“Giving up on your marriage”. It’s a phrase my friend said recently that hit me the wrong way. I took offense to it, and felt it like a punch to the gut. Because I have walked away from a toxic marriage. And I fought for that unhealthy marriage so hard. I drowned for that marriage. I loved everything more than I loved myself. I stood up for everything more than I stood up for myself. And when my husband treated me like I was disposable, I stayed. Simply so I wouldn’t be “giving up”. So people wouldn’t tell me I gave up. But after giving it some thought, giving up is ok. It doesn’t always have a negative connotation, and why should it? We give up things that are terrible for us. We give up smoking, drinking, and drugs. We give up things that hurt us, even though sometimes they make us feel good. We give up things, and it’s sometimes the hardest thing we ever do for ourselves. Have you ever seen a person going through withdrawals? I have. I’ve watched them writhing in pain, feeling like they couldn’t breathe. Like their soul was being sucked out of their body. How could something as powerful as love afford any less pain?
As a society, we praise people for giving up toxic things. But when a marriage ends, it’s usually the woman who is blamed for giving up, and then suddenly, giving up something that was hurting you is so flagrantly frowned upon. How is it 2020 and women are still failures when a marriage ends, but for men, it happens? This is a system where a woman is overbearing and shamed if she initiates her own destiny, by being the one to ask the man out, to the dance, to be her valentine, to be exclusive, to marry her. Women should wait silently, by society’s standards, for all of this to happen to her. And when the marriage makes her miserable, when he cheats, when he treats her like she is disposable, then she must fight. And if she doesn’t, she is “giving up”.
So much of this stems from the severely outdated idea that marriage is an achievement. That women are successful only when they are married and have children. But marriage is not a fucking achievement. Let’s have huge receptions for college graduations and major promotions, and starting a business. Because those are all major achievements. Marriage is a choice that two people make, and the purpose of it is to make your life better. But if you’re a worse person when you are with your spouse, when you are sad and miserable and defensive, and you have fought and sunk, and are tired of being unhappy, you are no longer achieving anything. You are wasting your short life doggy paddling as hard as you can when there is likely no shore ahead. That’s not to say there aren’t major ups and downs in a marriage, because there are. But if someone has shown you that you don’t matter, then it’s time to matter to yourself.
If you decide to stay in a marriage that is terrible, and you come out years later happy and fulfilled, then I am truly happy for you. Sometimes that works out; you give and give and give some more and eventually, it works out. And sometimes it doesn’t and it never will. It’s a move measured by blind faith and how much life you are willing to sacrifice for it. But the brain finds comfort in familiarity, and in my opinion, becoming numb and letting life happen to you isn’t much of an achievement. Waiting around isn’t the hard part, standing up is the hard part. We stand up for the things that are most important to us, and when we consider ourselves that important, then we begin demanding the life we deserve.