December 13, 2013

Can’t Live with my Wife, Can’t Live without my Son. ~ Ben Ralston

This year I’ve been on my knees.

Physically and metaphorically and just about every other way possible.

I’ve had days when I didn’t want to get out of bed because I didn’t feel any joy, or light, or even life in any piece of me.

And I was all in pieces. Pieces here and there with no sense of self. No sense of unity or coherence.




In the space of a month my dog (my best friend) died, and my wife and I separated. We have a (beautiful, perfect, pure, sweet, oh so lovely) son, so that means that any dreams I ever had of raising him a certain way were separated from me too. Now it’s all about compromise…

Then I injured my shoulder, then my knee, and then my Grandfather died.

Technically I’m an Englishman. I say ‘technically’ because I don’t consider myself anything other than an Earthling. I have no allegiances to anywhere other than where I am. But I moved to Slovenia to be with my (Slovene) wife, and now I’m in a foreign country with no friends, and I don’t even speak the language that well.


So to avoid this turning into too much of a sob story, I’ll cut to the chase.

All my dreams, and the life that I thought I had, died. And I have to start again. Change. Sudden, necessary, radical change.

I’ve never really liked change. Comfort, stillness, peace, yes please.

I like slow. I like mellow. I like familiar.

But now I need to completely rethink and restart everything, and I feel overwhelmed.

So what did I do? I buried my head in the sand.

I hid from the world (and eventually even from myself) and spent months on end imprisoned by old routines and addictions, in a kind of stagnant pond of Going Nowhere Life.

I lost all sense of purpose and meaning. I remember one day when I was feeling particularly sorry for myself I couldn’t even see any point in my work—something that has always been a foundation for me.

‘Why bother’ I thought. ‘If I’m this much of a mess, how can I help anyone else?’

Moving on is necessary and good, but feels scary and overwhelming.

Holding on is unsustainable and unhealthy, but feels safe and comfortable.

The proverbial rock and hard place.

My wife and I can’t live together (even though she’s beautiful and sweet and good), and I can’t bear the pain of being apart from my son.

Rock, meet Hard Place.

I thank God (or whatever force it is in this life that always has my back), for the friends that stepped up, and for my work.

All my true friends. Two people especially—one boy and one girl, appeared unexpectedly in my life and became two people that I would lay down my life for. I didn’t know friendship like this before and I love you. You know who you are.

But not just personal friends. So many people sending so many messages of support and love. People who I only know through comments on my articles and videos. People who I have only ever ‘seen’ through Facebook.

People telling me that something I wrote touched their life so much that they continue to go back to it any time life is hard.

People telling me that a video I made long ago transformed their life just now.

People just simply reaching out with a word of comfort.

And I began to see again, and believe again, in something that has always been a core principle in my life:

That there is no distinction between work and life. That any boundaries I create around my work are artificial and meaningless and only limit my work, and therefore also limit my life.

My best friend in the world was a client of mine. Many therapists would scoff at that. Conflict of interests and all that…

But I’m not a therapist. I’m not anything.

I’m just a human being, being as human as I possibly can, and doing what feels right, one moment at a time.

And I don’t work so that I can live. I work because it’s what I do and because I love it, because it makes me feel more alive and connected.

And as I realize that, I begin to feel a sense of purpose coursing through my veins again.

I’m here to live. I’m here to work. I’m here to be human, and to adapt to life, not make life adapt to me.

And I can still be an incredible Father to my son, but only if I’m being true to myself. He will miss me (as I miss him) on those days where I don’t see him, or don’t see him as much as I’d like, but one moment of real presence with him is pure golden bliss, and more than a lot of children ever get with their Fathers.

And if I’m really present, and really living purposefully, then he’ll feel me even when I’m not with him, because we’re connected.

We’re all connected, even you and I, one of us reading and one of us writing, connected through these words and the thoughts and feelings and experiences that lie behind them. Connected in Life.

Connection is my purpose.

Love is my purpose—and the example I intend to teach my son. Even in the midst of separation.

If you feel me, please share my words and spread the love. Than you!


Relephant Reads:

How to Get Divorced like a Grownup.

The Best Marriage Advice from a Divorced Man.

What My Son has Taught Me About Fatherhood.


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Editor: Rachel Nussbaum

Photo: Ben Ralston

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