The Function in Dysfunction

I talk a lot. Sometimes too much. I’m an over-sharer and sometimes I feel the need to word vomit in the most simple of conversations. It’s just who I am. Too transparent. But it’s certainly led to some interesting conversation.

I was talking to someone affiliated with my work world, someone I had just met, and she was asking me about life, in general: kids, vacations, etc. Just small talk. She asked if I was married and I said my usual, “No, but her dad and I are still in a relationship. We’re together but don’t live together”.

She gave me the same perplexed look that everyone else does. People don’t understand this type of unconventional situation. I get it. She is quite a bit older than me so she seemed more concerned than most do about my answer.

And then she said this: “Well…that’s an interesting set up. So much dysfunction for kids these days. I guess broken homes are the norm with all of the divorces. No one stays together anymore.”.

Dysfunction. I loathe that word in relation to describing a family.

Broken. I loathe that word in relation to a home.

It got me thinking- why, and how, on earth did we ever start describing families of divorce as “dysfunctional”?

Totally rhetorical but my annoyance remains.

This idea that divorce is synonymous with dysfunction and brokenness should not be perpetuated. Those are temporary states, or emotions, within divorce at times, but not adjectives that should describe families.

What a horrible label. It’s something that I have heard less and less of since divorces are so common, but these ugly words we use to describe families that aren’t the fairytale version of marriage and family- “dysfunctional”, “broken”? Let’s stop that.

My family is not dysfunctional. My family is not broken. And my child does not need to think otherwise. If her father and I would have stayed in a marriage, a relationship, which, at the time of separation was completely unhealthy- arguments, tension, unhappiness, amongst other things- wouldn’t that have been broken? Wouldn’t that have been dysfunctional?

The difference is now, yes, she has two houses. She spends the night at one house twice a week and the other house the rest of the week. There are challenges that go along with this. There is navigation involved. There were certainly concerns for my child when this drastic change was made, but at the end of the day, she has two parents that love her. She has a family that functions despite the title of “divorce”. We all still function. No one is broken.

Hearts might have been broken, sure, but they’re in some phase of repair and they certainly won’t stay broken, so let’s not call anything broken. We were living in more dysfunction before, prior to divorce. So let’s not call our new normal dysfunctional. Let’s get rid of that ideal, of that perfection, in relation to what families look like and how they function. Perfection does not exist. Anywhere. We all know this. Let’s stop with the stigmas.

Everyone functions because they have to. They navigate their new normal- all of us do that have been through a separation and a divorce. None of it is easy, most of it is not pretty. And it can certainly get downright ugly. But it was most likely ugly as the textbook definition of marriage, too.

It’s redefining. Not dysfunctional. Not broken.

We know our children do not go unscathed by divorce. We, as parents, we know this. We do not need ugly labels to reinforce this, however. We do not need this global idea that we simply gave up on marriage, that it was that easy. That we didn’t try. No one lives behind our closed doors. Only we know our reasons, only we know what we had to do to function and thrive the best way we know how.

This obviously also goes for divorced families that now have new marriages, maybe step-children. They’re beautiful, extended, blended families. At least most of them are. Not all of them are the families pictured together at the kids’ soccer games, or at Disney together, as one big happy family, donning the shirts labeled with their specific role in the family, (this just isn’t realistic for every family of divorce), but they all function to the very best of their abilities. They all love.

Once again, love wins. Love for our kids, it wins. Always. We, as parents, make every decision with our children at the forefront of our minds. That’s what we do. And the last thing we want is for them to be labeled as “broken” or “dysfunctional”.

Can we do better, collectively? Can we look at a divorce situation objectively and just silently acknowledge that this family did the best the could then and they’re doing the best they can now. I did not grow up as a child of divorce but so many of my friends that did are badass, full-functioning, successful, functional people. No worse for wear and definitely not broken.

All families are beautiful. They are all unique. They are all functional in some way, shape, or form. They do not need perfection. They just need love.

 

 

 

 

In Support of Unconventional Relationships

If I had to guess, I would say that those who know me at all would describe me as “unconventional”. It’s definitely been said about me. I’m not sure if that’s a nice way of calling me bat-shit crazy but it’s an adjective that I’ve learned to embrace.

