In 2020, my major crisis wasn’t the virus, the tornado that damaged my kid’s school, or even the suicide bombing that occurred just a few miles from my house. It was the collapse of my marriage.
Friends have asked me if I thought our relationship would have survived if there wasn’t a pandemic. I don’t know. Maybe. Maybe the rhythm of work, school, and our kid’s extracurricular activities would have swept us along, and we wouldn’t have stared at each other’s faults for days on end.
But our marriage began to dismantle years ago. Like many couples, we went through a trying time where our vows were put to the test. But our young kids’ wellbeing outweighed the grievances, so we toughed it out and stayed together.
Still, I was hurt. Really hurt. But I had to figure out how to stay in the relationship without being devoured by anger, which was foreign to me. Throughout my life, I’ve always cut the cord — I never stayed friends with ex-lovers. I’ve walked away from lifelong friendships. I have close relatives who’ve been dead to me for over twenty years.
So that left me grappling with forgiveness. But what is it anyway? The experts say forgiveness is a choice to reject resentment so you can be free of corrosive anger. Forgiveness doesn’t condone the behavior. And it doesn’t mean you forget.
But to practice it in a way that leads to a complete reconciliation between two people is a lot to ask. It’s like — hey, I was unprepared for this, but I’m going to do this deeply personal work so we — and especially I — can have some peace. Seems unfair to lay that burden on the one who was hurt, but there’s no other choice. Not if you want to feel alive.
Unfortunately, the decision to forgive is not a one and done. Resentment can bubble up when you least expect it — especially when you remain in the relationship. For me, forgiveness felt like climbing a wobbly ladder that occasionally pitched me to the floor.
Thankfully, the continual choice to seek peace helps to rewrite the internal narrative — I will not be destroyed by this. I will come out stronger, better, wiser. The ache heals, and life goes on.
However, the scar tissue can weaken your tolerance for future struggles. And when life is rearranged by a global crisis, and you're bumping up against each other day in and day out, it’s easy to become exhausted. Eroded. Done.
This was a dangerous place. I found myself standing in the rubble of my marriage, realizing the pieces weren’t worth picking up anymore.
And at this point, I really had no choice. I had to forgive myself.