A Love Warrior Stays in the Arena

I recently read this post by Glennon Doyle: “Marriage, Divorce, and Redemption”. She is a great author and speaker. I love most everything I read from her blog posts. The following is something I recently wrote in response to one of her recent posts. It hit really close to home for me, and I am not completely sure I agreed with her post. I wrote this as if I were writing to her in response, even if my words never reach her eyes. This is an effort for me to be more vulnerable and contribute to a larger conversation on love, relationships and divorce.

Dear Glennon,

I love most everything I read of yours. I so appreciate the transparency and grace you extend to your readers no matter where they are in life.

A few months ago, while walking through a painful divorce, I wrote “Love Not Wasted“. When I read this quote from your recent post about the Love Warrior and marriage, It took me back to that place I was struggling to understand what the hell was happening in my life.

A few days ago, I was reading the introduction to Rising Strong, by Brene Brown. She referenced the quote from Roosevelt which she elaborated on in her book, Daring Greatly.

daring greatlyThis book and her Ted talks were powerful tools for me two years ago when stuff initially hit the fan in my marriage. In our case, nobody cheated, physically. When I was reading the introduction to Rising Strong, the image of being in the arena triggered me and I had a complete emotional meltdown. I know that it is difficult in our society to picture a man having the capacity of expressing vulnerable emotions, but I am not much for stereotypes. I am not afraid to admit my ability to have a good ol’ ugly cry.  The meltdown was triggered by an image of a dark arena and I was in the arena flat on my face. I had been mentally and emotionally beaten down to physical exhaustion in my marriage. In my marriage, I felt I was never “enough”.

Please don’t get me wrong, these last several months of healing have helped me discover a confidence I have never experienced. One which says, “I am a damn good father” and “I was a damn good husband.” Human? Yes. Full of flaws? No doubt. But I can confidently say I laid my life down for my spouse, sacrificed greatly, and was loyal to a fault.

flat on my faceBack to the image. I was laying flat on my face in an empty arena and everything happened in slow motion. Brene took me to the place of slowing down and feeling what I felt in that moment. In this dark, cold arena, where I had been beaten down, I finally mustered the strength to look up to see where my partner was. No one was there. I was left alone to fight this battle and do the work on my own. No closure. No validation. No effort. No words.

I recently read your post about Love Warriors who choose to stay in a marriage and those who leave. I tried really hard to understand what you are saying. I have become painfully aware that sometimes divorce is the best thing. While there is no benefit to self inflicted shame or insult to injury, I have come to believe it is important to do the work and stay in the arena as much as possible. Fight or flight, shaming, black and white, projecting and silence treatments are not character traits of a Love Warrior. A Love Warrior does the work of figuring out where those responses come from and are willing to take the path of healing and even reconciliation, when at all possible. I am honestly struggling to consider someone refusing counseling, and coldly turning their back with no explanation or conversation a “warrior”. Your writing suggests otherwise.

I struggle when individuals who refuse to do the work will click and share articles like the one you wrote as a public validation of their actions. As though they should be applauded for leaving their loving spouse in their tracks. Doing the work is what makes someone a warrior. You did the work and you are a warrior. Your sister did the work and discovered leaving was the best thing for her. But I imagine you both did the work and did not just walk away. Unless you have been the one being left with immense rejection and no reasoning whatsoever, it is impossible to speak directly to someone in my situation.

I think you and I can agree that each person who can muster the strength each morning to get up and face another day is a warrior. But walking away from someone, leaving them in the dust and showing blatant inconsideration and disrespect for another human being, is not being a “Love Warrior”, in my personal opinion or experience.

Obviously, I am writing this as one broken human who is still walking through the process of healing. Yours and your sister’s experiences are your experiences and nobody can change those stories of what either of you have had to walk through. I am cautious, however, when I read writings from people who can take their personal experience and project it onto others as though that is their reality too. Every marriage and divorce is different and I feel there is a danger on putting one blanket over every situation as if everyone is a warrior, even when they do give up. Does love cover a multitude of sins? Yes! Is grace for everyone? Yes! Are we all simply doing the best we can? Yes!

My concern is when someone like you, who is very influential, utilizes their platform to say everyone is in the right, you might be helping some of your readers to gloss over the real work that needs to be done by permitting them to leave without doing the work or giving the other person the benefit of an explanation or closure. I know that relationships are not about who is right or wrong and each of us are doing the best we can. My fear in reading the entirety of your post is I feel it was missing a key component of encouraging each person to own their own stuff and do the work necessary so as not to destroy another person or relationship.

In the last few months I have learned I am more than a casualty. I deserve to be fought for, just like I was willing to and did fight for my spouse and our union. I attended counseling. Alone. I worked towards reconciliation. Alone. I was left in the arena to fight…ALONE. With all due respect, a Love Warrior does not do that to another person. You become a warrior when you are willing to stick it out and do the work. If leaving is the best option, you still have work to do, but you do not treat another person the way I was treated and left to heal alone.

Perhaps I missed your entire reasoning for writing what you wrote and would be willing to continue this conversation. As I mentioned earlier, I appreciate most of what you write and trust my response to your article will not be received as anything but an opportunity to look at another side of the coin. Your story is your story. It is not my place or intent to change your belief based on your experience. But I do not believe it is beneficial to overgeneralize and categorize everyone as a Love Warrior when some people just leave and give up without showing decency to another human being. I would be happy to hear your thoughts.

Sincerely,

Jonathan Hankins