I’ve never liked conventionalism or rules of any kind, really. I remember my dance team coach from high school particularly hated that about me. She would have a certain dances choreographed, coached us in a very methodical way, and if I saw room for improvement or an opportunity to interject an opinion, I wouldn’t let that moment pass. I wanted to do everything different. I’d speak up with my unsolicited opinion and it was usually met with an eye roll and a reprimand. She called me “un-coachable”. I called it “thinking outside of the box”.

And that’s the way I’ve lived my life: outside of the box. Relationships included.

After leaving my first marriage and falling in love with a man who was almost 8 years my junior, (who would later become my second husband), a friend said to me, “You always just do whatever it is you want and things just seem to work out for you”. Well, yes. Things do work out. Because they have to. But I think what she meant was, I don’t play by the relationship rules.

But everyone has their opinions on others’ romantic relationships. Imagine if we didn’t have such opinions. Where would our entertainment and conversations come from? Reality television was solely founded on the premise that we must know, and have intimate details, of others’ romantic relationships. The popularity of soap operas, movies, sitcoms, celebrity gossip shows… you name it, most forms of entertainment are centered around who’s fucking who. Period. We are a species with gross curiosity of how others manage their romantic lives. And it clearly  must be discussed amongst the masses.

I’ve recently noted quite a few headlining relationship changes, and not just because someone of notoriety got divorced from some humdrum marriage. Nope. Unconventional relationships are becoming more the thing these days.

Best selling author, Glennon Doyle-Melton shocked us all after revealing she left her husband and soon entered a romantic relationship with another woman who she will now- gasp- marry! Good for her. I think this is amazing news. Love wins.

More recent news revealed that the founder of Scary Mommy, Jill Smokler, stayed in a marriage after learning of her husband’s homosexuality for more than a decade.  Jaw.Drop. But, guess what? I get it. He was her person. There was love. Love won.

Talk about unconventional.

I mean, I don’t know if I can top these stories but I’ll try, only because it’s all the rage: I’m currently dating my {second} ex-husband and father of my child.

The background: We started dating in late 2002. He was just 18, I was 25. You read that correctly. May-September at it’s finest. Mrs. Robinson. Cougar. Robbing the cradle. Yes. That. Whatever you’d like to call it. It was chemistry and it was tangible and it was real.

We moved in together in 2003, got engaged in 2007, got married in 2008, had a baby in 2009.

I publicly bared my soul in writing about our split in 2014. They were very dark days. We divorced in early 2015.

After I started to rebuild my life and the pain subsided, I still felt as though I was missing a limb. This feeling went deeper than just that of divorce grief. He somehow felt…inevitable to me. The divorce felt more like a hiatus and a time to take a breath, as odd as that sounds. That portion of our relationship needed a finale, an ending point. I had to let go of what it was.

I really searched my soul for my stake in our relationship failures, learned so much about myself, and dug deep for what it was I wanted from someone else, from a partner. The answer was: I wanted him. He is my person. I didn’t want another person. I was fine being alone but also wanted this person. Flaws and all. I wanted all of him. And I didn’t want to change him like I previously thought I did.

It took me awhile to process what this looked like and to make sense out of loving someone, still, who might not have made the best choices in the past. I’ve previously written about being addicted to him, so perhaps some of it is that piece, but it also really comes down to plain, old-fashioned love. It can be difficult to delineate the two, but I digress.

If I’m being honest, it’s very much a work in progress. Old issues don’t die easily. I’m not simplifying it or dismissing our past. None of this happened without thinking and over-thinking and discussing and over-discussing. We are two imperfect people who love each other.

So, we currently date. We do family days at the beach. We take vacations together. We even own a house together in a foreign country with intentions of someday living there. Together.

No, we don’t currently live together, we’re not married, and we really don’t discuss these components of our relationship or what our future looks like. I don’t know that we have a label, which seems to be what outsiders looking in want to make them comfortable and cure their curiosity.

But. We just…are.

We love each other. We raise a child together. We enjoy each other. And when we don’t, we have our own spaces to retreat to. We came back to each other in an unconventional way and had to learn a new path because love persisted for us. It was never lost. We just had to redefine it for ourselves. And it just works for us this way. It might not work forever. But it might.

