When Relationships Are At the Breaking Point

Do you remember the scene in Cast Away when Tom Hanks character, Chuck Noland, talks to his friend about losing the love of his life Kelly and his time on the island. It’s a scene that I can’t watch without being deeply moved. I’ve had times like that in my life. Times when the only thing I could do is follow Chuck’s advice. Times when I have to say, “I know what I have to do. I have to keep breathing. And tomorrow the sun will rise, and who knows what the tide will bring in.”

I can feel the depth of emotion in that scene and in my own way I can relate. I can relate to losing hope and feeling like I am stuck on an island that I will never sail off of. I can relate to the feeling of having no control over my life and the despair that can set in when we realize there is nothing we can do.

Eighteen years ago he said he was done. He moved out and filed for divorce. My heart was broken and my world crumbled. He came back a week before the divorce was final which set in motion a seven year trial of fixing what was broke. Those were the most agonizing days of my life. I had four small children, had gone back to college, was working and dealing with a mess called marriage. There were moments when I thought I would die. There were times I wish I had. Anything to provide relief from the hell we were living through. Can we really hurt anymore?

Then it almost happened again. This time I didn’t care. He stomped off and said he was leaving. I didn’t cry. I wasn’t afraid. I don’t know that I even cared. I thought. Whatever. Actually I want to go. It’s my turn to leave. The momentary thought of starting on my own filled me with joy. It would be my turn to get an apartment, start a new life, and find someone younger and fun to replace the old. Ok I said. I’ll go. I want to leave. Yes. He went for a drive. I didn’t care if he came back. I sat down in utter shock because for the first time in my life I didn’t care whether we were together or not.

The kids were older. I was on my way to having a new career. I shed the fear that came with youth long ago. I was well, mature. I have lived through worse and knew I would survive. In fact I knew I would thrive. Then he came back. I thought how we might end it and began to make plans on packing my things. No need for a counselor, confidant, friend or pastor to talk to. I fought long enough for this. I was ready to be free.

We talked. Life needed to change, but we would do this together. With a great amount of apathy we went about our day. We had grown. That moment didn’t phase us.

He was sick of life. So was I. My mid life and career crisis had taken it’s toll. My obsession over how hard my life was had done us in. He was sick of it all and frankly so was I. Life did need to change. I knew it. He knew it. We were deep in another mess and little did we know he would soon struggle with life and his career and this would propel our two year trial into the future.

Every week brings a new struggle. Every week a new life crisis. We stay quiet. Trying to grin and bear it, but underneath the mess boils. I don’t touch him. He doesn’t touch me. We barely look at one another and the thought of romantic feelings seems like a distant memory. Just when I think we can’t take another disappointment another one comes. We are careful not to say too much. We know a fight would take us over the edge and once we get over it there will be no coming back.

So I know what I have to do.

I survived our seven year marriage trial living on the fact that I made a commitment to this man. I made a choice to love him and stay with him. Honoring the commitment is what gets us through times like this when the feelings are gone. I know that love is not always a feeling, but a choice. I must choose to love him in word and deed. I must make a choice everyday to stick it out. I must do what Chuck Noland did when he was stuck on that island:

“And that’s when this feeling came over me like a warm blanket. I knew, somehow, that I had to stay alive. Somehow. I had to keep breathing. Even though there was no reason to hope. And all my logic said that I would never see this place again. So that’s what I did. I stayed alive. I kept breathing. And one day my logic was proven all wrong because the tide came in, and gave me a sail. And now, here I am. I’m back.”

We have to keep going. We have to stay alive. I can’t see the road ahead of us. I don’t know how this will end. I do know that in the end I want to be able to say we did it. We stayed together and weathered this mid-life storm. I know what it feels like to lose you. I don’t want to feel that way again and even in my apathetic state I know that it’s you I want to be with in our old age. I want to look back at this time and reminisce about how hard hitting mid-life was for us and how we made it through. Until those feelings come back then I know for now I need to keep breathing, stay alive, and wait to see what the tide will bring in.

Marcy Pedersen

*Movie quote 

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