We Didn’t Go To Counseling And I Regret It

Like most marriages that end in divorce, ours came crashing down a little bit at a time. Most of us don’t wake-up one day and decide to end our relationship. It happens over years. One of you pulls away; the other lets you go. You stop making each other a priority if it feels too hard. You start to imagine your life without that person. And one of my big regrets is that when the cycle started, we didn’t at least try counseling.

There were a few times we talked about talking to someone, but looking back now, I know I thought that deep down the hurt and space between us would correct itself. Things would blow over and we’ll find each other again. I thought when the kids got older it would be easier.

Or maybe if my ex-husband didn’t work so much we’d be okay. I used to tell him that instead of going out with his friends, he should stay home and make me more of a priority. He’d tell me he wanted more out of life and he wanted to experience more things together. Then I’d shut down because it made me feel like I wasn’t enough for him.

I see clearly now, almost eight years after our separation, that just because he and the kids were enough for me, that didn’t mean that he should stop doing things that he loved. I know now that if I’d had more outlets, I would have felt I didn’t need to depend on him so much. If I’d tried harder with intimacy (something he brought up a lot), instead of dismissing him for long stretches of time, maybe things would have ended up differently. So much was maturity and it took years apart and a good amount a distance to see that. We both had some growing up to do to find ourselves and how make ourselves the priority.

We were too deep inside the situation to see all the things we were doing to hurt each other and damage the relationship. But we both feel now that if we’d just gone to therapy without worrying about how much it cost or how much time it was going to take up, we might have gotten the help we needed to see what we could have done differently.

And maybe it would have saved us.

Of course, there’s a chance that it wouldn’t have. But now, so much time has gone by and my ex-husband is in a serious relationship. I see how he’s changed for the better. We’ve both learned so much, and it’s shaped us for the better. I wonder whether maybe we could have changed without getting divorced, and the not-knowing kind of wrecks me. The what-ifs fill my head. We were in love but everything just went sideways.

In fact, my ex suggested counseling. Right before we separated, he brought up the idea of therapy and maybe dating each other again while he wasn’t living in the same house. But at the time, I was ready not to be married to him anymore. I was positive it was the right decision.

I said no, and he didn’t push it. He left, and I let him go, and I didn’t think I’d have any regrets.

Turns out, there are a lot of times when I regret not trying harder. Because even if it didn’t save us, at least I’d be able to say we tried everything. I wonder if a therapist could have helped us have more empathy and compassion. Or maybe they would have made us see we had grown apart and weren’t a good fit anymore.

Either way, it’s a mistake I will never make again. It’s awful to live in this gray zone of unresolved feelings wondering if we had a sliver of a chance. Some people don’t believe in therapy, and I kind of used to be one of them. But I guess now I see couples it has helped.

Now, I’ll always wonder.

Diana Park is a writer who finds solitude in a good book, the ocean, and eating fast food with her kids.

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