It’s weird. It’s different. It doesn’t make sense to almost anyone else and, listen- it doesn’t have to.

Everyone’s relationship journey is different but you know what’s the same universal truth? No one likes being judged or ridiculed for their relationship choices. And…everyone loves to be loved.

That love looks different for everyone.

And no love goes without trials and tribulations. Not one person reading these words can say they have a perfect relationship. It doesn’t exist. We all recognize that judging, commenting and ridiculing others’ love does not make sense. Love is not one dimensional. It’s multifaceted and certainly complex. Unless you live it, breathe it, sit with it everyday, you cannot say you know what’s best. You aren’t allowed that opinion, no matter how right you might be as an outsider looking in. It’s not yours to have. We complain to our friends and family about our relationships because we’re looking for support, commonality, an ear, a shoulder, an ally at times. We are not looking for definitive answers because there aren’t any.

Love persists. It ebbs and it flows. It gets messy. Sometimes you can clean up the mess… but it will look different when its put back together. And that’s ok because it might still work. It might get lost but it could be found again. It might have some road blocks but it might create a new path. You just never know.

So, the next time I hear a news story with someone else’s relationship truths or a friend comes to me with relationship woes, I will try to find the amazing in the story. I try to find the why for them; what was- what is– the why of their love? I try to find the love in their story. I will support that love when they want me to and I will hate that love if that’s what they need. No matter what the story is, it isn’t my story to tell so it won’t look the way mine would.

But love is an amazing thing that has a way of working itself out sometimes.

And we should all hope for that for one another.

Love wins. No matter what it looks like to everyone else.

 

 

Being On Both Sides of Infidelity

I hear and read debates on why people cheat so often. How a woman’s reasons for cheating are different from a man’s. How women seek attention and to fill voids and how men look for the physical. The truth is, everyone’s reasons for cheating are different. Everyone’s path to cheating is different. Some couples’ willingness to work through cheating and stay together are all different.

There’s no formula to cheating. No matter how many articles are written to analyze or predict it, no matter how many red flags there are in a relationship, no matter how many lists we read about the signs of cheating, no matter how much justifying is done, it happens and it will continue to happen. It’s terrible but it happens.

I believe the simplified answer as to why it happens is universal: we are selfish beings that want and crave attention. Period. It’s an act of selfishness that begs to be judged, (and trust me, I do still judge when I hear stories of cheating spouses), but few realize, or will admit, that it could be any one of us on either side of infidelity. We want to believe it would never be us or happen to us, yet it is and it does.

I’ve been married twice. I’m now twice divorced. I choke on typing that in solid print. It’s embarrassing to me that I failed at marriage twice.

Many people in my life might not even know about my first marriage. I even tend to forget. I was 24 and was in a rush to be in love, to be loved, to be married, to do what all of my friends were doing.

I met a wonderful man that I was set up on a blind date with. He was kind-hearted, funny, and he adored me. Our relationship moved much too fast. We moved in together after only 4 weeks of dating and we were engaged within months.

If I’m being totally honest, I never loved him. I knew that from the start and I ignored it. I wanted the wedding, I wanted the adoration. I was really good at pretending. We had very little in common but in retrospect, I didn’t even know myself well enough to know what my needs and wants were at the time. He was a good person and he deserved more. I was on a rebound from a long-term love when I met him and he paid the price. It’s unfair and it was shitty but it was the reality.

I made a conscience decision to cheat on him only 3 months into our marriage. Clearly, not to be confused with a premeditated plan to cheat. I don’t know that anyone actually does that. Not many look to outwardly and blatantly lie and live a double life. How many times have you heard, “It just…happened”? And it does, just happen. This is not a dismissive or excusable fact but it is the truth.

I met a guy at work, a much younger guy, that I had a ridiculous amount of chemistry with. Because he was so much younger, I didn’t notice the chemistry immediately but when I finally acknowledged it, it was over. I was involved. I was emotionally cheating from that moment on and physical cheating wasn’t far behind.

Once the physical relationship began, I became a different person, one I didn’t recognize and one I absolutely hated facing in the mirror. I hated myself but not enough to stop the affair. I knew I was in love with the person I chose to cheat with. I knew I had to leave my husband, and I did, after only 5 months of marriage, 2 months into the affair.

