I knew my marriage was falling apart years before we split. Yet I kept telling myself a million things that would somehow justify the reasons why I should stay. Among the many variations of denial, the main one dealt with time and time investment.
“I have put too much time into this marriage for it to end.”
“I have sacrificed way too much and invested way too much time into this relationship. I’m not just going to walk away from it.”
You may have told yourself the same. But viewing an unhealthy and unhappy marriage as a time investment, serves no purpose but to prolong your suffering. If you are doing the same, embrace these five lessons so you can move on with your life
- Quit thinking that your marriage is some sort investment. It’s not.
The time you have put into your marriage is not a non-refundable down payment, so why on earth are you treating it like one? Sure, you may have some good memories of happier times, when the months and years invested together were a great thing. But what happens once the marriage unravels and you are no longer in a healthy and happy place? What good does it to do to invoke those years spent as a justification to stay in a relationship, especially when the relationship both partners are no longer invested in it? We tell ourselves that it’s for the best to “stick it out,” but at what cost to your mental health?
- Your life and happiness are not subject to negotiation.
Your life is not a commodity subject, and treating it as such will only hurt you. Unless you are practicing the piano or an Olympic athlete, erase the idea that time put into something (even a marriage) = a guaranteed return. You deserve better than quantifying your worth like that.
- Married years have given you knowledge and experience, but that time owes you nothing.
During the time you were married, you most likely learned about relationships, families, and yourself. Be grateful for those lessons, but do not attempt to use them as a bargaining tool to remain in a marriage that is no longer sustainable. Doing so denies you the opportunity to move forward with your life. While it is important to acknowledge the good times (and bad) where you grew and learned during marriage, you must be cautious of selective memory. The years spent collecting those good and not-so-good memories are not collateral and an excuse to remain in a marriage that is no longer working. You may have been married for 20, 30, or even 40 years, making many sacrifices for the family unit. You may think that you are owed something because of those years and those sacrifices. But to treat those sacrifices and unhappy years as a bargaining tool, thinking it entitles you to happiness, gets you nowhere.
- It’s okay to feel scared.
Many of us in decades-long marriages may think we need to stay in these union because we simply don’t know who to start over, or we think we’re too “old” to be on our own again. So, we continue to be in something that makes us miserable, because at least we’re comfortable. But recognize that fear is normal–it’s what makes us human. Moving on when you’re older can be scary because it disrupts the plans you had for your life. You may think that “starting over”–whatever that means–is impossible because you think you are too old, too financially unstable, or too much of an emotional wreck to do so.
Those excuses are simply not true. You must recognize that you are smarter, more adaptable, and more resilient than you can even imagine.
- Remember that marriage—and your life–is not a vending machine.
Think about it–when you’re at a vending machine, putting in a certain amount of money usually guarantees a certain item in return. But in a marriage and in life, putting in time does not mean you are necessarily guaranteed security or happiness. But you can find those things on your own, no matter what stage you are in life. It’s okay to move on, okay to start over, and okay to find happiness on your own terms.
As you continue to move forward with your life, you are given a choice. The next years can be the best ones of your life if you choose to invest time in your own happiness. Or, the years can be difficult if you choose to spend them angry or bitter. However, you can be destined for greatness and the opportunity to move on and become stronger, more compassionate, and a happier person. And putting your energy into that happiness is time well spent.