Single Mom: Honesty is the Best Policy
Being unhappily married made me a liar.
We teach honesty and “be true to thine self.” We even punish our kids for lying and yet so many people lie through their teeth every single day about the state of their marriage.
I lied to my friends about how bad things were. How unhappy I was.
I lied to my kids when they’d catch me crying because I couldn’t tell them the real reason.
But worst of all, I lied to myself.
I know we all do things to survive in our situations, to make the best of them no matter how awful they are because that’s what many of us have to do. Not just in our marriages but in our lives.
I’m a child of a raging alcoholic. I know about surviving.
But like childbirth and breastfeeding and all the myriad other experiences we have as parents, some of us have more fortitude, a stronger will, a type-A personality that interferes with us making a decision based on our own mental health. We associate perseverance and endurance as something noble because that’s what we’ve somehow been told.
Self-sacrifice gives you the key to the city, the direct line to admiration and deference from, well, who gives a crap? Complete strangers? Your own parents? People in your life who don’t really know one bit about what you’re going through?
But you can’t survive on admiration. You can’t feed your soul, at least for very long, with the kudos from other people.
I’ve long said there’s no “You breastfed for 2 years! YEAH!” prize, no “Hell-No Epidural” reward, and there’s certainly no “Congrats! You made it through a lifetime-long crappy marriage!” award for you to win.
And so you feed yourself with a line of crap, some of which you may have come up with on your very own and some of which may have been formulated for you from hundreds of years of stupid research studies and societal norms:
The kids will be better of if we stay together.
My happiness isn’t important.
I’ll never find love again.
It’s not really that bad.
The real truth: Your own happiness is the blue ribbon here, which yes, encompasses the happiness of your children that’s by the way strongly affected on the positive side by your own happiness, lest you think your misery is what will get them into an Ivy League school or something.
But the promise land of happiness isn’t often enough for people to take the steps that they need to get out of their bad marriage.
Of course, if I knew what that “it” was, I would tell you. And then make millions of dollars off of it.
From what I’ve experienced and observed, there’s something that will flip your switch and turn your light on, revealing things for how they are and how they could be.
My switch was flipped by the combined power of an upfront therapist who very frankly laid things on the line for me, and a friend who was in a similar situation and bravely flipped her own switch then soon after found love and happiness.
Suddenly, I saw my current situation with more clarity, as well as my worries, and most importantly, my future. I saw the impossible as possible. I saw that my fears were really strengths. And I finally allowed myself to place a high value my own mental health, well-being, and yes, my happiness.
There’s no magic formula for knowing if you should stay or if (or when) you should leave. But the simple “honesty is the best policy” is a very good place to start.Published July 17, 2014. Last updated July 17, 2014.