What if…

Such a common thought, for most of us at some point in time…”what if?”

I’ve had too many to count of these unsettling commentaries running through my mind over the past year or two. If I’m honest, I’ve had that commentary running through my mind for years, always looking for the hidden answer, the deeper meaning or secret message.

Like a game show, I always wonder ‘what was behind door number three?’ What did I miss?

The internal conversations of “what if” range from small scenarios, maybe tiny bits of conversations that went wrong, or smaller actions that became something bigger and harder to live with than I had ever imagined or expected.

What if I had done it differently? What if I had said yes instead of no this time?

When the idea of getting divorced was first brought up, said out loud in an almost business like way as a solution to our stalemate, it seemed surreal. The room seemed to get bigger and I felt smaller, quieter, my brain was filled with cotton dulling the sounds and senses of it all. I was numb. It felt as if it wasn’t really happening to us, I was just witnessing a movie or a scene from a play from another seat, in another room.

Maybe it was all a dream? Or a nightmare?

It didn’t seem like something we would really do, considering our level-headed decision making history. We had done so much together over the last twenty five years, experiences that challenged us beyond our imaginations sometimes, and still managed to stick it out to figure out solutions together, as a partnership. This was just an idea, right? It was a test for both of us, a game of chicken really, wasn’t it? Was it really so broken that we couldn’t fix it this time? Were we really that far apart in our goals and future plans?

Shouldn’t someone say something, back pedal, stop us from doing this? But nobody did.

Once the big decision had been made, agreed upon in theory, my mind began to spiral around the events that lead us here. The most current events, not the long list of small slights and disappointments that built up our resistance to one another over the years, like bricks building a wall.

That’s when a new set of “what ifs” began.

What if… I had just agreed to make the move for his new job? All that I had researched about the new location – the housing, the schools, the neighborhoods – proving to me that it was not the right fit for us as a family, put in a box in the corner of my mind, ignoring the deep gut feelings that I had about how our kids would (or wouldn’t) adjust to another move because the timing was completely wrong for all of them.

What if… I had disregarded the disappointment and hurt that would come from my extended family to find us moving away again? What if I had just thrown it all to the wind, blindly trusted, and jumped in with both feet?

What if… I didn’t think about anyone else, not even myself, and just did it?

What if… I had done what I had always done in the past, just trusted that it would all work out for the best, for all of us? What if I had just chosen our marriage, our partnership, over the perceived well-being and happiness of our entire family? Would it have saved our marriage? Would we be blissfully happy in our new location, glad that I was talked into it, with everyone seemingly well-adjusted by now?

What if… I was wrong about my theories, my research, my fears?

Did I put too much stock into some of the reasons not to go, some of it just fear of another change, did I devalue the importance and weight of our marriage?

What if… after that ugly night, when he told me all of the things he hated and disliked about me, I had gone to him and tried to “fix it”? What if I had told him that I would try harder to be a better partner, to be the kind of wife he wanted and deserved, and I would do whatever it would take to keep us together. Even if that meant moving.

What if… I had accepted his offer that we could continue “doing this” for twenty more years? No apology offered, no excuse for his ugly rant tearing me apart, just accept it as our way of life and love and moved forward to the finish line.

What if… I put it out of my mind and pretended that it didn’t really happen?

What if… I had accepted his now obvious peace offering on Christmas day, a trendy designer workout bag and matching top, as an unspoken apology and just moved on? What if I had continued to shop for a Christmas gift for him even while hurting, and gave him a similar fence mending gift?

Would that have been enough to stitch us back together? Would we just pretend that he hadn’t said any of those hurtful things, and just kissed a bittersweet thank you on Christmas day to move past it all, both of us accepting it as one bad night brought on by stress, travel and work.

Would he have continued to commute for us, his family, as a peace offering until we were ready to move?

What if… I had told him from the beginning, from the earliest days of our slowly growing apart, exactly how I felt when he treated me like I didn’t count? What if he had told me how disappointed he was with me and my apparent shortcomings then?

