Monday, April 9, 2012

The Grey Marriage

If deciding to end a marriage that exists in black and white is challenging, the decision to leave the "GREY" marriage is even more complicated. If the black and white marriage affords one with clarity around what is tolerable and absolutely intolerable and is filled with clear deal breakers, the grey marriage exists in the world of palatable. It is the marriage that has unfulfilled dreams, unmet expectations, disappointments but none so bad that it is unequivocally intolerable. It may be the marriage that is never so great and never so bad, the one without passion but not noisy, not so neat but not so messy that it can't be mopped up.

The grey marriage leaves people saying,"Is this how it's supposed to be?" "S/he is not meeting my needs, but what am I to do?" "S/he is not an alcoholic, a substance abuser, abusive, takes care of the kids/finances......a decent wo/man.....but we don't seem to have anything in common anymore." "I can't be sure I will be happier if I leave, I just know that this doesn't seem right." "There must be more to life..." "While we don't fight, our kids don't see love and passion." "I could stay and I could go, how am I to know?"

The spouse whose marriage is being played out in painful brush strokes of black and white is afforded a more precise lens to assess the viability of their marriage, while the spouse in grey is given a fuzzier lens to look through. Does that make the decision to leave any less justified? I would say, it does not  but it may make the decision harder to arrive at, more difficult to rationalize and more of a challenge to come to terms with. In fact, I would suggest the decision to leave a grey marriage requires that the decision-maker come to terms with the possibility that they could have decided to stay or to go and that either choice may have been viable. That does not mean that staying would have been the right decision, but rather it means living with the wonder that comes with grey.

Leaving a grey marriage means coming to terms and accepting one's ability to make a decision and to live with it comfortably. It means embracing that a decision was made. It does not mean that one has to know that the alternative was not acceptable. It is about making a choice and giving oneself permission to live peacefully and guilt-free with the choice. One never gets to live the unwritten chapter but somehow, when the unwritten chapters seem clearer or like ink would have been in black on white, living with the unwritten grey makes it harder to know if one should leave or stay.

Some words of advice to the spouses who find themselves assessing their grey house:

1. Don't expect an epiphany - the point of the grey marriage is that it is tolerable and there is no cataclysmic event in the grey marriage that will leave you with a D-Day.

2. The grey marriage often has one spouse who can tolerate the grey and one who cannot. Leaving the spouse who chooses to live in grey is not for the faint-of-heart.

3. You don't need to come up with really awful material about the grey marriage to justify leaving - you just need to be able to live with the fact that there isn't really awful material.

3. Get help in determining which path to take and how to move forward.

If you live in a world of grey but dream in technicolor the journey to end your marriage is complicated but no less justified. The emotional terrain is painful and challenging and the importance of self awareness is critical. Do the work on the front end so your decision is one that is lived in a state of peace.