I recently told my therapist that I had started a blog and while I thought I was going to be met with praise for “being so brave” she instead looked at me and said, “you are doing what?” In fact, almost the entire session was centered around my decision to make everything so public. This is a complete 180 from my initial desire to hide everything and appear that I totally have my shit together (spoiler alert, I am barely functioning).
Divorce is like many other sad life events (death, miscarriages, substance use, etc.), they aren’t socially appropriate to discuss. You don’t want to say anything out loud about your shameful secret because it makes it “too real”. Also, if you are anything like I am, telling people sad news face-to-face is torture because people suck at hiding their emotions and sometimes have no filter. One of my favorite responses I received was “oh thank god you are ending it, I was afraid you were going to tell me you were pregnant and then I would have to pretend I was happy for you”, FYI never tell this to a person that is going through a divorce.
Here are the top three looks I have received and the potential thinking behind them:
- Pity look – “oh you poor thing, this explains the lack of showering and make-up” or “I can’t even imagine the pain you must be in because my marriage is perfect and will never end that way”.
- Joy look – “thank god you finally did it, I was so sick of hearing about all the drama” or “about fucking time you got rid of him”.
- Confusion look – “what do you mean you are getting a divorce you and C had everything” or “didn’t you just get married, how can you already be getting divorced”.
I hid the reality of my situation for so long due to a mixture of the above looks, the fact that I hate looking weak or vulnerable, the pure embarrassment of the final straw that lead to divorce and finally because I didn’t want to let my family down. So, as I told my therapist, and you all in my first post, I am done hiding because I know I am not alone (all of your amazing comments and messages have cemented this fact).
I know future posts will focus on some of the above reasons why I hid for so long. However, the purpose of this post is to discuss the crushing feeling of letting my family down as I came out of hiding. I know what everyone is probably saying (especially my family), “you didn’t let your family down, you made them proud” and I know this is the truth. Yet irrational thoughts have a way of sticking to your brain and heart until they feel real and it takes a crap ton of therapy to understand they aren’t (I am in the crap-ton of therapy phase).
I come from an amazing family. Growing up my family was referred to as the “white Cosby’s” (not sure my dad would love that reference given the current Cosby situation!). My childhood was one full of love, laughter and bad puns. If you know my father you know he is the king of puns! One of my favorite memories is us eating dinner together and my brother having to to leave the table to go outside and roll around on the patio due to his uncontrollable laughter at throwing something in my drink (something that occurred on a regular basis and something he still does to this day).
Explaining my family, well at least my siblings, is best done by the way my mom introduces us. As a fair warning I have changed a few things to make the intros current as it has been a while since my mom has had to do this, but you will still get the vibe. Also, this is one of my favorite pictures of me and my siblings because it says so much about our dynamic without any words, even though it is over 30 years old, some things never change!
- This is J (my sister that is 11 years older than me) – she was an engineer that lives in Iowa and is married with 4 children. She recently served as project manager for her church’s new building. She also home-schools my niece and nephew.
- This is M (my sister that is 8 years older than me) – she has her PhD in Molecular Biology and works doing spider research in North Dakota. She is married with 2 children and recently got two puppies.
- This is A (my brother that is 4 years old than me) – he is an eye doctor that lives in Arizona with 2 children. His recently bought his own eye practice and his wife left her job in HR to stay home with the children and their new puppy.
- This is Breezy – She lives in Denver and works in marketing and counseling. She has two crazy dogs and two cats. She is going through a divorce and she is the fun one.
Now, as I warned above I changed some facts to make them current. However, the thing that never changes in this introduction is the way my mom refers to me as the fun one, no matter what is happening in my life.
I LOVE the way my mom introduces us cause it makes me laugh every time and also makes me realize that I come from a family of overachievers, seriously my siblings are ROCK STARS and I barely can keep up with them. Additionally, I love it because I am my mother’s daughter. We both have a bit of a wild streak, she will have to disclose the details from her younger years as I am not here to air other’s personal stories, only my own! We both love good wine, delish food and the laughter and decisions that come out when you put the two together. I get my ability to talk to strangers from her (for some reason everyone wants to tell us their life story) and the even better ability to be witty yet truthful with these people (well this is a mixture of her and my dad). One of the best statements she ever made was when C and I first started dating, “what do you mean you are dating a 37 year old, this isn’t Hollywood you know”.
Also, as you can see from my mother’s introductions, not only do I come from a family of overachievers, but everyone is married with children. In my family marriage is not something to be entered into lightly and you work through things no matter how hard it gets. I mean my parents have been married for 48 years and they appear to still love each other, or are really good at faking it for us kids. My dad still makes my mom coffee every morning and holds her hand when we go places. Side note: my dad still makes the entire family breakfast when we are together because my mom (like me) has always been a sleeper, so breakfast was a dad job in our house and one that he loves. So, given who my family is and the standard they have set, I took my time in releasing the information that I had asked C to leave and divorce was my future. I didn’t want them to think I didn’t try hard enough.
I honestly can’t remember who I told first, my parents or my sister M, I think it was M. See M knew a lot more than anyone else regarding the nitty gritty of C and my relationship, so me kicking C out was not as shocking to her. My relationship with M is one of complete nonjudgmental listening. She never tries to offer advice or fix the situation because she knows when I call I just need someone to talk to. While we may not talk on a regular basis due to our crazy schedules, when we do it is usually a 2 hour conversation going over everything in our lives. So, telling M was my safety net, she would be the one to run interference as I told my other family members. And, she did just that and continues to do. My mom may call her and ask “have you talked to Breezy”, if M says no then my mom knows that I am okay because if anything was really bad then I would have called M by then.
