I married the love of my life ten years ago, almost to the day. Not long ago, my husband asked me, “How should we celebrate our ten-year-anniversary?” I mostly listened. I mostly listened because I already knew that there would be no ten-year-anniversary. He waffled between a big party and a destination getaway, just the two of us. “Whatever sounds good to you, honey,” I told him.
I spent my ten-year-anniversary neither on the beach of a tropical island, hand in hand with my love, nor dancing salsa in his arms at a perfectly catered and over the top anniversary party. Instead, I sat at a table eating dinner with my divorce attorney.
There’s no Facebook relationship change status when your marriage falls apart. There’s too much shame. Facebook follows this neat sequence of relationship statuses: “in a relationship,” “engaged,” “married.” Next the world watches on expectedly for a pregnancy announcement, the birth of a first child, another pregnancy announcement, the birth of another child. I followed all the rules. If you go on YouTube and search “twin ultrasound,” you will see that the video that I posted, where we learned I was expecting twins, has 1,210,134 views. Everyone loves a happy ending.
People get nosy when family pictures stop appearing. We’ve taken a big family vacation every year. Last year it was Turks and Caicos, the year before that Aruba, the year before that Puerto Rico, and so on. We're actually still making our way through the "Kokomo" song (even as a divorced couple, I guess we're pretty cheesy). This year Pablo will take the kids to Bermuda and I will take them to The Bahamas. There’s a cloth map in his office with brightly colored pins. Each time we travel to a new destination, another red or green or yellow or blue pin is pierced into the map. Last year we booked Jamaica before I left him. When we booked Jamaica, I didn’t know I would never get on that plane with him. I looked forward to the trip. A vacation will get us back on track. After Jamaica, we will be happy again. I wonder what color pin he pierced into Jamaica.
I can imagine the whispers, “Why are there no family pictures in Jamaica?” I can imagine the whispers because I am guilty of whispering. When I stop seeing family pictures, I stalk, as if it’s any of my business in the first place whether this family is still together.
Why did I leave my marriage? It’s none of your business. But I will say that it wasn’t because I didn’t love him. If love were enough, if we both died today, I would want to be snuggled together in a single casket, decomposing as one person and not two. If love were enough, we would have had forever.
There is a lot of judgment from others, but the most judgment is from myself. I should have stayed for my kids. I should have left sooner for my kids. I should have tried harder. I shouldn’t have tried so hard. I should have prayed harder. I prayed too much. I should have been less confrontational. I should have been more confrontational. I should have given more. I shouldn’t have given so much. There is no right way to do this.
I hear a lot, “You seemed so happy.” I want to tell you that I was not faking that happiness. The times I laughed, it was real laughter from my belly—it was true joy. But in the cracks between that laughter, I cried a lot.
There is much shame in being this transparent about the unraveling of my marriage. But I am learning that the places that are the most vulnerable are the places aching for just a little light to be shed onto them.
To all of you beautiful humans on the outskirts of happily ever after, I see you. To anyone who feels compelled to tell me that I made a promise before God and I should have kept it—I dare you to throw the first stone. Each day, I focus on doing the next right thing. I am still learning how to do this. I have to believe that it will get easier with time in order to keep putting one foot in front of the other. I have to keep telling myself that I am a beautifully flawed human, deserving of happily ever after. And I’m not talking about a new man to love or remarriage. Happily ever after is looking in the mirror and realizing that I am enough. Happily ever after is feeling comfortable in my own skin. Happily ever after is accepting that I am a good enough mom. Happily ever after is trusting from my skin to my core—that even though my love story didn’t last forever, I still believe, that the greatest of these is love.