The Courage to Leave.

July 2, 2024

The Courage to Leave.

May 29, 2023

Chip’s Note: Debra’s honest guest post about how we have to make difficult decisions in our marriages and romances is a great way to start this week of guest posts dedicated to “realationships.”

I ended my marriage in 2021 after 38 years together.  

COVID revealed many fissures. Once we had to remove our shared love of travel, dinners with friends, theater, and music events, our conversations were reduced to “what do you want to have for dinner” and “what should we watch on TV?” My need for my marriage to offer emotional intimacy increased during the shutdown; so did his avoidance.The Kinsey Institute released a study that showed that nearly 80% of couples grew closer during the pandemic; we grew further apart. We tried Zoom marital counseling; I tried living on parallel tracks; his anger at me grew and we both retreated further. I’ve never felt as lonely as I did during the pandemic.  

The truth is that ours had been an ambivalent marriage for most of our time together, except for the very good years and the very bad ones. I once saw a book titled “Too Good to Leave, Too Bad to Stay” that summed up how I often felt.  

As a child of divorce, when I was 24, I had committed to myself that I would stay married if I had children barring physical abuse. We had sought counseling at least five different times during our marriage, each time finding our way back to each other. In 2020, long after the children were adults, he told me that he was too old to change, and I needed to accept the way things were.  

I read Richard Rohr’s “Falling Upward” that year: “No one can keep you from the second half of your own life except yourself. Nothing can inhibit your second journey except your own lack of courage, patience, and imagination. Your second journey is all yours to walk or to avoid. Make sure you desire, desire deeply, desire yourself, desire God, desire everything good, true and beautiful.”  

It was time to find the courage to let go of my 24-year-old’s commitment and find the peaceful life I so wanted. I thought about Jane Fonda saying when she divorced Tom Hayden, “lifetime marriage made sense when you died at 50.” I didn’t care about the growing trend of “gray divorces.” I just knew that I couldn’t be so unhappy anymore…that being lonely alone was better than being lonely with someone.  

Ending a long-term marriage is hard. The process of divorce was hard. It was hard to leave my home and live alone for the first time in forty years. My ex told me we would never be friends if I left. He still hasn’t forgiven me.  

As I approach 70, I am so happy with my life. I moved, took a new job, created a lovely home just for me, and found my soulmate. I enjoy my solitude and I have regained a sense of inner peace. I also discovered you can have great sex and great love over 60. Richard Rohr is right: it is up to us to create the lives we want, most especially in our modern elder years.  

-Rev. Dr. Debra W. Haffner

Rev. Dr. Debra W. Haffner has been a sexologist for 48 years and an ordained Unitarian Universalist minister since 2003. She is the author or co-author of 7 books, and recently received the World Association for Sexual Health Gold Medal for Lifetime Achievement. She attended MEA in January for the first time and is a loving member of the "Better Yet" cohort.  

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Navigating Transitions with Christine Sperber

July 29, 2024
 to 
August 3, 2024
Santa Fe, USA
Jul 29, 2024
 to 
Aug 3, 2024
Santa Fe, USA

Cultivating Purpose with Jeff Hamaoui & Lori Schwanbeck

August 5, 2024
 to 
August 10, 2024
Santa Fe, USA

Owning Wisdom with Chip Conley

Aug 12, 2024
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Owning Wisdom with Chip Conley

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 to 
August 17, 2024
Santa Fe, USA
Aug 12, 2024
 to 
Aug 17, 2024
Santa Fe, USA