Twenty-one days ago (but who’s counting?), my husband popped into the door frame of my office after I had just sat my butt down to finally write after a lengthy absence from my blog and Medium, and asked, “Can I talk to you for a minute?”
I looked up, somewhat annoyed that he was going to interrupt my writing time to chastise me for (probably) having a smidge too much wine at the previous night’s book club I hosted at our house. I already knew I had too much and was perfectly happy to tell him I was going to put the corkscrew away for the next month, and focus solely on my health and writing.
Instead, he blurted out clumsily as I turned away from my keyboard, “I found an apartment and I’m moving out as soon as I can get a bed delivered.”
My hands started shaking.
Who doesn’t shake when the last 27 years of their life is going up in smoke and hinges on a bed delivery?
I asked him if we could move our discussion into the living room. He agreed. Apparently he was also shaking but his reason was far different from mine: he didn’t know how I was going to react to such news and that is what made him nervous.
Weird, right? I guess he thought I’d start screaming, throwing things, making a scene, but that only shows how little he knows me even after all these years.
I trailed behind him as he selected his seat and I chose mine, located across from each other and rather far away. Normally, we sit on our sectional: he on one part of the couch and me on the other. For today’s announcement, however, he chose the chair we had recently picked out together as I headed toward the couch.
We hashed out how things were going to be like adults. We were finally behaving like adults — never before had we talked about something so consequential with so many moving parts so calmly and quietly. It was surreal. The whole situation was like watching a movie as the characters recite what the writers wrote for them in a script.
After the conversation was over, I felt the overwhelming desire not to tell anybody. I wanted to keep my new reality to myself. I told my soon-to-be-ex-husband that I did not plan on posting anything on Facebook, nor was I going to tell neighbors or friends yet, as I hoped for some privacy as I worked through my rapidly changing emotions.
We’ve known our neighbors for over 20 years. We’ve raised children together, buried wives and children together, welcomed grandchildren together, and partied like it was 1999 every time we’ve met up.
It’s not like me to keep news from the neighbors. Over the years I’ve shared a lot with them, I’m sure too much. For some reason I wanted to keep the news of my failed marriage to myself. And it is not as if other neighborhood marriages haven’t failed before, but this time it’s different, it’s my marriage.
A few days passed after my husband’s announcement, and I started to feel better about the situation. I was feeling so much better that I decided to tell some friends.
But, then the next question became, HOW? How does one tell people in today’s environment of Facebook, Facetime, Messenger, Instagram, Twitter, SnapChat, email, and texting? I don’t know the current etiquette for announcing the dissolution of a marriage. Perhaps I should have kept up with my Oprah magazine reading.
Do I send something in the mail like a reverse marriage announcement? Do I send an Evite to a wine and cheese and announce it mid-sip of a Syrah? Do I change my marital status on Facebook and wait for people to notice? Do I send out a group text? Do I create an interpretive dance on TikTok? How about a group SnapChat with a selfie of me with bunny ears and a broken heart emoji?
So many ways to let people know, and none of them personal.
What I Did
The first non-family person I told was my direct neighbor through a text. She had been coming over to use our (now ‘my’) dryer while hers was broken and I felt I had to explain why I wasn’t coming downstairs to greet her and her laundry. She’s about 20 years younger than me so I figured she was used to getting the latest news about break-ups via text.
She took it well and made appropriate and supportive comments.
One down, several hundred more people to go.
Feeling more confident after her reaction, I took to Messenger to tell some of my oldest friends about my upcoming de-nuptials. They also responded appropriately and with their own stories. Nobody asked me why I was telling them this very personal information in such an impersonal way. In fact, one of them suggested we all get together so they could get the details in person.
Informing people about something this painful face-to-face is even more difficult for an introvert so I’m happy to see that people are willing to meet me where I am.
Telling People in Person
I’ve witnessed firsthand how telling someone personal news vs. writing/texting/tweeting/SnapChatting is not always the best idea. In today’s technology-laden environment of having time to absorb new information, I think letting some people know about one’s bad news in person isn’t always a good idea.
So far, I’ve told one friend in person but I noticed how uncomfortable she was with such news. She was caught off-guard and didn’t know what to say nor how to react. As I watched her face process the information in real-time, it became crystal clear that she should have been one of the people to get a text or an email.
I let her off the hook as quickly as possible, and told her that we could chat more about it when we were getting together in a couple weeks. She looked visibly relieved, and murmured, “Yes, we can talk about it next week.”
As I navigate the world as a newly separated woman, I know I will make mistakes trying to figure out how to do things the ‘right way,’ but I’ve accepted that and have pre-forgiven myself. No sense in beating myself up for not knowing how to do something I’ve never had to do before.
And, let’s be honest, whether I do everything perfectly, or I make every mistake in the book, not everyone is going to agree with me on execution. Like the wise old meme once said, “You can’t make everyone happy, you’re not cake (or tacos, tequila, chocolate, ice cream…).”
Whatever happens, though, I know this separation, and eventual divorce, is what is best for everyone involved. It is not a sad email/text/SnapChat I will be sending, it will be a hopeful message filled with promise and possibility.
I’m very excited to see what the next chapter brings.