I’m at the age where some of my friends are going through separations and divorces. Of those with kids, I have noticed that their relationship timelines have all been very similar.

They met in their late-20s to mid-30s.

  • Engaged after a year or two.
Wedding
  • Buy a house
Try for kids – either get pregnant within a year, or struggle with fertility issues which culminate with IVF a few years later.
  • Have a second kid.

Then, when the youngest is 3-5 cracks start to emerge in the relationship.
That is not an exact timeline for each relationship.  Some had kids before getting married, some bought a house before they were married. But all those main events happened, with the first kid coming within 3-5 years of meeting. Or 5-7 years if IVF was involved.

I have a theory. Couples like this always have ‘a thing’ holding them together, something to stop incompatibility from coming to the surface.
The initial new relationship energy, being excited to be engaged, planing a wedding, buying a house, having a baby.
Then, when the youngest kid starts to become a tiny human and there is time for the relationship again the fundamental incompatibilities start to come to light.

In couples that were together for a decade or more before having kids, have experienced different dynamics within their relationship. They know how to change and adapt as a couple.
On the other hand, couples who had a child, or children, very early in their relationship (like me!), didn’t have an established dynamic pre-child so neither party is striving for ‘what used to be.

Don’t get me wrong, couples that have accident babies often don’t work out, but from my anecdotal experiences it seems that those splits happen while the child is still an infant.
And couples who have been together decades also split. They grow apart or whatever.
It just seems that the couples in my life that are currently going through a separation, most of them fit a similar trajectory.

Somehow, these two things seem to be mutually exclusive. It seems crazy to imagine a successful, confident person suffering from anxiety. I am not talking about a bit of nervousness before a presentation; or some test anxiety. I am referring to the crippling anxiety that causes an inability to eat, weight loss, loss of focus, depression – you know that kind of anxiety.

I think about this now because I am experiencing it. I have some things going on in my professional life that are causing extreme anxiety. I can’t eat, I have lost six pounds in a week, I can’t sleep, I am always tired, and there is a constant ball of dread in my stomach.
I also feel so alone. My husband has been a great support, I have no complaints about him, but he also doesn’t understand the politics at my workplace so he can only empathize so much. I tried to open up to a co-worker, but because I usually exude confidence I just got told “everything will be fine, don’t worry about it. You are always so sure of yourself, why are your worrying about this?” Which, let’s be honest, is less than helpful.

This experience got me thinking about mental health today. Everyone accepts that mental health issues are a growing concern, and the number of people suffering is high, but we always seem to think that people who are suffering will show outward signs. How many people are going through an acute mental health concern without any support.
I talk about anxiety specifically because that is my lived experience. I know that this is a short term problem for me and that my anxiety will either recede or shift once this issue is resolved in a few weeks, but until then I suffer in silence.