It was awful, being on that side of infidelity. It wasn’t fun, it wasn’t an adventure, and it didn’t feel good. I couldn’t eat, couldn’t sleep, and the lies felt like razors punishing my lips each and every time I had to tell a lie. It wasn’t in my DNA to pull this off, nor did I want to. I was too consumed with how people viewed me to be honest with myself, and with him about not being in love, about not wanting to get married, and about what I needed from a relationship.

Love stole all logic from me. That’s not an excuse but it’s what happened. I allowed that to happen. I should have stopped the affair, been honest with my husband, left him, knowing I wasn’t in love, and stayed on my own until I gained complete clarity. But, I didn’t. I was too afraid to lose love.

I left my husband for another man.

I’ve never outwardly admitted this to anyone before. Not to my then husband, not to my friends or family, and not to myself. But that’s the truth. I live with guilt about this every single day, still. I never forgave myself completely. I broke someone’s heart in the worst imaginable way and it was unforgivable.

I married the man in this story. And infidelity came full circle 5 years into our marriage, 12 years into our relationship. Only this time, it was me on the receiving end.

I’ve never been quite sure about the concept of karma. We all speak about it as though it’s real but I’ve, more often than not, thought of it as a coping mechanism. However, my second husband’s infidelity sure did feel like karma. It completely broke me as a person. I allowed it to completely break me and it felt awful. I hated myself. I couldn’t eat, I couldn’t sleep, and I couldn’t look at myself in the mirror. My self esteem wouldn’t let me. And I felt like I totally and completely deserved it.

It felt eerily familiar. As much as I wanted to play the victim, and at times I truly did, it was undeniable that this happened for a reason.

My darkest moments lie within both sides of these infidelities. And within dark moments lie truth and learning. I learned what I am capable of. I learned what rock bottom looks like. I learned what complete loneliness feels like.  I learned what self hatred is. On both sides, all of these same lessons took place and looked very similar.

Oddly, this all brought me to a path of self acceptance. It was all within the learning. I just needed to pay attention. Cheating is simply a symptom of much deeper issues and if it happens to you, no matter which side you’re on, you just need to try to pay attention to the message. It won’t be easy, it won’t be pretty, but you.must.listen.

I forgive myself. I forgive him. It was all part of a much bigger process.

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The Shedding of Things

I recently cut my hair. Most people I interact with on a daily didn’t even notice, even though it was a drastic change for me. But that was ok. It felt amazing to shed the weight and to feel a change. A friend quoted Coco Chanel to me after learning of my hair cut and said, “A woman who cuts her hair is about to change her life”. And I did.

Soon after that, within days,  I decided to sell my furniture. The furniture that I had for the duration of my relationship with my ex husband. Just, shedding… things.

Soon after that, within days, I decided to shed my addiction.

I firmly believe, the older that I get and the more I learn, that we are all addicted to something. Addiction is a frightening word but if you really analyze your life, really dig deep, I can almost guarantee there is a vice. There’s the obvious: alcohol, drugs, cigarettes, gambling, sex, caffeine. Then there’s the less obvious: maybe sports, exercise, behaviors, and maybe, just maybe…even people.

I am addicted to a person. I am addicted to the person who has betrayed me time and time again. I am addicted to the love, the hate, the chaos, the bad, the good, the ugly, the borderline emotional abuse, the lust, the hope, the everything. I just recently, within the last year, have admitted this is an actual thing. Being addicted to a person and codependency is very real.

We’ve been divorced for over a year and separated for over two. People get divorced everyday and move on. But with addiction, it’s not that simple. I never completely quit him. I never allowed myself time. I never kicked the habit. I never gave up the high. It’s an addiction that lives in my soul. An addiction to the person I once saw as my second heart. The grieving became too much, and the loneliness became even more. I would dive right back into text messages and calls and obsessive thoughts, just wanting my fix of him. I just wanted to feel better. I could not handle being dope sick. It’s a weakness. And he certainly knows this.

