The Beginning of the End

The week my husband moved out, I was in so much pain that I felt like it was going to burst through my chest. I walked around and wondered how it was that people couldn’t just feel it radiating off me, it seemed like there should be some visible aura of disbelief and brokenness in my wake. For the first time in my life, I learned what it really felt like to have a broken heart, and it sucked.

Five minutes after we sat on the couch and agreed that he should ask his cousin if he could still stay in their extra bedroom for a while, he was helping me put together a photograph portfolio for a job interview. This is what made it so hard. Hour to hour, we still could still get along. We could still have fun, laugh, watch TV together. Zooming out from those moments, though, everything was a mess of hurt, resentment, and needs not being met. I hated it because every time we had a normal conversation, I wished it could just stay that way. We were really great at ignoring the big picture for the small moments, shoving our big feelings down deep for day to day pleasantries.

Over the years while my marriage dissolved, I had a lot of anger and a lot of conversations with friends and family about my situation, but the morning after it became real, I couldn’t stop crying. I’d learned to cry in the car and the shower because my kids couldn’t see me. I sobbed all the way home from dropping my older son off at school. I felt like I could lie down and cry and it would never stop.

I tried to convince myself that a separation was not just a gateway to divorce… but I didn’t have a lot of confidence. Our disagreements about who was right and who was wrong, whose behavior was okay, seemed insurmountable.

The pain blindsided me in the car. One minute I would be bopping along in the sunshine singing Teenage Dream, and the next I’d be sobbing not knowing if I’d be with my kids on Christmas morning and my heart would shatter into a million little pieces.

I wanted to tell the world, scream that I was hurting. At the same time, I felt ashamed and wanted no one to know. I was not going to be one of those failures. When we were just having issues in our relationship, I could talk to my friends about it. Separation and divorce were abstract concepts. The decision that he needed to move out… I didn’t want to share it. It seemed so final, it seemed like giving up.

I felt an intense loneliness, not having friends who had been through a divorce. I needed my people, my community, but at the same time I felt like people supporting me made it harder. I heard them saying I tried everything I could, that I was not doing this lightly, that it was better for my kids to be surrounded by happy, healthy relationships, that my marriage had worn me down, that I was strong and would be okay, that I really tried. When I cried, I couldn’t tell if it was because I believed them or because I didn’t.

Despite my mother’s warning that should’ve and could’ve were slippery slopes, I still felt like I could have somehow given more than everything. I was turning into a statistic. I failed because I wasn’t good enough. Thoughts would devolve until I focused in on how I was the same age as my son when my parents got divorced. I became sure I’d be lonely forever. These were the times before I found myself and my strength, and I thought maybe I should have given in and just lived with it, permanently putting myself last and everyone else first. That maybe I should have just tried harder.

My world became surreal. One afternoon, I sat in a chair in Barnes and Noble with a stack of books. Book after book, I skim the pages designed for kids about separation and divorce and tried to decide which one to buy for my six year old, which one he would understand, which one would comfort him somehow. How would I explain to my baby that Daddy’s leaving? Once again, I couldn’t stop the tears and I felt ridiculous and if I saw myself there what would I think? But I HAD to get more information, and I needed those books, and I couldn’t choose without reading. So I read. And I wept. And I eventually picked out a book about a Mommy and Daddy who forgot how to be friends.

When we talked about him moving out, and decided, we got quiet. I started to cry and my husband said “This sucks.” I said, “Yeah, it does.” And that was that.