Frayed Rope

You know how in action adventure movies, our hero or heroine always seems to find themselves hanging from a rope that is fraying? There are those tense moments while we watch the hero or heroine figure out how to save themselves (or save each other). The movie flicks back and forth between the characters and the fraying rope while we wait with bated breath to see what will happen. We know that they will likely be saved at the last possible moment. The rope will break and our heroes will be safe (usually).

Recently, my marriage has fallen apart and as I was dwelling on how it came to this, I thought of that visual of the frayed rope used in so many movies and TV shows. A rope is made up of individual strands, that when woven together, create a stronger thread. I suppose our lives are like that. We’re individual people who, when we meet others, create various strengths of rope by weaving our lives together. It could be with anyone, not just your spouse. Friendships can range from loose to tight, casual to strong. Family relationships can do the same.

It is assumed that when we are planning to marry someone, we’ve established a strong, stable relationship, a rope that will hold the weight of the future. But then life happens. Kids, jobs, money, bills, family, stress, and all the other realities of living add weight. Depending on the rope you’ve crafted, this weight can strengthen or weaken your relationship. Add on mental or physical illnesses in either or both of the partners or even the children and the rope begins to strain. Individual threads begin to pop, your rope is fraying.

Many are able to realize their rope if frayed and begin to repair it. They are able to save themselves through careful and tedious work. They are able to use the tense moments to act and make changes rather than just stare at the fraying rope and pray for rescue.

Then there are those of us, who can feel the rope weakening, can see the relationship unravelling before our eyes and assume that it’ll fix itself. That the strength of what we used to have would be enough to hold the weight of the lives we have built now. We try to repair what we can, but threads are giving way faster than we can fix them. At some point, the rope finally snaps. There is nothing left to save.

I don’t know about others, but for me, it was just like that. There was a mad scramble to make it work, to save the final pieces and build something new on them. But it seemed only one of us was trying. Repairing the damage and holding it all together takes more than one person. One person isn’t strong enough to do it alone. On Wednesday, there is hope that things will work out. By Friday, the rope has snapped and you don’t want to try anymore. You know, down to your core, that there is nothing more there.

It’s an odd feeling. Bittersweet, really. There is sadness that your marriage turned out to be just a chapter in your life, not the fairy tale ending you were imagining on your wedding day. And then you feel the sweet relief of not having to try anymore. It’s exhausting to cling to that fraying rope, trying to tie the loose pieces back together. There’s relief in letting go and accepting that your happiness is no longer tied to that person.

Our rope broke, but I haven’t fallen into the abyss. My feet have found purchase on the figurative mountainside and I’m pulling myself back up. In the meantime, I have others (my family, my son, and my friends) to catch me if I start to slip.

grayscale photo of rope on log
Photo by b. on

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