No, I never planned on a complete reconciliation. I never wanted another marriage to him or cohabitation. I just wanted him in some form. I wanted him to love me or just want me. I wanted some semblance of a family. I wanted to force that. I wanted him to be different than he was and change old behaviors, shed addictions of his own. With or without change on his part, I just wanted him. I wanted the safety net of him and the support. I wanted the late night texts and the random intimacy. I wanted to dismiss all of the betrayal and pretend that this hybrid of a relationship we had was ok. It was unconventional but it was ok and it was good for me and therefore good for my daughter. He said he wanted me, too, as he always has, but his actions prove otherwise, as they always do.

I fooled myself into believing that I had control, as most addicts do. I made my rules, as most addicts do. If I only saw him a couple times as week and we only vacationed together, it wouldn’t become dangerous to me. Heartbreak wouldn’t be eminent if I just followed my own rules. But then the rules are stretched and a bigger dosage becomes the new rule.

And then there’s an event, an overdose of sorts, as there always is with addiction. A rock bottom moment where I have some self reflection and wonder what the fuck I’m doing. The danger is clear and the denial subsides. This is the moment to take advantage of and bail. For good. Some of us in addiction have had several of these rock bottom moments and we just hope that this time will be the one that will stick. I will make it stick this time. I have to. I have to be ready to do the work. I have to actually do the work.

I’m detoxing. I’m shedding.

The first hours were strong and full force, cold turkey. There’s a fierce confidence within those initial hours and a certainty that I will never look back. I was empowered by my independence and my courage to move on.

As the hours passed, the pain set in. Gut wrenching, real pain. That realization that the void is sneaking back in. The fear is sneaking back in. The reality is there staring me in the face. I am alone and I have to find a way to be ok. In reality, I have been alone for a very long time and my drug of choice has only been there to lie to me, pretending to ease my pain and fill my void. It’s a pseudo effect, a pacifier.

I have to break habits and that’s what it’s about. That’s the simplest answer to addiction: it’s just a habit that must be broken. Because with most habits that lead to addiction, it can literally or metaphorically kill you.  Being addicted to this person, I am giving myself away piece by piece. I am killing my spirit. I become unrecognizable to myself in the throes of addiction, as many of us do. How can we not if we’re giving so much of ourselves to someone or something else? It dims our light. It prevents us from being our truest form.

Every time I use again, I am saying it’s ok. It’s ok to allow myself the betrayals, the lies, the empty promises. I am saying it’s ok to settle for someone that cannot and will not give their all to me. I am saying this is good enough for me but above all, I’m saying it’s good enough for my daughter. I’m teaching her that a person who should be a partner, but is too caught up in self desires, is acceptable on his part-time schedule. No. No, this is not what I am willing to allow her to settle for in life.

It’s not about winning over this addiction. No one wins. No one gets a medal. It’s just about surviving it and finding a greater version of myself through the process. I know I’m here somewhere, whole and complete. We are all complete on our own if we allow it. This ideology of having a “better half”, or just an “other half”, is complete and utter bullshit. We are not all halves walking around in need of someone else. Getting out of that mindset is crucial. I have to allow it; trust the healing process.

They say that 21 days kicks a habit. Day 6. Dope sick and still in pain. But it is better than the alternative of self destruction. Freeing my heart of this will allow for so much more on the other side of the pain. It will be cleansing, this shedding.

I will not give myself away anymore.

 

 

How I Failed My Marriage

I have written a couple of deeply personal posts about my divorce and all that surrounded those circumstances. My divorce was the one reason I came back to writing, to connect with my emotions about the whole situation, to help grieve the loss. Right or wrong, I laid it all out there.

Here’s one notion that I didn’t touch on about my divorce: I do not blame my ex for our failed marriage. I failed him just as much as he failed me.

We all have a difficult time accepting responsibility when anything goes awry in any situation, professionally or personally. At least I do. Blaming comes so much easier. Accepting responsibility requires a lot of energy and self-reflection. I’m certain we are all guilty of finger pointing. It’s natural. But how do we grow from placing blame and not going through the process of self-reflection?

When I got married, he was a perfect partner. He was my fairytale. He was the definition of who I needed by my side. We were together almost 6 years before we got married. 6 years of a wonderful relationship that people envied. I had never been more sure of anything in my entire life the day I married him.

But here’s the thing: I married someone 8 years my junior…And that’s on me.

I dare you to tell me that age doesn’t matter in a relationship. Relationships and marriages are difficult regardless of age, absolutely, but a sure fire way of having an additional mountain to climb- add a significant age difference, especially if you’re in your 20s.

