Priscilla and Gary meet through friends at a summer party. They can’t stop laughing and flirting with each other. Priscilla loves people who make her laugh. Gary loves people who smile. They seem to have plenty in common. They decide to go out on a date, then made it two, three and counting.
Following a year of fun and laughs Priscilla and Gary talk about marriage. They enjoy each other’s company and their families embrace the couple. A big wedding ensues, and the couple begins their lives in their happily ever after. They love spending time with friends and family as well as sightseeing around the world. It is great fun to practice love this way.
Priscilla and Gary have jobs that involve travel and long office hours. By day’s end, they are tired but happy to be together. Weekends speed by with all of their social activities. Occasionally Priscilla and Gary encounter a bump in the relationship then find a way to resolve the struggle and work things out. Priscilla notices, however, that Gary likes to harbor their struggles and brings up the past as a way to “win the fight.”
Sometimes Gary flips off the handle when Priscilla’s mom gives them advice. Priscilla’s mother has good intentions and wants what’s best. Priscilla is mostly oblivious to her mother’s messages. Gary’s perspective is different. He rants for hours about his mother-in-law’s “meddling behavior” at a recent gathering and says she should leave them alone.
Although his comments are hurtful, Priscilla ignores Gary’s comments and considers them part of family dynamics. Priscilla doesn’t want to make waves with her family. She dismisses his troubling behaviors as problematic.
Love Changes Gears
Gary loses his job during COVID which means half of the household income is gone. Priscilla has to do whatever it takes to keep her job and the house financially afloat. Priscilla’s work hours increase. Gary falls into a helpless mindset with each job rejection.
While it saddens Priscilla to see Gary so down and out, she is mad that he doesn’t contribute to house chores or take showers. Priscilla is repelled by his lack of hygiene and refuses to sleep with or next to Gary. Physical contact fades away.REDEFINING LOVE
Gary has changed and Priscilla doesn’t know how to help someone who doesn’t help himself. Although friends try to set him up with job leads, Gary is not motivated. Soon his friends tire of his negativity. The laughs have stopped along with the smiles. On weekends they are stuck in the house.
The couple know they need outside support, but therapists’ schedules are backed up for weeks. Priscilla speaks to her mother for guidance yet receives little insight. Her mother constantly judges Gary and sees nothing good about him. Gary starts to believe that all he needs is to find the right job and everything in the marriage will fall into place – just like it once was.
The couple cannot figure out what happened to their love. Priscilla can’t compete with Gary’s anxiety and depression. Gary cannot compete with Priscilla’s anger and rejection. Conflict, confusion and chaos reign. Gary starts smoking marijuana to calm his nerves. Priscilla cries herself to sleep. The marriage is facing an imminent breakdown.
Priscilla contacts a Wellness Coach to gain clarity and perspective. She wants to do something to help herself and to help Gary. In a safe space she lets out a big secret: She wants a divorce. Priscilla loves Gary deep inside, but not the person he is today. Priscilla feels incredible worry and guilt at the thought of leaving Gary since he is jobless and under duress. At the same time she can’t come up with a loving reason to stay in the marriage and spend another holiday season feeling blue.
When Love Looks Different
It’s been years since Priscilla identified what she values in her life. Today she takes a new inventory of what matters to her. Coach points out that her values are both positive and negative, depending on the situations.
If Gary acts in a positive manner, how does she respond? Suspiciously? Cynically? Judgment ally? Or does she celebrate this happy moment with him? Her negative default button says a lot about her values.
Priscilla understands that complaining about Gary isn’t the answer. Neither is wishing he could be someone else. She longs to practice love, but how and with whom?
After a few coaching sessions, Priscilla sits with Gary and calmly talks to him about a separation. Gary acts dejected and shocked. He thinks Priscilla is way out of line and begins to scream and yell. During his meltdown Gary tells Priscilla that she is selfish and heartless.
How dare she walk away from their marriage when he has nothing left in his life but her?
Gary chooses silence and physical distance to isolate himself. Priscilla drives to the lake to gather her conflicting thoughts and mend her grieving heart. Coach asks Priscilla to journal a response to the question: “What does my love for Gary look like today?”
I hope one day the holes in our hearts seal up, and we’ll be able to experience a new love — a love that moves us past the heartache. To love you in this new way I can no longer yearn for the good old times. The fantasy of returning to a healthy relationship is over. Today loving you means I offer you compassion and forgiveness. I love you enough to want the best for each of us.
A New Love
Priscilla and Gary proceed with a divorce after several months of mutual silencing and distancing. Gary holds a grudge and bitterly blames Priscilla for his unhappiness. Priscilla chooses to walk away from petty accusations and to practice self-love in three ways.
- Self-forgiveness. Priscilla leans on family and close friends whenever she turns on herself and assumes fault for their dissolved marriage. They remind her that things could have been done differently, but it is futile to predict outcomes. Instead of blaming herself Priscilla spends time healing and discovering new aspects about herself.
Another way to reset the heart involves breathwork and singing. The voice needs concentrated effort to resume its energy. While married, Priscilla prefers the awkward silence over yelling at Gary. She withholds her words and it gradually leads to difficulty in breathing. Priscilla literally and metaphorically has no breathing room. These two exercises ensure she is reclaiming her voice and breath and expressing herself with strength.
Priscilla didn’t fail at the marriage. Priscilla didn’t lack something to make the marriage work. Priscilla didn’t do anything wrong when she chose to leave Gary. The form of love they practiced together no longer works in a way that generates energy.
The pain of being together consumed their mutual energy to the point of breakdown, distress and exhaustion. Nothing they might say or do allows them any longer to peacefully co-exist. With each passing day Priscilla recognizes she feels better and more courageous. Pain is beginning to fade. She accepts her love for Gary will always occupy a space in her heart, and that she will learn to live with this newly formed love.
Fueling her heart is Priscilla’s top priority. Every day she asks her heart what she can do to make it better. Some days it’s as simple as breathing, setting an intention and sitting in silence. Other days it’s about moving her body with exercise. Coach asks Priscilla to keep a running list of these heart-centered activities to better understand how her heart works for her.
Priscilla meets on Sundays with an online group of women interested in empowering their hearts using humor. They discuss the funny things they experience during the week. Priscilla finds herself belly-laughing to the point of tears. It’s a great way to end the week.
Priscilla’s slow recovery from her marriage is heading in the right direction. With the encouragement of Coach, family and friends she commits to a new love for herself and Gary. Priscilla blesses her time spent with Gary and wishes him well. She witnesses her personal growth from a place of respect, humility and kindness. The potential to redefine love for herself and others is an exciting opportunity.HOW TO CHANGE