I find myself in the peculiar position of dating my own husband, who is living separately in an apartment across town. I’ve said it before—we are not having any kind of a “typical” divorce. I’m sure that’s been at least a little bit evident, from that first announcement we put out on Facebook and my continued blog posts.
But in the four months since this started, things have morphed and changed as we’ve talked and worked hard on issues that have come up. We’ve had more deeply honest communication, more openness and more tenderness than we’ve had in ages. There’s been self-examination by both of us, a commitment to personal growth, and a willingness to live in a place of uncertainty. And, perhaps ironically, separation.
In light of Our Strange Journey, Bob and I have come up with an “elevator speech.” As long-time Unitarian Universalists, the concept of having an elevator speech is a handy tool, a succinct and clear way to explain our uncommon religion to those who give us a blank stare when we mention it. For us, there have been so many questions lately about what the heck is going on with our relationship, and instead of long rambly answers, this will sum it up. (Granted, we don’t owe anyone explanations on this private matter, but especially for those in our local sphere, and also friends elsewhere, it will help clear up confusion.)
Divorce Lesson #8– The Elevator Speech
Here’s what we came up with:
“We are separating because we are co-dependent, and we are dating because we still love each other.”
We are separating because we are co-dependent… Co-dependent is common vernacular these days, but for anyone who needs a refresher, it means allowing another person’s behavior and feelings to affect oneself dramatically, and becoming obsessed with controlling a situation or another person’s behaviors.
Both Bob and I realize that our communication patterns and ways of relating to each other have gotten skewed over the years, for many reasons. Patterns like this can become entrenched, and then it’s hard to even be aware that you are operating in this unhealthy way. Bob saw it first, how unhealthy it had become for both of us, and we were staying stuck in many areas of our lives. For me, I realize now that I had trouble expressing certain emotions or being up front with him about certain topics. And I’ve been stuck in areas of my life that weren’t making me happy—my weight and health, my writing, self-confidence, my job search, to name a few. Bob has often told me that his co-dependence made it hard for him to be in touch with his feelings because he was overly in touch with mine.
This separation is giving us both some space to work on ourselves. Having that space between us isn’t very easy—it’s painful tearing apart old patterns, habits and routines. But we weren’t able to make much progress living together. We are working on a new way of being, called “differentiation.” I thank my current therapist for enlightening me about this new-for-me concept. In short, differentiation is the process of holding onto your unique self in a relationship—your feelings, your perceptions, your essence—without enmeshing yourself into your partner’s self. It’s allowing the other to have their feelings, while you learn to self-soothe to maintain your own sense of self. It makes a relationship stronger while maintaining personal integrity.
I’ve been doing a lot of reading on differentiation and I’m so excited about it that I’ll be blogging more about it in the near future. It’s such a helpful concept and I’m amazed I haven’t come across it before.
We are dating because we still love each other… Love has never been a question between Bob and I (which is why his sudden announcement to me came as such a shock). We’re best friends, we know each other better than anyone does, and the love is deep. It’s sad that this separation needs to happen to help us get healthier. But one thing we re-discovered through this whole upheaval is that we really do want to and enjoy spending time with each other. Our communications have changed and become more honest and introspective. And so we’ve decided that at this stage of the game, we’re dating again.
Honestly, it’s odd to be dating. When you’re with someone for 26 years, all sorts of habits and patterns and routines create this illusion of safety. It’s easy to take the other for granted. Now we have pulled ourselves away from all that– we are back to having to ask each other for time, for help, for a date, to talk. I’d forgotten how vulnerable all this is. When you ask for something, the answer might be no, and that doesn’t mean you should take it personally. It’s like having to walk on bumpy, unstable ground after decades of walking on flat rock. It’s a bit scary… but it’s also refreshing, and even exciting.
All in all, we don’t know how this will all play out for us. There are many possibilities. I must haul out once again my favorite Deepak Chopra quote on Embracing Uncertainty, which comforts me—
“I will allow myself and those around me the freedom to be as they are. I will not rigidly impose my idea of how things should be. I will not force solutions on problems, thereby creating new problems…I will step into the field of all possibilities and anticipate the excitement that can occur when I remain open to an infinity of choices. When I step into the field of all possibilities, I will experience all the fun, adventure, magic and mystery of life.”
That’s all I know for today—what we’re doing now, what our intentions are, and how we are both committed to personal growth to rid ourselves of unhealthy patterns and habits. Individually and together, we are a work in progress.
Hopefully, this will lessen the confusion for locals who see us out and about. We are an experiment happening before your very eyes. Stay tuned!
*All photos courtesy of me. 🙂