He was 23 when we got married, I was 31. There was no ultimatum, there was no gun-to-the-head moment, there was no “well, I’m getting older and I need this to happen soon” discussion. Sure, I wanted to get married and I knew I wanted to marry him, but I was well aware of our age difference. Mostly because everyone continually reminded me about it, as though it never occurred to me. There were plenty of discussions about it but literally no red flags.

I thought we were different. I thought my immaturity and his maturity balanced out this numeric equation that didn’t add up for everyone else. I thought we beat the age difference odds, but here’s where age does matter and what I failed to ignore: he wasn’t ready.

Certainly there are many 23 year olds that make a life-long commitment to someone and they have a happily ever after outcome. He wasn’t one of them. But how was I supposed to know this if this man willingly proposed to me, married me and knocked me up on our honeymoon? How was I to know if he didn’t say a word about the fear of all of this? How was I to know that he proceeded with all of this because he thought it was the right thing to do and he was too afraid to lose me?  I gave him so many opportunities to walk away, to live a more independent life in his early 20s. How was I supposed to see through this bullshit he was feeding me about being ready for all of this?

The answer to all of this was so simple but too difficult for me to grapple with. The answer was this: I was significantly older than him and I should have let him go.

I remember watching an Uma Thurman movie, back when my ex and I were dating, called Prime, I believe. It was all encompassing of our situation. She was 37 and he 23, so a larger age gap, but they fell in love. I was rooting for them the entire movie thinking, “YEAH! This is me! This is exactly why age doesn’t matter!!!”… only for it to end super horribly with her realizing they’re on much different paths and ultimately…she let him go. Once the movie ended in such a way that didn’t match what I was hoping, I was dismissive of the plot because, after all, it was just a movie. Only, I should have applied the principles to my own situation.

I should have let him go experience what I was able to in my early 20s. I should have recognized that allowing him to figure out who he was without me was necessary for him to assess what he needed and wanted out of life. I should have looked at it on paper and saw that this person was with me from the age of barely 18 and that not much life experience came with him at that age.

I should have stopped being a control freak for two minutes to realize that life was laughing hysterically at my “plan”. “If he says he’s ready, he’s ready. Face value. Let’s move on with THE PLAN”. I always had to have a plan. We both had a semblance of a career, we both wanted to get married and have a baby? Then THAT’S what we were going to do right.that.moment. Maybe that’s why I chose someone so much younger, because I have a controlling personality and he was malleable? I’m sure that’s part of it, but I digress.

It wasn’t until our daughter was a little over the age of 2 that things started to unravel. Reality was setting in for him, while I remained in denial. He wasn’t ready to be a husband and a father. I saw, and felt, how he wanted less responsibilities in life instead of more. He didn’t make any of our family decisions, I did. He was barely participating in our relationship. I was suddenly parenting two people, navigating everything for all of us, watching my “plan” fall into this pile of disconnected fragments of a relationship. We were both more lonely by our third year of marriage than we are now as a divorced, co-parenting couple.

I ignored the obvious for a long time as our arguments increased and he started turning to drinking more and more and coming home less and less. I wanted to blame the symptom, not the actual disease. I’m not talking about alcoholism, I’m talking about denial. I was in denial. I wanted to blame him for the unraveling. I wanted to blame the drinking, the cheating, the lying, and yes, shame on him for any and all of those things that applied, and double shame on him for not being honest with me about so many things. However, this was a part of him that went undeveloped. He didn’t know how to be honest and true to himself, let alone to me, because he didn’t get to explore outside of his comfort zone and his comfort was me.

It was my responsibility to him, as the woman who loved him, the older woman that loved him, to have seen the forest through the trees, or whatever the hell that saying is. He needed more than a plan derived by me and me alone. He needed independence and self worth and he needed to find that on his own. I failed him by not giving this to him. I failed my marriage by being too controlling and not taking a step back to realize that one of us was just along for the ride. That was my portion of the responsibility. That was how I failed.

