Crossroads By Jacquelyn Randle
At the start of the year, I set the intention of focusing on myself more and making real time for relationships. There I was, finally healed from a terrible breakup and court battle with a narcissist; dating a friend of ten years was the breath of fresh air my dating life needed. Especially after I overworked my way through the emotions and channeled the chaotic energy into smashing each of my career and education goals one after the other. I continued to work and build myself up. This relationship felt just right; its natural ease made lowering my guard and letting someone new be around my children go smoother than expected.
Even with our alternating work schedules and full plates, our communication was on point and quality time didn't miss a beat. As the year progressed the rosy disposition I had shifted to reality. The pandemic had finally set in and as you could expect, everything changed. My once flourishing relationship was put to the test with the added strain. I had the luxury of working from home and once-per-month store runs compared to his days working in a factory that barely meets OSHA’s standards on a good day. The fear of the unknown and mixed messages combined with his high-risk environment forced a complete pause to our in-person quality time. As infection rates increased around the country, the trips we did have planned were cancelled adding even more disappointment to our relationship.
Starved for quality time, we had the chance to step back and reevaluate our relationship. I noticed things that were never highlighted during our ten years of friendship and questioned if this would really work for me and my girls or if we jumped too fast. I attempted to tackle the things I noticed head-on, which only made him retreat and do reevaluation on his end, placing an even greater strain on our communication. All of this unbeknownst to my daughters, who simply adored him and the time we spent together. They were already planning our wedding because in their words, “when you love someone you get married”(thanks Disney).
I began to not only question my relationship, but myself. Accomplished? Check. Stable? Check. At peace? Check. Supportive and understanding? Check. Self-sabotaging? Maybe. As I questioned myself and my relationship, I heard a family member's voice in my head, “Extend grace...give it time.” The last part he echoed when I asked how he wanted to address things. Once again, I threw myself into work and began to go full throttle with my publishing company; taking the pandemic as a sign that it was time to get away from traditional sources of income and make the full leap into the entrepreneur world. Now I was managing my daughters who were on a complete homeschool-based curriculum, the busy work my full-time job passed along to us, and the multiple writing projects on my desk to complete; the time to be a devoted spouse just wasn’t there.
Daily conversations that used to happen before work, during breaks, and after work transitioned to a stream of texts that could be described as blah and unimportant. Any serious conversation that was brought up was met with passive-aggressive or avoidant behavior, and things that could be done to partially fill the gap of the missing quality time were not getting done no matter how much I hinted, reposted, or directly mentioned them. I paused to question myself again, and later asked my close friends, if I was giving this a real chance. Remarkably they were all supportive and echoed the sentiments of “giving it time.” But the longer I waited, the more time I felt like I was wasting. I heard all the romanticized friends-to-happily-married stories and saw the potential there. Marriage was definitely something that was on the table and tangible, but the longer the pandemic dragged on, the more raised flags showed that this would be more work than I had the energy to give and more than he wanted to do.
For a while I silently beat myself up about not vetting him more, but in my defense it had been ten years of a platonic friendship. Within those ten years we had both grown and shed layers of defense, but what was needed to create a happy and stable relationship just wasn’t there for me. I juggled the feelings of not being one of the women that earned his heart and broke it, something I’d seen so many times during our friendship. I still questioned if I was self-sabotaging or asking too much of him. If I did leave, how would I explain his absence to the girls?
I sat with these feelings until I attended an impromptu sister circle zoom, which came right as I was craving some sort of adult interaction; I couldn't believe there would be a time where I actually missed my crazy coworkers, but if I heard “mama” one more time I probably would have lost it. Women attending the zoom were different ages, marital statuses, and from different sides of the city, economic and educational backgrounds. I quietly listened as each woman shared about herself and what currently burdened her. One of the repeating themes I heard from the older women was feeling like they had wasted their time and lives on a man that had potential but never activated it. Feeling they loved him, it had taken so long for their spouse to halfway catch up to them. They no longer wanted to remain in the relationship but stayed, feeling like leaving would add insult to injury to their wasted time. I listened attentively and resonated with every one of them. Many put their careers on hold or dreams on the back burner to not outshine him, or had children to fulfill their husbands’ wishes even though they had been the thrones that bore the bulk of the care and sacrifices for the children. All good men at the heart of it and adored by their children, but just not enough.
I asked myself “do we settle for practical reasons?” or “maybe the polyamorus women are onto something if this is the overall pool of men.” I finally came to the resolution that I couldn't let my children or anything slow me down from achieving my goals, and that staying in this relationship - no matter how long the history - would probably be the thing that slowed me down. And I couldn't have that. I couldn't be with someone I was no longer happy with or that was without a growth mindset. One that couldn’t communicate or that had ten years of cheat codes and didn’t know what to do with them. That this relationship was the universe's way of not only showing me how to step into my voice and what I wanted, but recognizing what no longer served me and being able to walk away no matter who or what it was attached to. Just as fast as I could walk away from a job that didn’t work, I should be able to walk away from this. It was this moment of raw feminine energy that gave me the needed push to cut the cord.
The days passed, the stress of the relationship eased and attention shifted even more to my career and daughters - who are overly spoiled, but all little girls should be IMO. Door after door began to open and I knew I made the right move by letting go. Will I get my fairytale ending when it comes to marriage? Possibly. But did I sacrifice my time or energy for something that no longer served me and caused me to lose my joy? No! Did I show my daughters to settle for less? NO! And you shouldn’t either.