How do we know what drove us, or, more gently, brought us, to act the way we do? For example, I have a client whose wife is blindingly, furiously angry that he wants a separation. As you might expect, he says he left because she was always angry.
We can spend a lot of time arguing about where the cycle started. She was angry, he couldn’t stand it any longer, he left. Or he was never fully present, and that made her angry; she was just trying to get his attention.
Does it help at all to figure out who started it? It is so easy to see our partner’s part in it, and so difficult to see our own. We are complicit in our marriages—that is, we are right there, passive or active, angry or withdrawing. It doesn’t happen without us. We don’t have to dig to the roots of our childhoods—although that can be healing—to grasp that both people have responsibility for a failed marriage. Sometimes, we have to think a lot about our partner’s flaws in order to justify our decision to leave, or to soothe ourselves that we haven’t, really, lost so much.
We keep asking “Why did this happen?” “What went wrong?” What could I have done
differently?” We can drive ourselves crazy wondering why and trying to find a reason. But all the time we spend looking backward, life keeps moving forward. We move on. We develop new relationships. Finally, without us quite knowing it or planning it, our new life becomes more important than our old life. The present and the future crowd out the past. And we stop looking for a reason why. Because it no longer matters.