Offbeat Divorce, Part 1: The Struggling

Guest post by Kate Leroux
I Want To Hold Your Hand

Last week I received an email from a reader whose marriage is struggling. “No one ever talks about offbeat divorce,” she said. “I know you're a wedding blog, but I can't be the first offbeat bride to have a struggling marriage.” She's right: she's not. Over the last four years, we've removed several wedding profiles at the request of couples who've emailed to say the partnership has ended. Heck, there was one bride whose wedding we were about to feature, but when we emailed her, the marriage had already ended.

Nontraditional marriages end, just like traditional ones do. That in mind, I decided to ask a recently divorced friend to share some of her thoughts on divorce. This may not be what y'all planning weddings want to think about right now, but it's good information to have. -Ariel


Hi, my name is Kate and I failed. I had a somewhat offbeat wedding, was married for 8 years, ultimately failed at it, and got divorced. I'm starting this way because it's not something you hear people say very often. After a marriage falls apart (or serious problems are worked out), it's swept under the rug, put in the past, and never mentioned. This might make the newly-divorced feel better, but it creates a false impression that most people are happy and have never had these problems. When my marriage was exploding, I felt so alone and so defective in a world full of (apparently) shiny happy people.

In this post, I want to pass on a few of the things I learned while my marriage was struggling, before we decided to separate for good.

TALK TO PEOPLE

My initial instinct was to keep my problems to myself, for fear that people would judge or pity me. But I didn't want to perpetuate that illusion that marriages never struggle, so I summoned the courage to talk to my friends about what was happening. I didn't tell everyone all the details, but I gave at least a broad outline. Far from being judgmental, every single person I talked with was supportive and sympathetic.

To my surprise, three of my friends had previously been divorced that I hadn't even been aware of! Sharing my story led them (and several others I already knew about) to share their stories with me. I'd forgotten that it is struggles and challenges that bind friends together. During the hardest time of my life, I found myself blessed with a number of deeper friendships.

One word about this: everyone will react to your story through the lens of their own experience. If they struggled but made their marriage work, they'll assume (even if only subconsciously) that that's the best outcome for you. And vice versa. If you know this going in, you won't see their perspective as judgment; they're trying to help. I learned that everyone's situation is different, and nobody can know what's best for anyone else.

HANDLING THE GUILT AND ANGER

Chances are, one person in a struggling relationship is wrestling with guilt and the other is wrestling with anger. I don't want to share too many details about my situation, so I won't say which I was, but it was often unbearably intense. I had to learn to handle the feeling, both within myself and in my partner.

Just accepting that my partner was feeling his guilt/anger was a first step. I tried not to poke at it or make it worse. He did the same for me. But there's only so much we could do, and I had to come to terms with the fact that neither of us could make his negative feelings go away just by trying really hard. The emotions had a life of their own, and needed to run their course.

I'm going to ask you to bear with me as I use a couple of buzzwords: empathy and mindfulness. During my difficult times, I read two books about them that I found very helpful: Nonviolent Communication by Marshall Rosenberg and Radical Self-Acceptance by Tara Brach. Yes, the titles both sound kind of weird and new-agey; don't let that turn you off. They have a lot to say, but the very heart of what I got from them was that I needed to empathize with myself and my partner, and that means just HEARING what needs to be heard without trying to change it. And mindfulness is accepting and making room for the negative emotions instead of ignoring or fighting them. Letting them pass through. That may sound counterintuitive, but it made the difficult stuff seem smaller and more manageable.

ONE MOMENT AT A TIME

Beyond this, all I have to give is sympathy. When your life feels like it's falling apart, maybe permanently, it can be excruciating. In retrospect, I don't know how I kept my life functioning on a day-to-day basis. Cling to whatever things help you get through the moments. Some of the things I relied on were: a single song I must have listened to a thousand times, vodka, mundane housework, my job, writing things down, and walking on my slackline. Time moved so slowly that I often experienced a week's worth of emotions in a day or even less. But life went on, somehow.

Eventually, we decided to call it quits. In my next post, I'll share a few things I learned during that part of the process.

Be sure to read the second half of this series, Offbeat Divorce, Part 2: The Separating.

Comments on Offbeat Divorce, Part 1: The Struggling

  1. Needed to read this. I’ve been divorced since Sept 2010 after getting married April 2009.

    I made the decision based on the fact I couldn’t see a time that I wouldn’t be responsible for my husband, and had been severely tempted after 5 years together.

    Still I feel embarrassed at the steam roller my wedding day turned into, proof that after a relationship of turmoil, the band on my finger would make everything ok. Needless to say, it didn’t.

    My problem is that I soon after met a man who I am utterly in love with. Part of me feels guilt and anger towards myself as I feel I’ve invalidated a huge step in our relationship. If I ever remarried there would be this huge shadow over it for both of us, and added pressure to ‘succeed’.

    I also got married before a lot of friends and I often feel like I can’t make comments or share in their planning as I’ve ‘failed’.

  2. Thank you for posting, although it’s a tough subject, it’s nice to be able to hear someone else say exactly how you’re feeling.

    I failed too, and it took being divorced to realise that I got married for all the wrong reasons to the wrong guy. Dealing with how everyone else reacted to the divorce was harder than the separation itself.

    I’m in a new relationship and the fear of failing again has already started to haunt me. The idea of getting married makes me happy but I’m finding it hard to get passed the idea that there’s not point.

    Thanks again for your post (:

  3. While I’m aware many see divorce as failure, believe you me somewhere along the lines, you worked hard to make it work, to fix it to do everything to avoid the stigma of divorce. My divorce was a matter of survival, I was in a dangerous situation, yet no one close to me knew. For all the divorced individuals out there, to me you didn’t fail, it simply didn’t work out. It reached the point beyond being able to be fixed, due to whatever reasons. Your reason could be, abuse, lack of attention, financial reasons, etc. You did not fail, you broke free of something whether you wanted to or not. You’re not alone, you never were. I commend anyone who can speak up and feel little or no shame in their past. I am divorced and it took me six years to realize that it was for survival, I didn’t fail, I never did. I broke free of things I had chosen to be blind too.

  4. Thank you for posting. I recently just went through a divorce and it was really hard. I felt really guilty, but I wasn’t happy either. We were on two different pages in life. I want to travel, take photos and eventually have a family. Unfortunately he was the opposite. Thanks again for posting

  5. Thank you for this post. Im not yet married so cannot understand how it felt, but by speaking about your divorce you have also brought to light that my fears are not irrational. like many others who have replied, I come from a family who endured a heart breaking divorce and in all honesty I felt for many years of my life that I would never put myself through something as ridiculous as marrage. But here I am, ive been engaged for a year. Although I met the one person that managed to to turn my way of thinking completely completely upside down, I still feel like a deer in the headlights, like because my parents got divorced that my marrage will altimatly end the same way. I think this is another topic that is too seldomly mentioned and frankly just swept under the rug. But thank you because your talking about your divorce has helped me realize that im not the only one that feels this way and that maybe if I keep a honest open relationship with my partner that I can maybe make it work better then that of my parents.

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