Why My Starter Marriage Failed

I was in a starter marriage. Without the marriage part.

Partnered with a lovely man for four years. We lived in a quintessential home in the suburbs. I went to grad-school while he worked for a start-up.

Dinner parties, game night, wine-tasting, a cat. You know, the whole nine yards.

The only problem was, this wasn’t my path.

It took me awhile to realize this. You see, nothing looked wrong on the outside. In fact, it all looked pretty nice. I was doing what I was supposed to do, right?

Wrong. I was doing what I was supposed to do if I wanted to do it. There’s a big difference.

While hanging out with my perfectly sweet boyfriend in my perfectly sweet home, I found myself wondering, “What am I doing here?” and even more disturbingly, “Why doesn’t this feel right?” 

Turns out I got caught in the trap that many of us get caught in: I believed I’d find happiness if I followed the path I was “supposed” to follow.

Most of us learn the hard way.

It’s easy to sucked-into believing that there’s a specific way to do life (marriage, kids, house, in some particular order). We think if we continue down this path we’ll eventually arrive to the place called happy.

You’re supposed to move in together.
You’re supposed get married.
You’re supposed to buy a house.
You’re supposed to have kids…

The problem is, we’re actually not supposed to do any of these things! What we’re supposed to do is be true to ourselves! Many of us didn’t get the memo.

Maybe this is your memo.

Luckily, I caught myself in the midst of unhappy and bravely spoke my truth: This isn’t working for me. 

Thank goodness I did because it set me on the trajectory of following what’s real. And while it still took a few more years to identify my soul’s path, at least now I had the experience of listening to my truth.

This was big.

There are two major issues in believing there is a set path for all of us:

1) If you don’t follow this path (or if you don’t go through the steps “fast enough”), you think something’s wrong with you.

2) If you follow this path and you don’t feel happy as a result, you think something’s wrong with you.

I’d like to address these issues and talk about why nothing’s wrong with you (no matter what life path you choose).

Following a life path because you think you’re going to feel better as a result of “arriving” is a trap. A big one. It never works out the way you want because the destination ends up feeling the same as before (i.e. like something is missing). Only now it’s more complicated because other people are involved.

Outside things do not complete us.

Including a marriage.
Including a house.
Including money.
Including kids.

They may bring you a lot of joy, which is fantastic. But they aren’t going to make you feel complete.

Being true to yourself is what completes you. 

These messages about what we are “supposed to do” create a ton of anxiety for us because they lead us to believe that we are doing something wrong! We’ve missed the boat if we don’t follow the path, or we’re just plain defective if we follow it but it doesn’t make us happy. Either way, we’re screwed.

Luckily, this is not the ultimate reality.

Happiness is listening to your truth and following through. It’s saying “F it!” to The Path, and deciding to make your own road.

Happiness is definitely a little renegade. It’s not always what others want for you; it is not always the most popular route.

But hear this: it is YOUR route.

You can’t find happiness by living someone else’s dream. Including the general dream of society. Happiness is finding your own dream.

Seek your own version of happiness. Drop into your heart, listen to what it has to say, be brave, and go for it. You will find your way. (I promise.)

Please leave a comment below about how you found your soul’s path (or how you plan on finding it). I’m looking forward to being inspired by your stories!

Comments

Jane Cruse

Hi Shelly! I came across your blog through FB and I am enjoying being inspired through you!! I felt moved to share my story with you as it relates to your blog today.

My husband passed away 9 months ago from a 2 yr battle with Stage 4 Pancreatic Cancer. We were married for 22 years and have 2 children who are now 21 and 18. Son & daughter. We loved each other very much! It was a journey for two years, but he was an amazing fighter and we also had an opportunity to start a foundation to help in research called “Embrace the Day Foundation”. I immediately after his death set on a path to heal myself and be strong for my children. I joined a gym and worked out, getting my body strong. I went to yoga, which helped my body, mind & spirit…cried through many a yoga class! I started seeing a therapist as many of my friends were concerned I was doing too good and was probably suppressing some feelings. I was a little. Going now through the process of healing was now my journey. I accepted this was always going to be a part of my life and I embraced it. I was feeling strong and content 6 months after. On a good path and enjoying my daughter’s last year if high school. One day, unexpectedly, I met a guy at the gym. We just had some friendly chat and it turned into exchanging phone nbers. Didn’t over think it…just nice and effortless. I felt excitement and calm at the same time. We have worked into a 2 month relationship. My daughter is not comfortable with it and hasn’t met him yet. My son has and he likes him. Some of my friends have met him, although my best friends have not. They are worried I am too nice and it may be too soon. Maybe they are not comfortable seeing me with someone other than my husband. Maybe they think he is not good enough for me. Some think I should date around!! I tell them I am 49 and am following my heart right now, but it is a practice to not always be defending myself. I guess maybe I am adjusting too. Taking it one day at a time and being in the Now. He has many great values and great character. I have what I need, he gives me what I want. He is very patient and understanding if my needs, feelings and of my daughter’s also. I am following my heart, which enjoys his company very much. I believe I have so much more love to share and I want to share it. I have had a great foundation of love and this is an addition. I believe in relationships and in Love! I have learned to work through difficulties and I am stronger from my journey so far. Leaps of faith!

