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From the outside looking in

January 17, 2012

A few months ago, a friend of mine told me he was getting a divorce. I’d never been a particularly good friend of his wife–we were friendly but not friends–and I’d never quite understood what he thought was so wonderful about her. Things I hadn’t allowed myself to wonder about about them suddenly made sense, and the split seemed necessary, if not predictable.

They were the couple that everyone looked at and thought were the benchmark of how Marriage Can Work. Together for years, good parents, pillar of the community. But what it looks like from outside someone else’s relationship isn’t what the truth is.

A few weeks ago LOD and I caught wind that another couple we knew might be splitting up. I was beyond stunned. They’d also been together forever, and they were one of the couples that made me realize that the white-knuckling and thinly-disguised despair that characterized my half of my marriage was not pre-ordained by the act of getting married. It seems impossible that they’d split. But what it looks like from outside someone else’s relationship isn’t what the truth is.

We happened to be together, having a meal with the kids, when it came to light. God bless technology, because we had a text discussion about the whole thing while the kids were oblivious, telling us stories and eating burritos. At one point I asked LOD if it made him feel worse when couples we really thought were meant to be with each other split up than our own split had made him. Our divorce was inevitable–we never should have gotten married in the first place, although I’m glad we did because we have two amazing children–but for people who really truly loved each other and could have been with each other forever? That, to me, is tragic. It hits me hard. And I wondered if it hit him hard, too.

LOD just texted to ask if I’d seen that Dooce and her husband are splitting up. I hadn’t, but hearing the news is sobering. Again, they seemed so happy together. What it looks like from outside, yadda yadda.

I wonder what it feels like to have lost not just your idea of how your life was going to go and the picture you presented, but to have lost something real and strong and true. I am sad for anyone who sees another way things could have gone and wishes things had gone that way. I wish I could tell anyone in this spot that it is going to turn out better than you imagined you life would be. But I can’t. I had nothing solid to hold on to, so letting go was no great trick. I can’t give assurance to anyone who is losing something that lived in their heart.

I hope, hope that for all of you things are better in two years. They won’t be better in six months, in all likelihood. But they can be better in two years. And I hope that they are.

14 Comments leave one →
  1. Anne permalink
    January 18, 2012 12:56 am

    Although I’ve never met you or LOD in real life, nor have I met Maggie Mason and Brian or Dooce and Jon, I’ve been reading about your marriages for years. I can tell you it’s very hard to read about your marriages splitting up. I wish the best for all of you, for all of us. Joy, peace, love to us all.

    • famousamy permalink
      January 18, 2012 10:08 am

      Same here. It’s very hard to read. I think this is because we, as readers, feel like we know these people so well. We get pretty open-hearted posts from them so we kind of assume we really know everything major that’s going on with them. And to hear of a divorce is shocking because we’ve had no lead up.

      I didn’t read AskMoxie or LOD’s blogs before this one came out (sorry, I just wasn’t aware, I read now!) But I have read Maggie, Dooce and Jon’s for years. And it was like a knife to the chest to hear about the splits. Made me wonder if my marriage would just spontaniously combust. But then I sat back and remembered that these bloggers who graciously share so much, can’t possibly share it all (and no one expects them to) and that there are more factors than I can know about leading up to these decisions.

      Still, it’s hard for all. I wish the best of luck to all. Glad to hear how AskMoxie and LOD have worked things out for their kids so well. I’m a child of divorce so this blog has been a facinating read for me.

      • Linda permalink
        January 18, 2012 1:05 pm

        Exactly famousamy. After I read about the split (while I was at work) I finished up the rest of my work day feeling like my marriage was going to spontaneously combust at any point. Maybe because that’s how it felt to read about their marriage ending? A spontaneous combustion. I’m not sure, but I definitely needed to process the news and my heart hurt, and yet when I explained it to my husband (who never reads blogs). He kind of looked at me like I was a crazy person, because I was talking about strangers, that somehow don’t feel like strangers to me.

        Anyway, divorce is very sad to look at from the outside in.

        When I started reading Ask Moxie, you guys were still living together, not discussing your impending separation openly. But Moxie never referenced LOD at all (it seemed) so I never had any expectations about the relationship. When you guys did announce the divorce I wasn’t blindsided, but more of oh, that makes sense. Still very sad, but not rocked about something I believed was good, was not in fact good at all.

  2. Rachel permalink
    January 18, 2012 1:28 pm

    Moxie, I remember feeling blindsided when I heard about your divorce. In my memory, you told me in person at you-know-who’s apartment, but that may be a false memory; maybe it was electronically. I certainly knew long before you posted it on your blog.

    And I was initially devastated because what you and LOD had seemed, from the outside, like a solid marriage. Sure, there were ongoing arguments about whether to stay in NYC or move elsewhere, but they seemed, again from the outside, manageable. Normal even. When you explained things, I understood your perspective on the problems you were having. I could see that being enthusiastic parents to 2 lovely children wasn’t enough to keep you together. But I still woke up at least once in the middle of the night wondering about my own marriage.

