The number one comment I heard when announcing my divorce was, “But you’re such a great couple and so good together!” To hear that made my gut turn, because who really knew that to be true unless you were in my relationship? And secondly, why can’t divorced people also be good people? Why can’t we be as good apart as we were together?
I consider myself to be one of the lucky ones since I can actually look at my ex-husband and say with honest conviction that he is a good man.
And I get what people found so magnetic about us. They liked how we made them feel. They liked that they knew they’d have a good time around us because we were honest, genuine, and fun. We had the ability to shine together. We were approachable, and put people at ease. We were driven and relatable.
But after everyone left and it was just us, we retreated to our separate spaces in the house. We went to work on our personal goals, which felt so drastically different from one another. His goals included money in every sense of the word; mine did not. I led with my heart; he led with his head. I craved the presence of spirituality, and he expressed he would never be willing to explore that side of himself.
On Sundays, he football’d. This typically meant that I’d have to occupy the kids, but when I didn’t, I snuck away to write, because that is my passion. I never took interest in sports. I tried, for him. I dressed up in jerseys and went to games and supported him because that’s what wives do (or so I’m told), and it made him happy. But that was his thing.
Writing is my thing. I never felt supported in doing it because it didn’t bring home a paycheck. That is, until it did, then I felt very supported, and that almost hurt more.
We were disconnected in so many ways. You’d think the saying “opposites attract” would have some sort of relevance here, and maybe it did at one time, but that fizzled, and we began rarely finding anything we enjoyed doing together. We were ships passing in the night. We became strangers to one another.
The two things we had in common were our children and our friends. We were mostly happy in each of those settings, and it completed us for a time, but nothing lasts forever if you’re not caring for it. And we weren’t caring for our marriage, that was certain. Our relationship together had run its course.
But we were still “good people.” Two amazing people, actually. But just because we were good, doesn’t mean we were good together. We were a great team and from the outside looking in, we operated like a well-oiled machine. I mean, we were kicking ass at life if we continued to put our blinders on and commit to being robots. But we aren’t robots; we’re people, and people change. Our needs changed, or maybe we finally just acknowledged them and realized we both deserve to be happy.
You see, I know I’m a good person. I truly know that and I have never doubted that I’m anything but good. But others chose to label me in negative ways when I consciously decided to walk away from my marriage.
In that marriage, I was everyone’s friend, the resident therapist and someone to look to in their time of need. Everyone could count on me. I was praised for my ability to attend grad school, work part-time, volunteer in my children’s classrooms, and keep my husband happy. I literally had so many “friends,” I didn’t know what to do with all of them.
But once I announced our separation, the same people who I was throwing parties for and holding their newborn babies in the hospital room… well they weren’t just walking out of my life, they were running. These were the same people who stayed up late with me over a glass of wine and said they couldn’t imagine life without me. The term “bestie” seemed to come with an expiration date.
I was now being shamed, shunned, and shattered by some of the closest people in my life because two good people were now apart.
But just because people are good doesn’t mean it makes something like the dissolution of a relationship any easier on them. Some might say it makes it much harder, because there’s no one to be mad at or scream obscenities at. There’s nobody to hate. It’s just the end.
It’s maddening when someone you love and separate from is good. It’s confusing and creates doubt and forces you to reconsider going back to your mediocre, unfulfilled life. Some days it felt like it would be a hell of a lot easier, and less painful. But in the end, we both knew it wouldn’t be.
And that’s ok.
We are still great parents to our beautiful children, we are still great friends, and we are still managing our family with love. We are still good people. We were good then, and we are good now.
And if I could say one thing to the woman beginning this journey as I did one year ago, it would be this: “No matter what others say about you, don’t ever let them make you feel like you are anything other than good, even as you walk away.” Nobody knows your story, or your marriage, like you do.