Also, something you should know about my family is that we have what we lovingly call the “family phone tree” meaning when someone has big news it spreads really quick around the family as people call each other stat and jump into action (I am the worst offender). I knew the family phone tree would be activated as soon as I started telling people, especially since I am the baby and my family tends to treat me as such. Something I find very endearing and also very annoying because I am 33 years old!
If I told M first then my parents were definitely next. When I told my parents about C leaving they were sad for me as they knew I was in pain and they couldn’t fix it. At that time, I didn’t tell my parents everything that had led to me asking C to leave because honestly I didn’t have the balls to do it. I was scared that I let them down by allowing C to treat me like he did and by my reactions to C’s indiscretions. I mean at times I would legit lose my mind on C.
The last breakdown I had on him resulted in me throwing all of his clothes down the stairs while I screamed at him to get the eff out of my house. Not one of my brightest moments, but also not one of my worst. During this breakdown as he picked up his clothes and packed them into his car he looked at me and said something that sticks with me to this day, “just because you are fine being a fat slob covered in dog hair, doesn’t mean I am”. These words still echo through my mind especially anytime I meet someone new and look down to see I have dog hair on my clothes. After saying this, he left the house for about 10 mins and then came back. He brought his clothes back to his closet and told me not to touch them again. While this occurred, I lay in bed laughing because he was only gone for 10 MINUTES – like where the hell did he even go, around the block twice? Seriously, things were not healthy and like I said at times all I could do was laugh.
Sorry I have a tendency to digress into other stories, so back to what I was saying about telling my parents…
I wasn’t 100% sure if C and I would get divorced when I asked him to leave. The last thing I wanted to do was tell my parents the truth about everything and have them not accept C back into the family if we did work it out. It took me 4 months or so to tell my parents the truth. It came out very abruptly one day in January when C’s gf posted a pic of him and her kissing in front of a Christmas Tree on her Facebook (yes I am a creepier and checked her page on a regular basis). When the picture was posted, C and I had not yet decided to file for divorce. We were still in talks about if we had a future, we bought each other presents and he even sent his mother a Christmas card signed on behalf of me and our animals, even though we weren’t living together. I guess he was scared to tell his family the truth too. However, the moment the picture was posted, I went “classy crazy” and shared it on my own Facebook congratulating them on their first Christmas together. The moment my phone began to blow up with texts asking if I meant to do that, I knew all bets were off and I was filing for divorce so my parents could know the full story. When they did know the full story my mom went into complete mama bear mode and my dad went into protecting his baby girl mode.
My parents are still operating in this mode and I have a feeling they will be for a long time. Honestly, my dad is the best handyman around when he is in this mode, so I will take advantage of it for as long as I can!
After my parents, I told my oldest sister J. J is the “get shit done” one of the siblings, so when I told her I had a feeling her first response would be, “when do you need me out there to pack up his stuff and change the locks”. This in fact was her response and I love her for it. While J is amazing at getting shit done she also knows what I am going through and offers me the best advice and makes me feel not so crazy with some of my reactions to C’s actions. She knows me better than I know myself and does things despite me not giving her straight forward answers. For instance, it was J that decided she would fly her and my niece to NYC and spend the weekend with me. I had booked a trip for me and C for his 50th bday before I asked him to leave and I didn’t want to cancel my ticket since I had to go out for work any way (I was also secretly hoping he would change his mind and come back home and go on vacation with me). So my plan was to go out for the weekend alone. Instead she and my niece came out and took a trip that could have been sad and lonely and made it into one of the best NYC trips of my life. I got to watch my niece fall in love with the city just like I had and my small-town Iowa sister freak out at all of the people.
Finally, I saved the hardest person for last…my brother. In fact I believe I told my sister-in-law before I told my brother so that way she could help calm him down when I did tell him. Just in case people are wondering, with my brother-in-laws I assumed my sisters would tell them. My brother-in-laws are also protective of me so I wanted to avoid the situation and just let my sisters handle it for me, this was their way of falling on the bomb for me. However, my sister-in-law is like my third sister and understands divorce better than anyone else because she lived through it with her parents. She is an amazing support and texts me just when I need it – I think she has a special divorce sense. She also tells me the most inappropriate and amazing things to make me laugh which is such a blessing.
Back to my brother, he is the definition of a protective older brother which is one of the reasons why it took me so long to tell him. I mean I didn’t want him to come to Denver with a baseball bat and get arrested. I also felt like over everyone in my family, I let my brother down the most. My brother was the one that married me and C. He did not want to marry us as he had strong reservations about C due to a particular incident. But my brother loves me and I convinced him that C had changed and it would mean the world to me if he officiated the ceremony. So, the fact that my marriage was ending meant that I lied to my brother and made him do something that he didn’t want to do. I cried a lot about this and even tried to make my marriage work for much longer than I should have because I didn’t want my brother to feel like he didn’t protect me by refusing to marry C and I. So, when I told my brother and heard his reaction it broke my heart. He didn’t bring up the fact that he married C and I, rather he just hurt for me and he knew nothing he could do could fix it – not even coming to Denver with a baseball bat. Instead he flew me to his house a few months later just to see me in person and see that I was okay. That is who my brother is, he loves me more than anything and just wants to make sure I am okay.
Telling my family was one of the hardest things I have had to do in this process. But even harder is coming to terms with the fact that I didn’t let them down. While my family may appear to be the white-picket-fence-family (C’s term), I know the truth. We aren’t a perfect family but rather one that loves each other, despite our flaws, and chooses to work through our struggles and differences. Ultimately this is all I am looking for in life and I am forever grateful that my family not only supports me on this journey, but reminds me almost daily who I really am.
As my brother once told me, “you know you don’t have to live in a Mexican soap opera if you don’t want to, you do deserve better”.