When you walked into the crowded cafe, shaking off your coat as your eyes searched for me, it was written all over your face. As your eyes met mine, your cheerful expression dampened imperceptibly to the naked eye, but I noticed. You breezily inched into the booth and gratefully accepted the coffee I’d purchased, and I could tell you were stalling, pushing off the moment we both knew was coming. But, after your first sip of steaming hot coffee, you said the words I expected for months, “I’m getting a divorce.”
Your face crumbled as the tears started to flow and my heart broke for you.
My heart broke because I know how hard you’ve fought for your marriage, and I worry that you’ll forget how strong you are; how strong you’ve been as you’ve stood up for not only yourself but your kids. As you wiped your eyes and tried to pull yourself together, I wanted to tell you how much I admired your tireless fight to listen and yet be heard all while supporting your kids as they’ve watched their parents slowly dismantle a lifetime together.
But, instead, I stand up and fold you into my arms as you cry years of hurt and frustration into my shoulder. And I stroke your hair, wishing I had the words to take away the pain, wishing I knew the exact right thing to say to help keep your panic and fear at bay. I squeeze you tightly, hoping you can feel our years of friendship and support, and as you pull away, I look into your eyes as if to say, “We are going to get through this.” And I hope you believe me.
I think back to several years ago when you first told me you thought your marriage was in trouble. The anguish that was on your face as you quietly navigated the choppy waters of marital discord. We sat in your sunny kitchen as you told me of your fear that your happily-ever-after was cracking under the weight of bad choices and hurtful words.
I watched you bravely open your heart to the idea of going to a therapist in hopes of finding solid ground. I’d hold your baby and promise you that I had all the time in the world that evening, that you could take your time at your therapy appointment while I did what I could to ease the burden of motherhood on you. I’d see your tired, tear-stained face when you returned, and I’d know that you’d given all of yourself to your husband. That you were brutally honest and listened, as he was too.
And I know that wasn’t easy.
I stood quietly by you as the months went by and the tapestry of your marriage unraveled strand by strand. We cried together, we joked about what the dating world was like now that we were old married women, and we hugged, me hoping that my arms conveyed healing and love to your weary shoulders. When it became more apparent that your marriage was destined to be over, we’d pour wine and wonder how we suddenly became adults with real problems.
I want you to know that I believe that you are going to make it through this crisis, even if you can’t see it for yourself.
Because I’ve never seen you fail at anything, and you are going to come out on the other side even stronger. And it’s going to be amazing — not just for you but for your kids too.
I know all of this, my friend, because you are capable and strong. And let’s face it, you are one badass bitch when backed into a corner. I’ve seen you come out swinging when you have nothing left, and I’ve seen you find patience that even Mother Teresa would admire. You are good, you are kind, and you are right to want better for yourself.
As you lay down your sword and accept the reality that your marriage is over, I am here to remind you that you aren’t quitting. Rather, you are opening yourself up to new possibilities and giving yourself the gift of freedom and of peace. You didn’t come to this choice lightly, and as your friend, I will never let you forget that, especially on the days when you feel like you failed.
Divorce doesn’t make you a quitter. It makes you human, and real, and honest. It makes you the person I’m proud to call my friend, even if you suck at the new age of internet dating.
As the noise of the cafe faded around me and I focused on consoling you, I remembered back to a time when marriage seemed easier for all of us, those early days when kids and a mortgage didn’t complicate our daily routines and push us to the breaking point. I thought about how quickly memories of wedding days filled with hope and promise can fade as dreams are shattered by the gritty reality of a life with financial responsibilities and marital stress.
When you asked me what you are going to do about lawyers, custody and health care coverage, I looked at your widened eyes and told you that I don’t have the answers. But just as I did on that day years ago when you told me you needed help finding your way through your marital struggles, I promised you that I would help you figure it out. That I will listen. That I will help you pick up the pieces, one by one, and help you glue them into a new life mosaic, one that includes new loves and endless possibility.
Because that’s what friends do.