You know what one of the hardest parts about calling it quits with my ex husband was? Knowing that I had a huge and expensive wedding and we didn’t make it. I cared that people were going to look at my situation with pity, shake their heads with disgust, and I would be labeled “the girl who wanted the wedding more than the marriage.”
When I was trying to muster up the courage to walk away, I sent a text to each of my bridesmaids apologizing for all the money they had spent to be a part of my wedding day. I felt so terrible. My friends were young and we were all struggling while trying to build our lives. In the fall of 2011, they centered their lives around me and my festivities and I felt guilty about that. Of course, they were all irate…at the fact that I was apologizing for doing what was best for me and my children.
Another thing that I worried about was my social media “friends” thinking I was a fraud. You guys, I had been obsessed with my ex husband since I was 13. I still remember the first time we kissed. We were 15. He came to my house to watch a movie and on his way out he kissed me. It was so terrible we both laughed midway through it and texted each other that night teasing that it was the worst kiss of our lives… you know, because we had so much experience and all.
During our teenage years we were never a couple, but were always super close. He was the reason none of my high school or college relationships made it very far, my heart was his and my head constantly wondered “what if…”
When we finally started dating, it was as though the stars had aligned and I was getting my fairytale. You couldn’t tell me NOTHIN’. I didn’t know who or what I wanted to be in life, I just knew I wanted to be his wife. From the time we started dating to the time we got married was about a year and a half. It was super quick. I adored him, as well as our children, and I had no problem letting the world know. The problem was that our decline was rapid.
I went from posting about how much I loved him and how far we had come, to 10 months later making a status announcing our separation. I knew my 700 friends probably viewed me as a fraud and/or a fake, but the truth is that things really did go down hill that quickly… and before you start judging, let me say this–we tried counseling. Church counseling, marital counseling, friend counseling, isolating ourselves from our families. Unfortunately, our issues were too big and with every attempt to outsource help, our marriage crumbled until it completely deteriorated.
So let’s recap…
I was worried about disappointing my friends, I was worried about being judged by my peers and acquaintances. That all seems pretty shallow, right? What about those precious babies I had? Didn’t their existence weigh heavily on me while trying to decide whether or not I should stay in my marriage or leave?
My kids are the reason I left.
My ex-husband’s story is not mine to tell, and I will respect our situation. I will simply say that he had his way, and I responded to his way with rage.
By the time my gut was telling me the marriage was over, our house was a battleground. I hate confrontation with anyone, but when pushed too far, it’s on. Our house was LOUD for several months. Imagine living in a home where all of the TV’s were turned up to the highest volume level at all times. Chaos. Imagine being 1- and 2-year-old children living in that chaos.
7 minutes. That’s how far away my mother lived from our house. When the chaos would start, I’d text her. Partly because we would become so enraged, I wanted her to know in case something happened, and then I also knew she would come and get my oldest son so that he didn’t have to witness the madness.
Here’s the thing about my oldest child: at two years old, he gained survival skills. As the volume slowly increased in our home, he would spring into action. He would go to his baby brother’s room and throw all of the baby’s favorite blankets into the crib, thinking they would comfort him should he wake up. He would sleep in between his dad and me to make sure that we were separated and he’d place his hands over our mouths if either of us started to get mouthy.
After some of our fights, I would cry hysterically and my child would toddle over to me and hold me, “Mama, pwease don’t cry.” And if that isn’t sad enough, when my ex and I were standing nose to nose, screaming and yelling with smoke coming out of our ears, my 2-year-old son would step in between us to break us up.
How did you feel reading that? Trust me, not nearly as bad as I feel typing it. We were awful.
Staying in our marriage was like giving my children a life sentence for a crime they didn’t commit.
My ex-husband and I separated in April of 2016 and it was almost a year before my son’s anxiety even began to simmer. If an adult raised their voice for any reason, whether it be to sing “happy birthday” or watching a football game, he would jump because his nerves were completely shot.
And the worst part about it? I was no longer his safe place. He was most at peace when he was with my mother. Even after I had moved out and into an apartment of my own, my son cried when he had to stay with me overnight. He spent half of his week with my mom and split the other half of the week between myself and my ex-husband.
Do you know how terrible it is to be a mother to a child who does not feel safe around you? Why should he have? I didn’t protect him. I allowed him to live in a stressful and toxic environment because of my pride and because I was “supposed to” stay in my marriage.
Luckily my youngest son was too little to remember anything, but my oldest, I had to start over with him. I had to make him believe that he could trust me. Assure him that his comfort and peace were a priority to me and prove that he was safe in my care. It took almost 6 months before my son was comfortable staying with me on a regular basis.
I failed my children trying to save my marriage. Fuck that. Excuse my French but, let me say that again: FUCK THAT.
I hear it a lot– “Well, we have kids.” Or “I’m going to make it work for the children.”
Even if those situations were not as explosive as mine, it’s still bullshit. Kids deserve more than fake love and an unhappy household. You’re not doing them a favor by staying in a marriage that is miserable and in a household that’s uncomfortable.
Look at it like this: When your children get married, what do you want for them?
I’ll tell you what I want. I want my boys to have spouses who look at them every day and feel that they are lucky to have them. I want them to be so in love with their spouses and their kids that they are willing to go to the ends of the earth to provide and give them a good life. I want their spouses to be able to help them and guide them through their shortcomings and be pillars of strength when they are struggling. And I want my sons to grant their spouses patience and grace when they’re emotional and feel like they’re failing.
I want my children to love their spouses and work to maintain a healthy marriage. Marriage is hard. I know this. It is not a cake walk and you don’t get to call it quits when it gets difficult. BUT, if your unhealthy marriage is affecting your children, it’s time to go back to the drawing board. Marriage was your choice, not theirs. Your kids did not choose to be alive, they did not choose to be brought into this world. That was your decision; therefore, it is your responsibility as their parent to give them safety and peace, just as much as it’s your job to provide food, clothing, and shelter.
Staying in a war zone when it is negatively affecting your children is selfish and irresponsible.
Does that sound harsh?
And let me just say that I try very hard not to marriage shame other people. You can’t help who you love, and if the love is strong and real, you fight for that marriage. You fight for that person, you fight for the life you’ve built with that person… but you do not fight in front of your kids.
If your issues are disturbing your children’s right to a peaceful childhood, if your chaos is forcing them to play roles that are too complicated for them to truly understand,
Last year, my oldest and I took a mini vacation to LA. At one point, we were in a restaurant eating dinner and he was so exhausted from traveling he climbed on my lap facing toward me to rest. After a few minutes of silence, I noticed he had drifted off to sleep with his head resting comfortably on my chest. That moment is one I’ll remember for eternity, and I still feel undeserving of. I felt as though we had finally fallen back into our roles — nurturer and child who needs nurturing.
My children are a blessing and being their mother is a privilege, and I can assure you I will never take my role for granted again.
At the end of the day, “from the outside looking in” means nothing. From the inside looking around, if you don’t see respect, love, and happy kids, you are doing yourself and your children a disservice.
There is no religion, no amount of pride, no opinion of a Facebook acquaintance worth damaging your children for (and regardless of whether or not you see signs of distress, it’s there).
Their dad and I have a better relationship now and our primary concern is co-parenting these boys and giving them the lives that they deserve to have, and I’m not talking about materialistic shit.
I’m talking about basic needs, examples of healthy relationships, and HAPPY PARENTS.
If you can’t choose happiness for yourself, choose it for your children, they deserve it.
“Divorce isn’t such a tragedy. A tragedy’s staying in an unhappy marriage, teaching your children the wrong things about love. Nobody ever died from divorce.” —Jennifer Weiner