“If you leave the light on, then I’ll leave the light on.” – Maggie Rogers
I often hear this song by Maggie Rogers when I’m driving and listening to the radio, and there is something so moving about it. I’m not a big fan of divorce. Maybe it’s that I’ve experienced it first hand, as a child and as an adult, and my husband has experienced it as an adult. When we have had friends struggling in their relationship, especially with young kids, we’ve often counseled, just hold on a bit longer. Mind you, we’re happy where we are and with how things worked out, but I think we both see now that it isn’t always easier to leave.
As a therapist, I’d tell you to find a solid couples counselor and one that will aim to help you with your goals, particularly if it is to stay together. Also, one that views you, the couple, as their client, and refers each of you to individual therapists, if needed. In the moment, leaving seems easy; staying seems hard. Outside of an ongoing affair (with zero intentions of stopping), untreated substance abuse (with no desire to do so), untreated mental health concerns (with no desire to do so), or ongoing abuse of any kind, I think most things can be worked out, with time and patience. You started an investment – remember, the market goes up and down.
I do believe there is beauty in continuity, in shared history, shared humor, shared intimacy, shared experiences. This isn’t easy to find again once you leave it behind, and so you need to be certain you are ready to leave it behind and what the price tag might entail – less time with your children or pets, loss of in-laws, and that shared history I mentioned. Sure, Gwyneth and Chris consciously uncoupled and while I might shoot for that as an ideal with divorcing clients, it’s still not the norm.
What do I think is needed, aside from time and patience? The space to be heard – for both people. Life changes and so do people. We enter into a marriage as a certain person and we change with time – our needs, desires, ambitions – and as humans, in relationship with others, we have to stay open to that change. We promise this that day we marry that person. Stay open. Believe that forgiveness will come along. Leave a light on. Love generally comes back around if you let it.
When we contemplated getting married, both of us having been married before, my husband would ask my reasons for wanting to get married. Aside from my love for him and desire to create a family structure that included marriage as a framework, I told him that I believed in redemption, second chances. Sometimes we take those second chances with someone new, and sometimes we take them with the person we’re married to/partnered with right now. Take a chance.