my tears dry on their own

Growing up in my upper middle class and predominantly Catholic neighborhood, I had but a vague grasp of what divorce really meant. Few of my friends were from homes where their parents were divorced, and the people I did know (my next door neighbor, for example) had been divorced for so long that the bitterness had faded to the point where it was barely detectable. I mean, at least for my kid self.

I spent most of my free time between the ages of 12 and 18 babysitting, as most girls do. The families I babysat for were all perfectly composed nuclear families from my vantage point, and nine out of ten babysitting jobs were for date nights where the parents would come home tipsy and giggling at each other and overpay me because they were so absurdly in love. These people, like my parents, seemed to grasp that marriage (for all it's goods and bads) was kind of a permanent thing. But when I was about 15 years old, my rose colored glasses were smudged...almost irreparably. I found myself the babysitting pawn in a really painful divorce game played by a husband and a wife with three small children.

In what seemed like a matter of days, their happy home fell apart and I was left to manage the confusion and emotions of three children under the age of six years old for sometimes 15-20 hours per week (which, for a high schooler, is substantial). From what I was told, the husband cheated on the wife. She was devastated. Furious, even. She kicked him out, but later I learned he left quite willingly. She, a stay-at-home mom, began to spend a significant amount of time out of the house. She started to exercise almost excessively. Her children began to panic and their behaviors started to change; they relied on me to explain what was going on to them because their parents were incapable of articulating the mess they were in to such young, tender minds. It became too much for me to handle, and I was saddened but completely relieved when the mother packed up her family and moved back to her Midwestern hometown.

Since then, my exposure to divorce has stayed pretty limited given the statistics out there about failed marriages. My parents have been married for 35 years, my aunts and uncles have mostly been married for more than that. My grandparents on both sides stayed married and all of those before them. Nobody said it was easy, and it was always made abundantly clear to me that marriage was a lot of work. Yet despite this inclination towards eternal matrimony that has existed all around me since I was born, I've always been a little skeptical about marriage. And hilariously enough, my brother is too. This is not so much about the fact that we're both queer/gay, but rather borne out of a patient and reflective kind of existence. We're romantics, but not in a way that oppresses us to think that any relationship we enter into would last forever. Romantic realists, I guess.

That said, when I decided to get married last year, it was after over two years of internal debating and hemming and hawing about whether it was right for me. My partner? Completely right for me. But marriage? I wasn't so sure. It was also after almost five years of being in a monogamous, committed relationship with my partner that the truth dawned on me, and marriage became a sudden necessity. The months of detail management, hand-assembling nearly everything, and negotiating the architecture of our ceremony were spent in such good faith that I was doing something I wholeheartedly believed in. Despite interjections from some family members, we opted out of premarital counseling, with a therapist or the bishop who married us, despite the fact that I was always willing.

And then, our wedding. What a perfect day, filled with so much unbelievable love that at times I thought my heart might explode. Everything happened according to our meticulously constructed plans. There were tears in my eyes, and in my spouse's as well. I walked away feeling like I had moved into a new stage of my life. It was terrifying and glorious and incredible. And, most importantly, I believed in every fiber of my being it was permanent.

Cut to six months later. Well, five months and three weeks. Our marriage is over, and despite my protestations, there is no room for me to argue or try to change the course of my ex-spouse's decision to leave our marriage. I continue to feel blindsided by the announcement that I am now on my own. I imagine I'll feel that way for many, many months. Years? My heart aches in the most painfully inconsistent way, leaving me feeling like I'm genuinely out of my mind sometimes. I have spent many nights crying myself to sleep with my hand placed on the pillow next to me, one that was filled with the soft breathing my spouse would fall into while sleeping. Other nights, I'm furious with almost uncontrollable rage. I piled up every poster, print and photograph that reminds me of Us onto my spouse's desk, in anticipation of one day never having to remember my own thoughtfulness and the close to seven years I dedicated to someone who could decide to leave me in an almost instant.

They say that the grief of divorce is almost more painful than that of losing someone to death. I never quite understood that. I spent close to a decade mourning my grandfather, who was as close to my best friend for the first 13 years of my life as anyone else. But this pain is so uniquely different. When I was told that our marriage was over, I felt myself splinter and break like the fragilest of glass. Me! A person that people describe as a "fierce bitch" or "bad as hell" or someone who doesn't take crap from anyone, someone who tells it like it is. Someone capable. But as I sat, with my closest friends and brother by my side, I wept uncontrollably into my own hands for hours. Covering my face was the weirdest part for me, as it's not something I can ever remember doing. It's as though I was trying to hold myself in, literally. I couldn't sleep. I could barely eat. I certainly couldn't focus on anything for more than five minutes. I genuinely felt like I was reverting to the person I was long before I ever met my spouse; someone young and uninhibited, but also completely stupid and reckless. I was afraid that I would go back and lose myself again. So I grieve. I grieve for my marriage, for the loss of my best friend, the person I very carefully and deeply considered to be my soulmate. I also grieve for myself, because I'm so easily capable of getting lost, and I can't let that happen this time.

