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No One Tells You
No One Tells You
Reflection

There was a period in my life when, within three months, all my major relationships changed. The most joyous of these was getting married; Sarah and I had dated for three and a half years, and I proposed to her at our holiday party. ­People tend to shine the spotlight on proposals, which makes them seem as if they happen all at once, but ­really they take much longer. I decided a year prior that I wanted to be married to Sarah, and spent a year in discernment. For all the relationship advice out there, it’s im­pos­sible to find anything helpful on the most basic decision of all—whether to commit to spend the rest of your life with someone.

We married in the First Unitarian Universalist Church of Columbus, where we were both active members, surrounded by friends and ­family who loved us so dearly. It served as a fitting goodbye because we moved across the country two weeks later.

They say that moving is one of the most stressful transitions of life, but that misses the point. The stressful part isn’t the saying goodbye or the move itself. It is the ripping of your life away from its roots, and it plays out over months and years. Setting new life patterns, finding new friends—these things take time and require soul work. You have to go out and make them happen. No one tells you that.

Two months after we moved, my parents, who had been ­married for thirty-one years, called us up on a Sunday afternoon and said, in a matter-of-fact sort of way, that they were getting divorced. I grieved, as I hadn’t grieved for anything or anyone before, over the loss of our nuclear ­family. Here again, the 1.67 gazillion metric tons of advice and self-help books were totally useless for an adult child of divorcing parents. Surely I can’t be the only one?

Like moving, my parents’ divorce started with a dramatic shift, but the real change and ­struggle occurred over time. It forced me to question the assumptions upon which I had based my life. Should I make sacrifices for my career? Or should my partner’s needs sometimes take priority? How can I raise a ­family and still maintain my own well-being, or my marriage? Is there such a thing as security? How do we keep in touch with that which is deepest and most profound in us?

When I imagined what all these transitions would mean, I focused on my relationships with other ­people. Yet the most profound changes have been the internal ones that touched the core of my being and belief. Re-examining the principles that guide my life has given me a new take on my constantly evolving understanding of the person I want to become and the relationships I want to have. It has been a labor of love, if sometimes a lonely one. No one said it would be easy. And this time, they were right.

About the Author

  • Carey McDonald is the UUA's Executive Vice President. He's a lifelong UU who has worked in nonprofit, government, political and progressive organizations.

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