Three months into my separation, I had my moment of release. The act involved dancing fearlessly to “The Dogs Days are Over” by Florence + the Machine on top of my parent’s coffee table alone in the living room. In that short time, my personality started to shift. I no longer feared my looming divorce; instead, I felt light. Here was the real Lauren, who was in hiding for so long.
Have you ever buried your true self without even knowing it? It’s easy when you are in a relationship. Often the change takes place so gradually that you might not even notice. In my situation, I met my ex in Washington, D.C., and relocated hundreds of miles away to Florida after our marriage. I had no ties or connections when we moved and started a new life. Moving is the foundation of my life, so the idea of uprooting again seemed simple. Until my divorce, I didn’t realize how my personality shifted in my marriage. In our new location, none of my new connections knew me before my marriage. Of course, I kept in touch with family and friends, but it’s easy to create an illusion of happiness during visits and phone calls.
When I moved in with my parents during my separation, they didn’t recognize me. Since childhood, I have been an optimistic individual, full of light and cheer. The person who showed up was sullen, defeated, pessimistic, and broken. After years of trying to move the relationship forward, I felt utterly defeated. My spirit was suffocating, and the little voice in my head was quiet and didn’t trust me to listen.
I had ignored my gut feelings for so long, so why would they trust me again?
Showered with compassion by my friends and family, my personality slowly started to resurface, but it took work and a ton of reflection. Have you ever told yourself a story to make dealing with a situation more bearable? I had been doing this for years. My parents have been married for over forty years. My ex’s parents have been married longer. In my mind, marriage was forever, and when it got difficult, I just tried harder. Do you want to move out of the country and start a bar/restaurant? Let’s do it! If that makes you happy, I’m in. I was game for anything to move us forward.
One piece of advice, if you think changing careers, moving to a new location, having kids, and __________(fill in the blank) will fix your relationship, it quite often acts as a bandaid over an infected wound. The wound seems to heal, but once you take the bandaid off, you discover it’s even more infected.
‘Exciting changes’ can momentarily unite couples, but you are often left with the same issues and even more frustration once the change happens. Get to the root of the problem, or you will find yourself in a continuous cycle. Don’t be afraid to ask yourself if you are trying to put a round peg into a square hole. Ending a relationship is not something to take lightly, but ask yourself if your pride is getting in the way of you transforming your life?
After months of reflection and beating myself up for burying my personality to make someone else whole, I started to give myself grace. I often find that space and time allow grace to flow. Hindsight is 20/20, and no amount of berating myself was going to fix the past. Happiness is a choice, and my future is in my hands. I could play the victim or move forward. I came back to this pep-talk in my head for years, and one moment of dancing on a table did not wholly transform me, but it did ignite a spark.
Let go. Play more. Flow.
Ask yourself, what were you like before your relationship?
What does the childhood version of you long to do?
What makes you feel pure joy?
Dancing. Laughing. Riding a bike. Enjoying a great glass of wine. Watching a rom-com. Bowling. Painting. A night out with friends. Being alone. Reading a book. Taking a bath. Whatever gives you a release to dance like no one’s watching, do it, and then do it some more.
If you come up blank, chat with your friends and family who have known you for years. Don’t accept their initial answer; continue to ask them ‘and what else’ to get the feedback they may have been afraid to tell you. Give yourself a pep-talk before these conversations, and try not to be defensive. If your friends and family genuinely want to help you, what they say may be hard to hear. I found out that my family felt like they were walking on eggshells around my ex, and most of my friends didn’t like him. Of course, you will want to yell out, well, why didn’t you tell me that before, but ask yourself, would you have listened? I wouldn’t have. I needed to run through the screen door. I couldn’t let someone open it for me.
I wish you the best with your journey, and just in case you are wondering, I still dance on my cocktail table, although it’s an ottoman, so it looks a bit different.