So, what’s the point? The beautiful, amazing, self righteous point is that I’ve grown and I’ve learned. I’ve learned that relationships and life do not thrive on a plan. I’ve learned that by attempting to control any and all situations in a relationship, you’re setting yourself and your partner up for failure. I’ve learned that age does matter but it’s not a deal breaker, it’s a challenge that cannot be ignored. I’ve learned that independence, even within a relationship, is so important. I’ve learned that letting go is truly necessary so many times throughout life.

I can only apply all of this knowledge in the future, obviously. My marriage failed and that is what it is. This was a priceless education and I don’t regret any of it for one single moment. Failures are far more beneficial than successes sometimes, aren’t they?

Co-parenting is an art, not a science.

As a human race, we are inherently nosy beings. We love to know things about others’ lives. We thrive a little, or maybe a lot, on gossip. We love to be voyeurs, watching and judging, saying how we would do things different, or maybe even admire a lifestyle.

Some would argue that this is not true for everyone, but I will be bold and say it is the truth for most. If you watch any reality TV or have any social media page active in your name, you’re nosy. And hey, even if you don’t scroll Instagram or watch Keeping Up With the Kardashians, I guarantee that if you heard word-of-mouth of a friend getting a divorce, your first thought would most likely be, “Hmm, I wonder what happened?!”.

Some call it curiosity or concern but I’ll call a spade a spade and say nosy. I’m so very guilty of it myself and being nosy can be a terrible characteristic but for the most part, I do believe it’s harmless. Plus, many of us invite the nosiness and even the judgement by putting ourselves out there on social media or ::ahem:: a very personal blog. It goes both ways.

Lately, I have received a lot of blunt questions about how my ex-husband and I co-parent, questions such as, “Do you share 50/50?, do you get child support from him?, do you pay him alimony?, do you still spend time together as a family since neither of you are in a relationship?”. Even strangers will ask me these questions.

I truly do not mind answering at all. Those that know me know that I’m a pretty open book. However, I’m throwing caution out there to those that ask these questions to any recent divorcee with children: these are deeply personal questions that might make some people uncomfortable answering. That goes for questions about divorce, too. The whole “what happened with you and your ex?” question? Yeah, that’s complex as hell to answer when I run into you at Target, but again, I don’t mind answering. In my mind, it’s better to ask than to assume. Ask me anything, it’s totally ok. I’m giving you permission.

But let’s talk about judging the way people co-parent, or better yet, the way they judge how divorced couples should act.

It’s so interesting to me how people react when I tell them that my ex and I are still close, that we still host birthday parties together for our child, that he is still very involved in my daughter’s life, that him and I still care about each other and even spend time together as a family. And, we are even going on a summer vacation together as a family :::gasp:::

The look of shock or the words of “REALLY?! Wow. That’s great but isn’t that weird?!”. Um, no, it isn’t. I married this person, I had a child with this person, I lived with this person for twelve years. Perhaps it might be a bit odd if him or I had a significant other in our lives but even then, you hear about close ex relationships even in those circumstances. Because, well, children kind of deserve to have two parents that can stand one another.

The thing is, co-parenting and living as a divorced couple means something different for everyone. Everyone has to find what works for their family because like it or not, you are still a family. That could be, no, that WILL BE ever changing, what works and what doesn’t, but there aren’t any rules. Not all divorced dads are deadbeats and just because it’s on record that there was infidelity or addiction or whatever it was that resulted in the demise, it doesn’t always equate to hatred or punishing the other party.

As a matter of a fact, my ex and I have have not gotten along this well in about three years, no joke. This is not a coincidence. This is a result of hard work on both of our parts to make Lily our focus. Relationships are complicated, parenting is complicated, marriage is complicated, divorce is complicated. Kids feel all of this and at the end of the day, they just want everyone they love to be happy. It’s that simple for them.

An Open Letter: To the Wife That Recently Found Out About Her Husband’s Double Life.

You’re in the thick of it. The pain is almost unbearable. You’re close to not functioning. You’re wondering if you’ll ever make sense out of anything, ever. Your life is unrecognizable. You’re not eating or sleeping. Your emotions go from anger to sadness to almost homicidal.

I get it. I was you. I still am you on some days.

I walked in on my husband with another woman. That was, and quite possibly could remain, the worst day in my life. There was the me before that date and there’s the me after that date. Two totally different versions of myself. Two totally different lives.