Your blog was an affirmation to be true to myself and feel confident in proceeding on my own path. Thank you!

Embrace the Day!!

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Shelly Bullard

So beautiful, Jane. Thank you for sharing your story hear–it inspires me. People who are close to us want to protect us, and often they think they are doing so with their opinions. But only you know what’s best for you. Trust yourself. There are always new lessons to learn and more love to be felt. XOXO

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Amy

Ahhhhhhh…”to thine own self be true”. There isn’t a more true statement that we all should heed. We often immerse ourselves in another’s life, waiting for “it” (happiness) to manifest. We play by the rules, and do the expected. No, this isn’t the path for all, and sadly some ‘settle’ because they aren’t comfortable stepping outside of the norm.
I believe happiness is finding and accepting the self awareness and embracing it. Acknowledgment and accountability is how I refer to it. Good, bad, ugly, or indifferent, it is who we are and we must learn and grow from it. Otherwise, we settle into the ‘norm’, the ‘expected’, and wait…for some the happiness comes, for others it’s a lifetime of waiting, and it never occurs. When we become self aware and accept that our path may be different, but we courageously advance upon this path; we will find our ‘peace’, our happiness…and when this occurs, we open ourselves to like minded people and circumstances to share our life with. Then, only then, do we have a sense of worth, purpose, and happiness…and that my friends is the key to happiness, whether alone or with someone. It’s all relative you see…”To thine own self be true”…Peace, Love, & Light to all…it is in you, you just have to let it happen to and for YOU…Then you can share with others…

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Leah

Wonderful :) Bliss to read! haha I dig this! My soul path was found by passion. Where my passion lay and where ever passion takes me (ie music, DANCE, LOVE, writing, singing, composing, BEing) my soul is happy, blessed, and in the moment. Funny thing is, the closer I am to this passion within me the more inspiring and influential i tend to become to those around me too. Its a cool win win situation. I think everyone has this spark of creativity and passion within them, just waiting to be activated. It may be in science, or basketball, or gardening, or some other area – but its there. A great article! Thanks Shelly!

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Shelly Bullard

YES LEAH!!! Love it. You are a beautiful Soul and I’m grateful to know you. XOXOXO

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Emily

Thanks Shelly! I found myself in a marriage with kids! I had followed my heart,or so I thought. I left the States and moved to Japan to study and my path began to unfold. But we all change, life happens, as they say. As my kids grew and my husband did more and more of his thing I found myself soul searching. And reassessing what my heart really needed. Some things feel right but many things remain in a flow that keeps life dancing and becoming. I am grateful to be true enough to myself to let my heart find its way.

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Shelly Bullard

Lovely Emily. Our paths take many twists and turns. Glad to hear you are still listening. :)

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Ana

Another amazingly on-point entry! I am in the process of restructuring my path…I was on the one Society had paved out so nicely for me, huge home, 3 kids, stable husband. Zero passion. For anything. I started thinking, why don’t I paint anymore? What happened to my dance classes? Everything about my life looked so perfect but felt so empty. As I started soul-searching and recapturing my own passions, I realized how long I had merely been treading water. In the end, my husband and I decided to part ways, pretty amicably actually (I know, right?), and I have hurled myself back into the real world. Guess what? I’m lovin life. I’m not so much creating a new path as I am hacking down the jungle that obscured my true path. Thanks Shelly for all of your posts, they keep me loving and smiling!

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Shelly Bullard

Yes Ana! So inspiring and beautiful. Thank you so much for sharing! XOXO

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Sasha

Hi Shelley! This article could not have come at a more opportune time for me! I am in the middle of what I am scared is my starter marriage and your story in this article sent shivers down my spine for how similar it is! I don’t know where I will be lead now, but I know I have to follow my path and make the best of it for my kids – they won’t be happy when mommy isn’t happy. Thank you so much for writing about your experiences. It has really given me the courage to follow that path I feel is calling me, but that I have ignored for too long.

