Then I came out publicly to say I was separating, and then divorcing. And wow. Everyone came out of the woodwork.
There’s one thing I can tell you with certainty: if you think you’re the only person going through this, you’re not. My friends, both those I see regularly and those I see hardly ever, have suddenly opened up to me privately. Yes, they are having these problems, too. Their relationship feels untenable. They just came out of a rough patch. They have been there or they are there right now.
I went from feeling completely alone to realizing that I am one among many. We struggle alone and silent.
Marriage is an intense bond. It can feel like a kind of cheating to share the difficulties of it.
But by keeping our struggles to ourselves we don’t get a chance to learn from the experiences of others. We don’t get a chance to feel solidarity and validation from the people around us.
I’m not saying I know how to be more open about difficulties with relationships. Despite how much of an oversharer I am, I kept my mouth shut for years while I hoped things would get better. I kept the truth a secret. I don’t know if being open would’ve helped my marriage at all.
Writing about relationships is hard. I talk about parenting as a journey through my eyes, I try to talk about being a mom to my kids without dwelling heavily on the kids themselves. As is the case for most bloggers, I never wrote in much detail about my marriage. It wasn’t mine to write about. It was ours. I didn’t have ownership, I was sharing it with someone else. It wasn’t mine to write about. Part of me thinks this is the best way to handle it. I made the decision to be here but my spouse didn’t.
When you have a problem in your career you can confide in friends and ask for advice. When you have a problem with your kids you can confide in friends and ask for advice. When you have a problem in your marriage, there is a strange unspoken rule that it cannot be discussed or shared.
How are we supposed to navigate these complicated waters all by ourselves? How can our community and friendships involve so much of our lives but leave our romantic relationships ignored?
Then there’s social media, which has only increased the pressure to have a good marriage, a happy family, a perfect kid. People no longer celebrate the joys of their marriages and partnerships privately. Every anniversary requires an old wedding picture, a sweet message, and a statement of how wonderful their lives are. This must be shared with everyone. And it happens whether you’re happy or not.
Watching people publicly praise their marriage is a lot like watching other people’s kids develop normally when yours is behind. I’ve been in both situations and they have a lot in common. And, above all, it’s a feeling of exclusion and solitude and loneliness and loss.
But I know how much better I feel knowing that there is plenty of heartbreak behind the smiles and perfect photographs and all the attempts we make to look like our lives are perfect. I’m not saying I want other people to be unhappy. It’s just comforting when you’re feeling low to know that other people have been hiding just like me.
Maybe someday we’ll figure out how to come out of the dark together, how to help and support each other. Heaven knows, when you and your spouse don’t know how to support each other you definitely need support from somewhere.
Since I’ve opened up I’ve had the kind of support I never dreamed of. Every message, no matter how small, has helped me feel like I have a whole community at my back. It helps me feel like everything will be fine. They help me feel strong on my own. They help me feel like I will find new relationships and new loves, that I will be valued and adored by other people in the world.
This is also a thank you to all of you who’ve shared your own struggles and difficulties. And I hope you know that you can confide in me about any of it. Any time. Anywhere.