I heard the way you quickly changed the subject when Valentine’s Day came up.
I saw how you wiggled out of your husband’s embrace the moment I walked in the door.
I noticed that you don’t bring up your marriage issues around me anymore.
Divorce creates a surprising number of ripple effects that stretch beyond the loss of a key person in your life. There’s loss of financial security. Uncertainty about the future. Confusion about identity.
This isn’t what I wanted my life to be.
But one ripple effect I never counted on was losing common ground with you. I never expected for our friendship to change into something so suddenly, subtly different. I never expected to feel like an alien visiting from outer space when I hang out with other moms, as if there’s an unwritten rule that in order to fit in I must have a partner to head home to.
I didn’t expect to be pitied, or be the center of gossip, or be the cause of anyone’s anxiety. But I should have.
Years ago I had a good friend who had recently divorced. We talked about everything — kids, sex, money, religion. The one thing we never talked about, because I carefully avoided the subject, was my marriage. Specifically, the problems in my marriage. I told myself this was because I didn’t want to cause her any extra grief. I didn’t want to make her feel awkward, or bring up unresolved issues she might have that would cause her pain.
But the truth is, it wasn’t ever about her. It was about me. I didn’t want to air my issues because I was scared. What if she talked me into divorce, or gave me advice that would steer my impressionable self in that direction? What if I stumbled into an admission that divorce was a possibility, a plausible option on the table? I might get sucked in. It was as if my sweet friend was the walking Shadow of Death, and by getting too close, by standing under the shadow too long, I might succumb to the same ugly fate.
It’s hard to admit, but I used to think of divorce as a communicable disease I might accidentally catch.
Now that I’m on the other side, I want you to know this, friends: I understand. The hesitancy, the awkwardness, the withholding of information — I get it. And I don’t expect you to change. I’m not going to plead with you to go back to the way things were, in the same way you won’t ask me to change back to who I once was.
But hear this truth, lest you ever think otherwise: I don’t want you to join my club. Quite the opposite. I want your marriage to succeed. I want you to be happy and healthy and grow old with your partner.
If you tell me your secrets, I’ll keep them. If you tell me your marriage troubles, I won’t give you divorce-leaning advice. I might tell you what I’ve learned about boundaries or encourage you to seek your own health and happiness, but that’s because everyone could use those reminders. Not just those on their way out the door. I promise to listen and not judge. I will root for things to work out.
In fact, I want my divorce to be a reason for your marriage to get stronger. Let my life be a cautionary tale, the impetus you need to get help now instead of waiting. If something’s rattling under the hood, take it to the shop. Don’t wait until it’s broken down by the side of the road. I want my divorce to cause you to run like hell to the therapist before it’s too late.
And if your marriage is healthy and strong, I want my divorce to inspire you to pull your husband closer, love him harder, enjoy that moment in his arms a little longer. I hope you appreciate the way he always vacuums your car without complaint, or the way he insists on holding the baby after you just got her down for a nap. When there are happy moments in your marriage, I want you to soak those up on my account. That would make me happy.
And if it’s too hard to talk to me, to open up to me, to stand too close — don’t you worry. I will be okay.
Because in your absence, the spaces around me are filling up.
I recently reconnected with a friend after years of not talking. She said her reason for avoiding me was because I seemed, from the outside, to be so happy. My marriage seemed perfect. She couldn’t relate to that. Her marriage was broken, and had been for a long time. She felt like an alien visiting from another planet, touching down among so many happy, put-together couples.
So when she learned of my divorce, she leaned in. She wondered if I might be someone she could talk to. Someone who might empathize and walk with her through the pain. Someone who might give her hope that there was freedom and joy on the other side.
If I hadn’t gotten divorced, I might never have known how my friend was suffering. And I definitely never would have had the opportunity to share with her the hope and strength that I’ve found.
Married friends, if you can’t be here with me right now, or if you feel like you need to hide parts of yourself when you are with me, I want you to know I have no hard feelings.
Despite what it may look like from the outside, something is growing out of this mess. Something I never expected. It isn’t the same, and it definitely isn’t what I wanted my life to be. But somehow, it’s even better.
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