What if… we had figured out how to really communicate with each other years ago? Would we have stayed married this long because we could work things out and understand one another, or would we have divorced years ago realizing that we weren’t really right for each other?

Maybe we would have come to the conclusion that we had different expectations of marriage earlier on, and acted upon it, before we spent twenty years trying to hold it together.

What if… we had just broken up at the end of that first summer or first year?

We never would have gotten here, to this ugly place of broken dreams and unfulfilled promises, and maybe we both would have had happier marriages with other people? Maybe we would have taken completely different paths that made us each happier, and feeling more secure, more fulfilled, more loved. Maybe not.

But, what if…?

 

 

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8 thoughts on “What if…

  1. This post is a really powerful post. I have never been married, but as I am 34 years old, I have already had to resign from a few former dreams, to let friendships go and to make decisions with their long-term results.
    Everbody has these what if moments, maybe not related to divorce, but to family/carrier/friends/lifegoals, and this appearing self-loathing is painful.
    In my life (only 34 years though) my former decisions have mostly turned out to be the right ones, although sometimes after years of self-loathing.
    The problem with this scenarios is that we are not able to answer them properly, so many unknown factors would have influenced them. We can not imagine the whole alternative reality with the new teachers, neighbours, colleagues, state of mind and arguments.
    I would have had to stop this self-loathing at the beginning but it seemed impossible then.

    Liked by 2 people

    • I have to agree with your insight that we never really know the right answer at the time that we are deciding, there are too many unknowns to consider. And every unknown has multiple facets that lead down more possible paths like branches of a tree splitting off – that’s an equation that I will never be able to wrap my mind around! I’m not sure if I consider it self-loathing as much as I think of it as second guessing my choices once it begins to unfold, or seen in the rearview mirror. And in many cases, by definition, it does turn out alright for the most part, but the question still nags me sometimes what would have been if I had chosen differently? Is this really “right” or was there a better version of “right”?
      It’s almost a chicken/egg scenario I suppose. It’s what makes life so challenging and yet so interesting in the end, plot twists and new characters are always on the horizon.

      Liked by 2 people

  2. ladyinthemountains says:

    I don’t do the What if as much as I used to. I can’t help but wonder what if I had said no when he proposed though. If I could change one thing. It completely changed the direction I wanted to go. I try now to live in the present so I can enjoy what life I have left. I have 30-40 years left in my one and only life. I want to enjoy it.

    Liked by 2 people

    • I am moving closer to not asking what if as often, but like anything that challenges you in life, it takes time to get over some of those hurdles. Something big, like a marriage proposal, is a pivotal point in life for just about anyone. That one decision can substantially determine the path you go down. My big one would be what if I didn’t go along with buying a house together, before we were married, or had even lived together. It makes me shake my head in amazement now to think how I ignored my fears and my gut even then just to complete the fantasy of “happily ever after”. I wasn’t big on saying no back then, I suppose. But it all brings us to this point in time, and we’ve hopefully learned from it for our present and future life journey.
      And enjoy it we should!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. ladyinthemountains says:

    Reblogged this on My Rants, Dreams, and Thoughts on Everything and commented:
    I don’t do the What if as much as I used to. I can’t help but wonder what if I had said no when he proposed though. If I could change one thing. It completely changed the direction I wanted to go. I try now to live in the present so I can enjoy what life I have left. I have 30-40 years left in my one and only life. I want to enjoy it.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I haven’t had a What If session for a long time. And I think I know why. Every time I would begin one, I would always arrive to the same conclusion: Had I followed or pursued any of those alternative paths, my daughter would have never been born. That has done the trick for me. And despite the pain and hurt and abuse he has subjected me to, the best thing that could have possibly happen in my life came out of that doomed marriage. She’s the most precious gift I have ever received. Would I allow for all of that to happen to me again? If I had to choose between not suffering all of that and not having my daughter and suffering all of that and having my daughter, I’m sure that I would have ended up following the same path just to have my daughter. 🙂 Of course, I would have preferred not to have to suffer all of that. But I would not have my daughter today without that past.

    Like

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