Over the years, various people (friends, therapists) have, when I’ve expressed my frustration, my anger, my sadness, asked me why I stay.
On the one hand, I get it. It’s a question I’ve asked myself. If things are this hard, is there some tipping point when it’s time to make another decision?
On the other, it infuriates me that any expression of my own “negative” emotions immediately leads to invalidating my relationship. There’s 13+ years of swallowing my own anger and frustration and grief in order to keep another human alive to purge, and that purging is a healthy and necessary thing.
When people have asked, I’ve told them lots of things, true things. That things are better than they were and getting better yet. That our values, goals, life plans, and sense of humor are very, very aligned. That when things aren’t going tits up, we enjoy one another’s company. That we’re very well matched.
But none of those is the real answer.
Glennon Doyle Melton says it’s not about doing the right thing, and it’s not about doing the wrong thing. It’s about doing the precise thing. And the precise thing is whatever the still small voice inside you says when you get quiet enough to listen.
The real answer to why I stay is that the Universe (what I call the still small voice) told me to get into this relationship, and it hasn’t told me to get out.
The still small voice is, for me, a quiet knowing. It’s an unshakeable certainty that comes out of nowhere and which is just … true. It just is, the way gravity is. The still small voice doesn’t come with anger or sadness or happiness or any emotion. Sometimes those emotions arise in response to the still small voice, but always in a very pure form — they aren’t questioning or arguing or doubting or anything. They just are.
So as long as I’m fighting with myself, it’s not the still small voice. As long as there’s any internal sense of a pro/con list, it’s not the still small voice. As long as I feel a vacillation, it’s not the still small voice.
And so I stay, even though I’m angry, even though I’m frustrated, even though I’m resentful, even though I’m sad, because there’s more here for me. I can see the ways our struggles are forcing me to face my own buttons, my own attachment issues, my own family of origin issues, my own tendency to abandon myself. The work is valuable, and the work is not only hers to do.
If the still small voice ever tells me the path is completed and it’s time to move into a different mode, I’d listen. I listened when the still small voice told me to walk away from parenthood after we’d successfully completed a home study to adopt. There were years of grief to get through after that, but I listened, and the grief just was. Even at the time, I knew it was okay, that the grief was just grief and normal and natural and not the sign of a wrong choice.
But until the still small voice tells me otherwise, I’m all in.