I don’t go to church. My affiliation with religion has been in name only for several years now, but I still find inspiration and guidance in the words of great books- most of them found in the self help section and written by women. Recently my faith has been shaken by a series of divorce announcements from these writers, women whose personal growth I’ve followed and even tried to emulate to some degree.

The first one came across my Facebook timeline when I was navigating the maze of a bookstore and I stopped short, put my hand over my mouth, and cried, “oh no!” as if my own parents had just split up. It was silly, I knew, but I felt a definite twinge of something inside me. But because it was silly and not at all my own parents, I put down my phone and continued perusing the stacks.

A few weeks later, my response to the second separation was just as visceral, but much less generous.

“What the hell?” I thought. “Why do all these women keep leaving their husbands? Is this the new ‘in’ thing – to be oh so enlightened and then get divorced?”

To be clear, I don’t know either of these women personally. I have taken a selfie with one of them when I attended a lecture and book signing, and I’ve read a few articles here and there written by the other. I am not personally invested in either of these marriages or any of the people involved.

“Sometimes, when people make decisions about marriage, it evokes strong feelings in others. If my news does that to you today, please look inside and get curious about whether those feelings have more to do with you and your life than they do about me and mine.” –from the post in which Glennon Doyle Melton announces her impending divorce.

And of course she’s right, so I asked myself, “why do I care?”

I care because I’m afraid that I was supposed to leave. That this is never going to get easier. That we will always have traumas and trivial issues to face. That only by finding enlightenment and then finding the match for your new, enlightened self is happiness possible.

When I think about other people’s happy relationships (and I know, I shouldn’t do that) they fall into one of two camps: always easy and effortless, or new ones that form after someone figures their own shit out.

Mine is neither of those.

My marriage can feel like a constant struggle to prove myself worthy of this good, kind man and to plead with this good, kind man to open up and connect with me. Mine is periods of ease and light and laughter and the painful grind of transformation. Mine is bickering over stupid shit and journaling for weeks trying to figure out why I insist on being right about stupid shit. Mine is betrayal, big and small, and making the same mistakes years after we’ve known better.

And I have done the figuring my shit out part.

I have the TEDx talk to prove it.

And still my marriage is hard. That scares the crap out of me.

But I don’t want to leave. I don’t want to leave this good, kind man because I love him more than anyone on Earth. Because we have been so honest with each other that we are intertwined at the core and to lose him would be to lose a part of me. Because I have felt the joy of being perfectly in sync with this man. Because we are family.

Because while I know I can be happy alone, I believe my greater mission is to learn how to be both my true self and completely a part of everyone else.

My marriage is often a litmus test to show me how I’m connecting with the world around me, and it encourages me to find balance between Self and The Great Everything of Which I’m a Part.

My marriage is not a prize earned for having scaled the mountain of enlightenment. My marriage is, in many ways, the climb.