How and why did a 15-year marriage fail?
Asking myself the hard questions is a practice that I’m far from perfecting. This is one of those questions I implore myself to answer. Others are asking, wondering. I’m not unaware of that. A few folks have even suggested that they possess the answer as well. But allow me to stop you before you wear yourself ragged trying to solve this riddle, because I am about to enlighten you…
First, let me emphasize that even asking myself this question sucked. It entailed actually admitting that I was one half of a partnership that failed. It required admitting my own mistakes and weaknesses, taking a thorough look at myself and my ex, taking responsibility for the wrong turns I took. But that does not make ME a failure or disqualify me from God’s grace.
So how did everything unravel? Why did we close up shop after 15 years? Was it because of Ironman? Blaming Ironman, triathlon and racing would be convenient. And while it certainly has the potential to stress any relationship, requiring financial and physical tolls be paid, and demanding copious amounts of training time, Ironman is not the culprit. But triathlon did raise some red flags that I disregarded until we were too far gone.
Was it because you did everything together? This one is pretty subjective. What amount of time per day and week, and what percent of common activities would qualify as “everything” together?! Depending on an individual’s personality, you may actually thrive in a relationship where you “do everything” together. Or it may send you punching your ticket to crazy town!
So while there was a season when my ex and I lived together, worked together, had a triathlon team together and trained together in our free time, that is also not a sufficient reason. But you’re getting warmer…
Was it because you are both so different? Well, anyone who buys into the notion that opposites attract will adamantly dispute this one. And this one is also subjective. In many ways my ex and I were opposites. In all honesty, I don’t think that worked for or against us. If you get clear on who you are, and what you are after, and what you value, and who you are striving to become, and join forces with someone who compliments this and challenges you to grow into that life… and you offer them the same support, then it’s possible for a neat freak and a slob to have a healthy, passionate union! It’s also possible for two extroverts to fall and remain madly in love!
So at this point you are still scratching your head, because I really haven’t delivered a simple answer, all wrapped up neatly and presented to you in one sentence. Well if I’ve learned anything from the support group I attend weekly, it’s that every individual and situation is unique. (Shameless plug for support groups here: If you have experienced significant loss or struggle in your life, be it a death, an injury, illness, addiction, losing a job or a pet or anything that breaks your heart, support groups can literally save your life, and guide you through the healing process).
There is no one-size-fits-all in love or life, sorry. Somedays I am confident that I could live in an RV for six months with someone I love, doing something we are both passionate about. Other days I am convinced that if I’m in a healthy relationship with a man I trust and love, I would be just as content if there were weeks and weekends when we were apart pursuing our very different passions, so long as we unconditionally believed in the other, and distance didn’t change that. That passion could be Ironman, or golf, or touring with your band, or volunteering at the animal shelter. It could be something you pursue in your free time, be your career, or be your whole life!
Therein lies the answer to the burning question: Passion. Purpose. Those activities and beliefs and talents that define us and give our souls life, and life abundant! The damage that ensues when we forsake our passion and purpose can creep up on you, and then pull the carpet out from beneath your heart.
When I first got married, God and I were pretty clear on who I was and what mattered to me. But ever so slowly, I began choosing what was comfortable and safe, or what I thought would make others happy, make my (ex) husband love me, over my passions and purpose. As a result of those choices, I lost that radiant girl I once was, and found myself in what appeared to be a rough patch in my marriage, despite having a husband who trained for marathons with me, and carpooled with me to work. I settled into a lackluster rhythm, burying those desires to change the world and chase stories. Until I qualified for the Boston marathon…
And not just any Boston, but the very year after the bombings. My (now) ex did not qualify, which would mean that for the first time in years I would commit to a pursuit that we did not share. Despite that, I went for it. The very thought of not just running Boston, but being part of taking back that finish line alongside thousands of brave athletes made me feel beyond alive – It made my soul feel that it could fly to the moon, or walk on water!
As I got ever closer to race day, and to that Boston finish line, the cloud lifted, my soul shined brighter, and I remembered who I was! A runner, a writer, a world changer! I met so many kindred spirits, and courageous souls the day I ran 26.2 miles through the streets of Boston. And I realized that God made me for SO MUCH MORE then I could even fathom!
I acknowledged that life is too short not to go for it. So I became THE GIRL WHO WENT FOR IT! And the more I went for it, the more doors opened. I landed a part-time gig writing blogs for Waterfi. I flew to Houston to represent More Than Sport at Ironman Texas, where I organized a medal drive, and joined other athletes in bringing those Ironman Finisher medals (including my own) to children being treated at the Texas Children’s Cancer Center. And I helped my team raise money to build a well in a third world village along my way to running the Ventura marathon… on September 11th, 2016.
But during this season of self-discovery, my heart was torn. I wanted my (ex) husband to discover who God made him to be, and what brings him life as well. But he had no intention of doing the hard work or getting outside his comfort zone… and I was torn between remaining by his side in that prison he trapped himself in, or flying off to pursue my passions and purpose in hopes that this would inspire him to do the same!
It made me sick, it kept me up at night, it was killing me slowly. The day he moved out was the day he kicked me out of that prison for good. I was heartbroken, but torn no longer…
So… can you be in a relationship where you have different passions? Certainly, if your soulmate loves you for who you are, while challenging you to live up to your potential, and you do the same for them! Can you have the same job, mission, hobby, etc.? Absolutely, if it’s something you both love, something that brings you both life! But the minute you choose to turn your back on your passions or refuse to seek your purpose, you risk taking your relationship down a dangerous path. One or both people are on their way to losing themselves or imprisoning the other.
If you have the courage to step out of your comfort zone though, and risk it all to discover who God made you to be, you might just be able to spend every blessed second together, or only see each other once a week. The point is that you have to put in the effort to uncover what brings you life, what your unique gifts are, and then actually share those gifts with the world… And that? That is the greatest gift you can give to anyone you love.