Things have been challenging in our household to say the least. Lockdown isn’t helping but there have been issues for a while and when I look back, none of us can truly put our hands on our hearts and say we’ve been happy for a long time.

An incident between the kids, which had reverberating effects on our relationship hit our household a few weeks ago and it’s really helped clarify things:

  • The relationship we had isn’t the relationship I wanted.
  • My partner isn’t wholly who I thought he was.
  • If you give someone the tools to hurt you and they’re in pain themselves, they’ll use them.
  • What looks like the end isn’t necessarily the end.

Ok bear with me here. I’m not going to go into detail about most of those points but the bottom one is the pertinent one. After the incident between the kids we needed to make changes in our house which also meant changes in our relationship. I once said to my counsellor that a parent is only as happy as their unhappiest child and I stand by that. The distraction and helplessness that comes with attempting to deal with a child’s pain, whilst knowing only they can do it and they will be more resilient for it, is one of the worst parts of parenting. (Bedtime is the ultimate worst, followed by having to cook for them every damned day).

Abandoning the dream of the blended family we’d been trying to build was a massive weight off my shoulders. Suddenly all the drama that used to accompany everyday life had gone. Pretty much overnight. It was just me, the boys, the baby and my partner and life feels very simple. As with any change there was trauma. I believe the people most affected by the changes are me and my partner. We battled amongst ourselves, we battled each other and we hit a point that our relationship became toxic and there was nothing else to do but to leave it.

Leaving relationships is a pattern of mine. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not a flippant statement – I really do give the relationship everything I’ve got but when it reaches the stage where it’s seriously not working and I’ve got nothing left to give, it’s time to go. We had reached that stage. There was nothing else to give, nothing else to bring to the table and all that was left was a lot of pain which wasn’t going anywhere fast.

There was a difference this time though. I thought of how much I love my partner, all the good times we’ve had, the daughter we planned (and created) together and knew that I didn’t want to leave him, but I wanted to leave this toxic, has-been relationship as it had played itself out.

It was the first time in a period of very intense ill-feeling that I had some clarity. Having thought on it some more I sat him down that night and said: ‘this relationship has become toxic. I’ve chosen to leave it. However, in all of this I choose you. I want us to build a better relationship, one we do want to be in.’ It’s the first time I’ve ever been able to separate a person from the relationship, rather than seeing them almost as one and the same.

It led me to reflecting on how long term marriages survive the distance. My parents divorced when I was 3 and neither of my parents remarried until I was in my late 20s so there’s no influence there to look to. My own marriage lasted 5 years, the relationship, 8. When I realised I didn’t want *that* relationship with my partner anymore but I still wanted him it made me think that maybe the success of a long term relationship is that it’s actually built up of lots of smaller relationships. Everyone’s heard of the saying ‘you either grow together or you grow apart’, maybe this is what it means. Rather than having one long relationship, you have different relationships along the road according to who you are and what your life experience is at that time.

A few weeks ago my partner used the analogy ‘marriage is like a dance…… sometimes you’re dancing together, sometimes you’re dancing apart, sometimes the dance is slow, other times it’s fast. What’s important is not whether you’re dancing together or apart in that moment, it’s whether you’re both still in the room’.

These past few weeks it’s taken everything I’ve got, every ounce of willpower and courage, we may be dancing apart or even different dances right now but I am still in the room.