    Last year one of my closest friends (whose husband is a good friend of my husband) announced she was getting a divorce. Even though there were problems in their marriage that were apparent to outsiders from the start and the marriage was of short duration, it still made me sad and made me think about the problems in my own marriage.

    My husband and I are (mostly) happy together, which doesn’t mean we don’t have our good days and bad days. But when people you know divorce, I think it’s natural for it to make you think about the nature of marriage and the state of your own.

  3. mom2boy permalink
    January 18, 2012 9:12 pm

    I don’t want to be divorced. There I said it. I’m not even married yet and I’m terrified. I’m in love and I’m happy and we live together and are raising a child together and yet there is something about being “married” that we both want. Or say we both want. Here’s hoping we are both old enough to know that the only reason to get married is because it’s absolutely what we want regardless of what any other person or group or outside influence thinks. And even then… what does it really take? How do the couples that make it last, make it last?
    I recently found out two different couples are getting divorced and neither should be (from the outside). The first are high school sweethearts who’ve been married since college and have three young kids together. The other are successful professionals in their 40/50s who waited to get married. Both seemed to have it all in very different ways. Clearly not.

  4. Dina permalink
    January 19, 2012 12:27 pm

    It does hit me hard. One of the reasons I didn’t want to get married was the thought of divorce, especially 15 or 20 years down the line. I don’t understand what falls apart for people like me and my husband who got married on a firm foundation and that scares me so much. I only hope I have the awareness and self-honesty to admit when there are problems and work on them before they spiral out of control.

  5. January 19, 2012 3:38 pm

    I’m so glad Hayley Krischer referred me to your site. I love this piece. When I was miserably married to my first husband, I looked at two couples who seemed to have it all — lotsa money, gorgeous homes, great kids, an entourage of groupie-type friends and what appeared to be equality between spouses — and thought if I just had what they had, life would be grand. You know where this is going, right? Both marriages ended. In both marriages, one spouse was blindsided when the other announced they had fallen in love with someone else. I have remained close with one of the wives and was stunned when she revealed what her marriage had really been like and how codependent she had been without even knowing it. So, yes, NO ONE knows what the interior of a marriage is really like, sometimes not even the spouses. I think we all project so many things onto others.

  6. klc permalink
    January 20, 2012 6:13 pm

    I was in one of those relationships – for 19 years. We did love each other deeply. We were considered examples of what a great relationship is – looks like, anyway- not just saying that – so many friends used to say that to us – and goodness have they been shocked by our split. And there were some significant-enough struggles that each of us had that proved to be the undoing of an amazing partnership. She fell out of love with me, and in theory, I guess I can understand how that might happen – but really, I can’t – my heart doesn’t get it. We have a 7 year-old daughter – and I worry about the impact of this on her. We’re trying/intending to be great co-parents, which I think we were before all of this “transition” – I’m growing to really dislike that word. And the sadness and anger and guilt are so deep – especially the sadness – I can barely (but just barely) imagine things being different, better. Moxie, thank you, for your kind wishes – and your honesty about the amount of time it’s likely to take until things are feeling not-so-crappy. I’ve heard the same time-line from other friends who’ve gone through divorce. And I’m trying to not wish the time away – though 18 months into this (1 year of couples therapy plus the time since she reported her wish to split up – still hasn’t said the “D”-word yet, amazingly!), I’m tired and stressed and ready for a change of emotional scenery. Believe it or not, there is hope deep down in my soul – I just don’t get – or take – the opportunity to speak aloud some of the harder stuff. Thanks.

  7. SJ-F permalink
    February 1, 2012 11:12 am

    guys it sucks… 6 months, 1 year, 14 months and its still sucks… maybe 24 months is the magic number maybe its not…at the end of the day, I think the letting go is the hardest part 😦 . The pain ebbs, but does the numbness ever really go…or do you just need to stop feeling (Sorry 2 glasses of wine down… and on a 10 day trip away from my daughter for work…so maybe just feeling a bit sorry for myself….sorry for the downer…)

    • askmoxie permalink*
      February 1, 2012 12:45 pm

      SJ-F, I’m worried that you’re still feeling numb more than a year out. Have you seen a therapist at all to help you be able to get some closure and move forward? I know I’m a different case because I was the one who wanted out, so I’d let go of the relationship long before asking for the divorce, but not wanting to feel is just not what you’re worth. You’re worth a happy, complete, full life, with feelings and emotions. It would be worth finding a therapist to talk to to help you let go so you can start living again.

      • Lois permalink
        February 29, 2012 5:47 pm

        I think numb is OK. Numb is a layer of protection for the heart. Besides, stages of grief can get all mixed up –and I think circumstances affect healing, too. And some hearts? Some hearts heal enough to sustain life, to keep beating — but they are still broken.

  8. Sarah permalink
    February 10, 2012 9:39 am

    Guest! Post! From! The! Armstrongs!


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