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Danielle

I feel for u . It’s hard but I’m trying . Def feel happy about my choice but still lacking who I really am

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Danielle

Omg it sounds like me. Just left a similar life .still uneasy and lost . Feel I do the right thing but very had on myself . Feel like it’s me and I have the problem . Many good things in life but unhappy with myself . Feel like I need ur course . Can’t waste time and any more money so if I do it in hoping for a miracle , lol

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Rochelle

Since I have started reading your newsletters I have made strides to find what truly makes me happy and not allowing myself to be focused on being who others want me to be or say I should be. I am setting boundaries without feeling guilty and falling in love with myself. As for the tangible improvements, I got a new job and I am in the mist of purchasing a home that I picked out for myself but most of all my relationship of 6 plus years is improving everyday. Please keep sharing your motivational newsletters and experiences. Thank you

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Marie

this is right where I am right now, except it took me and my husband 14 years to figure it out. if you’re familiar with the enneagram, I’m a 9, not in touch with myself or any clue what I want or that that’s even a consideration…a lifetime of “what am I SUPPOSED to be doing?”. the last 3 years I feel like I JUST WOKE UP. my ex is in a great relationship now, we are still friends, and even simply the process of us talking and finally being raw and honest, stepping away from each other, made such a huge difference for seeing more clearly. the divorce will be final in a couple weeks, I turn 40 a couple weeks after that, and my world is so full of possibility and I can hardly contain myself :)

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Kelly

I really needed to hear this today! I spoke my truth about a year ago after being with my partner for 14 years and then married for 2 more. The entire 16 years we both felt like something didn’t quite fit but kept going on because it was comfortable and safe. Last year I turned 45 and the fog that I had been in for so long finally lifted. It’s been very painful and still is today. It took me about 9 months to figure out that I needed to be on my own path and that no one was going to make me happy but me. I tried dating and finding sex where ever I could…luckily for me I never found the sex because I realised that I was running from myself. So now I’m at the beginning of my path and trying to figure out who I am and what is going to make me happy. And honestly, it’s pretty scary and lonely but also exciting. But somehow I know that I will make it. My ex and I are very good friends and that’s probably what we should have figured out a long time ago. I really want her to find someone that will make her truly happy. Thank you for sharing your story today!

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Kristine Horton

I understand about the first marriage failing. My marriage I never thought of as a starter marriage. I just thought of it as marriage that simply didn’t work. I found after we married how much we wouldn’t be able to get along ever because there was no meeting of the minds between us. And the fact that when he came back from Iraq I have no idea who came home.
While I felt for him and his problems we couldn’t talk about our problems without him denying they existed. I quickly understood there is no way I could live in the marriage and it had to go.
I was so convinced being married would give me the home I was convinced would make me happy but the truth is, I would have never been happy in a home with him.
I found myself happy in a home of my own making. I now am wanting to make my own home for myself again without a guy. I am coming to the conclusion that I have been in love with the idea of being in love and not the reality of being in a relationship with a guy on a daily basis.
I agree with you whole-heartedly about the path where you will find true happiness is self-designed and not a cut out or pattern of someone else’s life.
I am still working on what my path is.

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Tristanne

<3 I love surrounding myself with people like you, Shelly. It helps to know that I'm not the only one who struggles with accepting things when they don't go the way I've pictured it, who struggles with being true to myself and not doing what I'm "supposed" to be doing.

I've recently split from my bf of 1 year. We developed a VERY strong relationship and our bond is tied by our deep feelings for each other. I was picturing our lives together, sharing adventures and growing together. But, time was unkind. He is the right guy for me who came into my life at the wrong time of his. Although we made each other happy, he didn't feel it was "right for him" at this time in his life. (Like you said in the above article.) He was the one in your shoes and I am your boyfriend in this scenario. My bf and I both know that what we had was special and we wouldn't trade any of it for anything. I took it really hard. I wanted us to go a particular path and when it didn't go the way I had pictured it, it crushed me. I felt like I lost my best friend.

But I now know that in order for the both of us to grow and become the best versions of ourselves is to be true to ourselves and go the path we believe is right for us. I can only be supportive and encourage him to go for his dreams and goal. To find his life's purpose, just life I have to find mine. I hope some day that we will cross paths again and find the desire to be with each other again because I know we are right for each other. In the interim, I will stand by him as his best friend. Support him and give him all my best….whilst growing myself into the true person I want to be.

What do you think? Do you think that I can do this? That we can find the balance between what we had and being exceptionally great friends to each other? I don't want to lose him as my friend and I know he doesn't want to lose me either.

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