An Amazing Thing Has Happened

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[Several amazing things have happened in my period of silence. I am excited to begin writing the story of my life and recovery again. While nothing has been posted here since February, a lot of living has taken place. I give thanks for the woman in my life. And I thank you, my readers, for your continued support and patience.]

She arrived in my life in January of this year.

In February of this year my life fell apart, due to my own emotional tides and I slipped into a depression. I did not see it coming. I was on top of the world, and boom, I was freaking the hell out. And then the most amazing thing happened. She stayed close and connected.

See, she had read this blog. She was aware of my emotional fragility and what I had written about the pain of my divorce. And she entered a relationship with me knowing these things about me. And then, even when the proverbial shit hit the fan, she leaned in rather than away from me. She recalibrated. We talked and examined what we were doing together. I talked about my depression and how it usually affected me. And again, she decided to stick around.

Now the weird thing about depression is when you are going through it, your world view gets rather myopic. You are so self-focused on what has gone, is going, and will go wrong in your life, that you miss the fact that there are a lot of people around you who are being affected by your emotional flatline. As I was questioning my life focus and my reason for being alive, I had this other person, this new person, who was also experiencing my depression with me. She might have been a bit afraid or sad that the shining prince had fallen ill. She might have run away or given reasons for “things not working out.”

She didn’t, she stayed.

When she asked what she could do for me, I said plainly, “Just be here. Stay close. Touch me.”

She did. She still is.

In my marriage, I went through a number of spills and thrills. And while she did an amazing job at staying married to me, and remaining a committed and resourceful mother, she didn’t really have much emotional comfort to offer me. I’m sure she was scared to death. Her breadwinner, and husband, now-father, had fallen ill and it was with something that couldn’t be measured very well, or medicated very well, or planned for or predicted. Though I couldn’t understand it at the time, due to my myopic narcissism, I can now see how difficult her road was with me. I honor the fantastic work she did as a parent to our two children and in keeping our boat afloat during some emotionally wracking times.

But my then wife wasn’t really all that emotionally available. Even when things were good she didn’t really express a lot of emotion. She was much more logical and calculated. We had a good mix together when things were good, emotional and logical. But when things got sparse or challenging, we often went to our respective corners and sulked.

I didn’t know about Love Languages at that time. We tried a lot of soul-searching. We did therapy together and by ourselves. We worked at it. I DO absolutely believe that she gave it everything she had. In the end, however, things became overwhelming for her, to the point of wanting to leave the marriage and pull the family apart. I still remember being at the last couple’s therapy session and us both stating our final assessment of the situation. We were ending our therapy and saying our goodbyes to our therapist and giving in to the dissolution of our marriage.

My then wife said she did not see things improving. She felt it was better that we divorce. I said, how I really felt we were at a launching point in our relationship and that we had been given this crisis as a way to express and work through all the things that had fallen apart in our marriage. I wanted to continue. She did not.

I learned that one person cannot keep a marriage together no matter how hard they try or how much they want to keep the family together. I was in agreement that things could not continue as they had been. But I was also convinced that she was still the woman I was in love with, and the marriage was stronger than our current complaints or disagreements.

But, of course, I couldn’t make her want to work it out with me.

Okay, so it wasn’t all about depression and emotional availability. We both worked hard at being in the relationship and being good parents to our two children. But along the way we fell into unhealthy coping mechanisms that drove us apart rather than together.

Today, I can say, I have been seen at my worst, by this new woman, and she has embraced me through it. And as I was thrashing in my own bile, I gained a perspective at some point that went like this. “What about her experience of this mess? She’s going through this too. I have to give some credence to her strength and love for me and step up, even for today (if that’s the best I can manage), to support her experience of this relationship and our time together.”

For a moment I was able to get out of my own self-pity and self-destruction and say, “Wait, what about her experience?”

It was a bit of zen moment. To be so deep in a depression that everything in the world seems dark, and yet to rise above it and try and take her wants and desires into consideration. It was like an out of body experience. I looked down at my sad self and at her happy (maybe shaken) self and asked, “What does she want this relationship to look like? What about *her* experience of happiness at this moment?”

And it was indeed this little fulcrum that allowed me to crack the black heavy cloak that was shrouding out all light. And adding into the equation our deep physical bond and commitment to staying close. And as I gave back to her, tried to stay open and communicative, she showed me she was not afraid. And by staying close, she affirmed her own words, “I’m going to stick around.”

I am not 100% back, but I have an ally and a lover who can take me in ON and OFF mode. What a blessing she is.

To be continued… (grin)

John McElhenney
@wholeparent

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4 thoughts on “An Amazing Thing Has Happened

  1. Welcome almost back. I know where you are. I’m not back, I’m away, but I’ll be back. Good to see how you were loved and supported. My husband left in January, I relapsed to a certain extent dealing with it and have been on GMP since then blogging about it. So, nice to meet you and happy for you.

  2. Beautiful piece John. So much of what you’re working through here is occurring in many of our lives and your eloquent sketch of this experience inspires me to move forward. Thank you for being open to share and grow with us watching. Bravo brother. See you on the path. Glad GMP has brought us together.

  3. John, Depression can wreck our relationships or cause us to dig deeper and find the love that can connect us even when we can’t love ourselves. Thanks for sharing your journey.

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