard enough.

What that horrible stigma fails to account for is the years I’ve spent fighting to get my husband back. I have spent so much time miserably waiting, pushing, yelling, begging, crying, and more trying to get my husband to seek treatment, take responsibility for his health and care, and just work toward any sustained progress or betterment.

As far as he has come recently in some ways (he is now consistently taking his medication and in therapy), it just isn’t enough, and other issues have actually gotten worse. As guilty as I feel, the logical side of me knows that I’ve hit my breaking point. I need some time and space from him while he works on himself.

I still haven’t given up on us. I don’t love him any less.

I just feel like I’ve been drowning in an ocean, trying to swim to a boat that every time I get close to a wave crashes over me and pushes me back again. I need a lifejacket and to tread water for a while. To me, that’s what this trial separation is.

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