You’re in the trenches of this… This hell of figuring out who you married. This hell of wrapping your mind around sharing your husband with another woman, physically, emotionally. This hell of wondering what the fuck is wrong with you that he went down this road.

Was I too controlling?

Was I too fat?

Was I too ugly?

Did I not give him enough sex?

Was I boring?

How long did this go on?

Does he love her?

These questions, the wanting to know everything, every little detail, of the affair, the “why”, even the denial, it’s all there, sitting in you. Literally feeling your entire body breaking from the pain. It’s visceral. Floating through days in this thick fog. Not knowing if your words and conversations make sense. Trying to engage in life but the difficulty is unprecedented.

Then there’s the hatred for her. The need to even blame her. The other woman. The home wrecker. The slut. The husband stealer. The whore. Oh, the many names I had for her.

Perhaps you’re obsessed with her, if you’re at all like I was. You might social media stalk her, google her, maybe you even want to talk to her, scream at her, punch her in the face. Your thoughts might scare you, maybe. They did me. You might be comparing yourself to her. She’s most likely very different from you, physically and otherwise. Maybe you hate that. You hate that he was drawn to the opposite of you. The physical imagery is too much to process. The intimacy that was supposed to stay between you and him no longer exists.

I saw this with my own eyes. I lived the moment and didn’t have the luxury of just imagining it. I completely lost my shit that day. Completely and fully disassembled. I was violent towards him, punching him in the face, and I proceeded to destroy every painting in our home, the home we once shared, the paintings he painted that I once loved. I threw them in a pile in the middle of the floor, all the while in complete hysterics, near hyperventilation. Appropriate response? Absolutely. And I dare to have anyone tell me it wasn’t.

You are forming your own response right now and regardless of what that is, it’s the right response. You’re descending into your process. It’s just the beginning of your process of grief.

And lets not forget about you.

You are going to be ok. Actually, you are going to be better than ok. You are going to be better than you ever thought you could be.

I know you don’t want to hear that yet, I understand. The pain and confusion is too raw.

Live the pain, live the confusion, even embrace it, because it’s in the process of breaking you down so you can rebuild yourself into who you’re supposed to be. Read that sentence again because it is the absolute truth.

You don’t deserve to have to share, and I don’t mean your husband, I mean you. You don’t deserve to have to share yourself with someone who doesn’t respect your value. You were with someone who was cowardly enough to put the work into managing a double life because he thought he deserved all that he wanted. He wanted the family life over here and the fun life over there; the best of both worlds to him. But just remember how exhausted he is from all of this lying and managing. He’s tired. This always takes a toll. And my guess is he’s probably sick in some way. For my husband, it was substance abuse but perhaps its just old fashion narcissism… but this is not for you to figure out. Don’t be distracted by excuses.

This betrayal has nothing to do with you and everything to do with him. It isn’t about what you did or didn’t do, it isn’t about who is prettier or more fun. This is about his fucked up way of thinking. This is about him and him alone. Let go of every negative thought about yourself and your contribution to this. It isn’t there. Let it go.

There will not be traditional closure. Questions will pop into your mind months later. The same questions you had from day one might go unanswered. That’s ok. The sooner you acknowledge that these answers do not matter, the sooner you can start to heal. Knowing the answers to some questions might do more harm than good. Know what you know: your husband was living a lie. That’s enough. Let it be enough to move on.

Forgive him. You will need to eventually. You certainly will not forget but forgiveness is such an important component to this saga. Work hard on forgiveness. It’s a process and it won’t come easy, but work on it. Bitterness will rear it’s head but you’ll suppress it because it doesn’t make any sense to let it take over.

Don’t play the victim for long. You’re better than that. Be sad that it happened, grieve the loss, however that looks for you, but this is something that happened. Don’t let it define you.

You will move on and you will live. You will laugh and mean it soon. You will feel joy soon. You will get to know yourself in a different way. Make this time about your needs, your wants, and what makes your soul smile without a partner. When is the last time you’ve done that?

For now, you’re in pain, no doubt about that. Maybe more pain that you’ve ever experienced. But it’s fleeting.

Take many deep breaths everyday and soon enough you will be breathing new air. Air that isn’t full of lies, deceit, and pain. Air that is full of healing is around the corner. I promise.