The past two and a half weeks have been filled with ups and downs. It's been complicated for me to dissect what that line is for people - the line at which they decide that something is fixable, or that it's just time to let it go. I still haven't figured that out, honestly, and that probably has more to do with being heartbroken than anything else. At times I have felt the most profound sense of relief, and others I have felt painfully alone. The first time I grocery shopped by and for myself, I came home and sobbed while putting things into the fridge and pantry. I have found that I cannot, for long periods of time, be alone with myself. So I've started listening to more music. I will start crafting again. I will get out of the house and explore the life I have now and the woman I decide to be from here on out. I'll stop telling myself that I'm too old to start over. I'll continue to conduct myself with honor and integrity, despite my anger and pain. Summer's on the horizon, thank goodness, and will keep me adequately distracted.

Moving on is going to be really complicated though, but a process I'm now forced to undertake. Once the dust settles - finances and living situation and all that - I will have time to sit with myself and clarify how I intend to move forward. I start therapy tomorrow. I have the Most Incredible Family and Friends in the Universe. I have people all over this great big world ready to take me in for respite or fun or whatever I need. And, I realized this morning that I have myself. While I'm quite battered and broken down at the moment, I am by nature an incredibly confident and brave person. I am also my own best friend in every sense. Losing faith in myself now is not an option.


  1. I'm glad to see your writing again.

    And you couldn't be further from being "too old to start over"! Pfffft.

    As always, I can't wait to see what you do next. You never cease to amaze me. Love you so much!

  2. I'm so sorry this is happening. It's no wonder you feel lost after your life has been turned upside down without your consent. Be kind to yourself and keep that faith! You do rock.

  3. "...there is a goddess from Hindu mythology that teaches us that, in this moment, in this pile on the floor, you are more powerful than you’ve ever been."

  4. I've been there and at times I felt as if it were be easier to suffer the death of my spouse than the divorce. The pain is immense and all you can do is feel your way through it. Please know that your heart will heal and true love will find you again. It will.

  5. I have been a reader for a long time and I'm so sad this is happening to you. I am thinking of you and sending my best.

  6. It's clearly been a long time since I visited my blog reader. I'm so sad for you! I've been reading your various blogs for a number of years, and to read about this sudden shocking devastating change in your life makes me genuinely sad.

    I think realising that you still have yourself is a Very Important Thing. You're not even halfway through your life. And it's not like you have to learn to walk, talk and read all over again. Over half a lifetime of good, wise, battered-around-the-edges adult years to fill with family and friends and learning and craft and love. And another pet or two.

    I'm glad you have the best family and friends in the universe. There are also people all over the world who care about you, even if it's just from the other side of a computer screen.

  7. Meghan, I am so sorry. And sorry that I'm so behind that I'm coming to this so late.

    I don't have any amazing words of comfort that will magically make it better, sadly. But what I can tell you is that I firmly believe that an ended marriage (or relationship) is not a failed marriage. You opened yourself up, you believed, you learned and you'll carry something important out of this. Let yourself grieve as much as you need to, feel as angry as you need to, but try to learn rather than regret.

    I'm so glad you have your amazing network of family and friends. You are loved.

  8. "When I was told that our marriage was over, I felt myself splinter and break like the fragilest of glass. Me! A person that people describe as a "fierce bitch" or "bad as hell" or someone who doesn't take crap from anyone, someone who tells it like it is. Someone capable. But as I sat, with my closest friends and brother by my side, I wept uncontrollably into my own hands for hours. Covering my face was the weirdest part for me, as it's not something I can ever remember doing. It's as though I was trying to hold myself in, literally. I couldn't sleep. I could barely eat. I certainly couldn't focus on anything for more than five minutes."

    Oh, Meghan... I've never read your blog until today (although I've read your posts on APW and always thought they were extremely eloquent and heartwrenchingly touching), but I have to say: as hard as it is to know anybody else went through this pain because I wouldn't wish it on anyone, it helps me to feel less alone and less crazy. I went through this exact process a month ago when my fiance revealed he'd had an affair, seven years into our relationship and four months before our wedding date. I too have felt completely broken, which has shocked me to my core because I'm also kind of a brash, seemingly bad-ass woman.

    Anyway, I just wanted to say thank you. For your courage and your honesty and your writing (even in crisis I can appreciate good grammar/spelling/punctuation – guess I haven't completely lost myself). I hope you're healing well, and faster than everyone would have us believe is the norm...


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All content © Meaghan O'Malley, 2009-2012. Header image by Rebekka Seale.