She doesn’t want to be married to me. That’s the answer my ex-husband gave his mother when she asked, prior to our divorce, if we had a chance at reconciliation. The truth of it stung my ears. What kind of a bitch am I?, I wondered.
My own mother questioned me repeatedly about my decision to give up a loyal husband and charmed life.
All I can say is, inside I was clawing like a wild animal. I just couldn’t take it anymore. I couldn’t breathe. I felt trapped. I felt so wrong pretending I was content with my marriage, my roles as mother and wife and my day to day existence. I felt held back. Stifled. Like I was only catering to others’ expectations.
I wasn’t becoming who I was supposed to be.
Often the second half of life must balance the first half. It is as though we have worn out or become utterly bored with one way of being and have to try its opposite. The shy person sets out to become a stand-up comic. The person devoted to serving others gets burned out and wonders how he or she ever became so ‘co-dependent’.
— Dr. Elaine N. Aron, The Highly Sensitive Person
In my case, I felt I hadn’t had the chance to specialize in or fully develop ANY ways of being or natural preferences. My introversion had been largely suppressed (and was causing serious internal anxiety and distress). In my home, my two favorite mental processes — intuition and feeling — were bulldozed over in favor of concrete facts and logical thinking. My need for harmony and minimal conflict had me giving in or defending someone at every turn. I was exhausted from all of the accommodating.
I never felt independent or like an equal in my marriage. I felt my strengths were not valued. I felt inferior. I wanted to be be a loving wife but I couldn’t do it authentically in that relationship.
I had to escape.
I had a lot of learning and developing to do.
Eventually, a line was crossed. My personal values could not be quiet any longer. And I got louder. I got more extroverted.
I walked away in order to balance myself. In order to grow.
According to Jungian psychology, there are four stages of the mid-life transition:
1. Accommodation: In the first part of life we develop different personas (personae) to fit different situations. Our true preferences may be honored or we may accommodate others in order to fit in. A lot of energy may be expended if we spend most of our time going against our natural identities.
2. Separation:Where we start to question our personae. Is this what I am really like? There may be a feeling of uncertainty or lack of direction as an individual removes old masks and tries on new ways of being.
3. Reintegration:When the uncertainty lessens and a person becomes more comfortable with their own type. There will be greater harmony between what is portrayed on the outside and what is felt by the inner self. We may also be more accepting of others as they are.
4. Individuation: The final stage in which the conflicts within us are recognized and integrated in order to achieve balance. Bringing the unconscious into the conscious.This may mean developing aspects of preferences that are opposite to our natural ones. Examples: Meeting the demands of others while honoring our own needs. Acknowledging personal weaknesses while living up to our ideals.
Where we went wrong
My first recommendation to any couple contemplating divorce is to get objective. Start seeing your partner’s traits as the way they are hardwired, not as personal affronts to you. Notice each other’s differences but don’t resist them. Respect and value them.
It is also important to realize you are each capable of developing prowess in areas where you traditionally have been weak.
The only thing found in pigeon-holes is pigeon shit. — Ally Fogg
Instead of appreciating my ex-husband’s steadiness and skillful use of logic, I saw him as inflexible and shallow. I couldn’t relate to him and our emotional intimacy deteriorated. Instead of cheering him on when he attempted to express his feelings and show emotion, I saw him as inauthentic and trying too hard, or worse, l thought he was competing with me.
I had no idea he was going through the separation stage. I thought I was the only one changing.
Ego, ego, ego. Sigh…
We were both aching to expand but on different time-frames and different paths. We were so worn out from the tension between us we couldn’t honor our differences. We could only misunderstand and resent them. We could only put one foot in front of the other and get through the day.
If we each could have stepped back and served as side-line coaches for the other; encouraged the other to expand as needed without resentment or taking over, then perhaps disparity wouldn’t have thrived. But that was not the case in our marriage then.
So how are things now?
We will always be evolving, but now I let my introvert flag fly in extroverted ways and he is better at knowing when to fly his extrovert flag at half mast. I recognize and accept how my feelings rule my decision-making process often at the expense of a logical and appropriate response. He is more aware of how his preferences for analytical thinking and playing director affect the well-being of the sensitive people in his life.
No, my ex-husband and I are not getting back together. We hurt each other profoundly and permanently. But I believe we were catalysts for each other’s growth. I highly recommend a nurturing environment for growth versus a toxic one, but we work with what we are given. We have a different relationship now, one where we more readily accept each other as we are.
Are you in mid-life transition? Did you already go through it? Where are you in the individuation process?
If you enjoyed Mid-Life Crisis… then you may also like:
Mid-Life Transition (Myths-Dreams-Symbols)