Over the past several years, a number of you have noticed and asked about the decrease of photos of my husband, both on the blog and on instagram.

I’ve been quiet about that for a long time. I’ve been blogging about my life for about twelve years now, and while I often give the illusion that I’m sharing all of the details of my life with the internet, the truth is that I’m very guarded about particular aspects of my life. There are many difficult things I’ve never blogged about that have happened in the past decade, in an effort to protect my family and some semblance of privacy for my kids, and there are other things that I’ve only been able to blog about in retrospect. This is particularly true when I’m going through something painful. Infertility, miscarriages, adoption trauma, PTSD . . . all of those painful seasons were only written about after I’d had some significant healing.

Over the past few years, my husband of 20 years and I separated and finalized our divorce. This is a fact that I’ve held closely for many years, paralyzed by the weird reality of being a public person and not wanting the public to be ahead of the information and timeline I wanted my own kids and local community to have. I’m sure this doesn’t come as a surprise to some of you. My close friends and family have known for quite some time, but I wasn’t ready to talk about it online. I wanted to . . .in fact almost a year ago to the day, I blogged about how I was starting a newsletter (with the intent of talking about my divorce there), and posted a family photo of just the kids and I. Those were my first baby steps to disclosure, and yet it took me an entire year to have the courage to move forward.

While I’ve been open about many things in my life, I have been incredibly private about my marital issues – both publicly and even with my inner circle. I have been since the beginning of my marriage, due to paralyzing fears of what people would think. The result is that this news felt like a shock to many people. I was married for twenty years and in that time, I became skilled at playing the part of a happy couple and glossing over things going on at home. While I’m sure you might assume that I did this because it was good for the blog brand or the counseling business, in reality, I did it for myself. I wanted to believe my marriage was as good as I could make it look in a photo or a Christmas card. I let myself believe that optics could control outcomes. I let myself believe that the narrative I told was a true one.

The problem is that when you don’t share your real life with others, others don’t really know you and you end up feeling alone. I’ve been skilled at stuffing my crap into closets my whole life. As I child, through many painful circumstances, I learned to hide my feelings. It’s not that I don’t experience them as much as anyone else. In fact, as someone who suffers from an anxiety disorder, my feelings are often like an irrational ticker tape in my brain. But I present a stoic exterior because I learned to fear getting my feelings on anyone else, like they were a stain. This fear was present in my childhood and was reinforced in my marriage. My therapist told me that I was like a duck, gliding peacefully on top of the water but paddling desperately and clumsily underneath.

We moved into the house I currently live in to finalize our divorce about a year ago, because it has a separate studio apartment that Mark could live in but still have daily access to the kids. At this point, we told the children about the divorce. We did things incredibly slowly in an effort to make this transition as easy as possible on the kids . . . first living together, in different rooms, then living in separate dwellings on the same property, and just recently, now living in separate places but close enough for the kids to bike back and forth.

a huge thanks to Tara Whitney for these beautiful photos of our non-traditional family and for making what could have been an awkward photoshoot totally comfortable.

I won’t be sharing the reasons for our divorce, as they are complicated and personal and deeply painful, except to say that it was both entirely mutual and simultaneously something I never wanted. I believe in marriage . . . so much so that I dedicated my graduate studies and the first decade of my professional life to helping people have healthy marriages. And yet, as a marriage counselor, I could not save my own. I have deep shame about that. I still believe in the sanctity of marriage, and everything I believed when I first got married over twenty years ago. It was devastating to me to not have it work out, as it was the most important thing to me. Staying married was the greatest goal of my life, and I was crushed when mine failed.

While I’m in a better place now, the past few years were some of the darkest of my life.  Many days, putting on a brave face and not crying in public or in front of my kids was the best I could do for the day. I had to stay off of social media for a while because seeing photos of happy couples was so triggering for me. And in the midst of wanting desperately to hide, I had to continue as a “blogger” because that’s how I support myself. Navigating a public life through private pain was demoralizing and exhausting, but it’s what I needed to do to support myself.

Slowly, though, I climbed out of that fog. Unfortunately there is no way out of grief but to walk right through it, and I did. I am incredibly thankful that God put some incredible women in my life who walked me through this season . . . who have become like family. They have provided a listening ear, a glass of wine, encouragement, advice, and accountability and I truly don’t know what I would have done without their friendship.

I’m still dealing with the shame I feel around divorce, and I think that’s an internal battle I will work on for a long time. But even in that, there are little things I feel proud of. We’ve been able to honor each other’s privacy. We were able to live together for a long time. We were able to divorce and cohabitate in a way that was best for the kids. We were able to sit down and draft up a divorce, just the two of us, without attorneys or court appearances.  We’ve been able to stay friends, vacationing with each other and spending holidays with each other over the past few years. Our friends and family have weathered the awkwardness of spending time with a divorcing couple like champs and we’ve been able to maintain friendships and relationships with inlaws that are often broken in a divorce. We took family photos together, so the kids can always have yearly photos with both parents. We were able to have a very private divorce even though I’m a somewhat public person.

However, I do realize that because of the length of time between our actual separation and divorce (almost two years in total) and then me announcing it in public, people who know us peripherally have made a lot of assumptions about both of us. I’ve gotten alarmed texts and emails from people who have seen Mark out, or on dating sites. I’ve heard lots of rumors about myself, too. It’s been hard to let all of that swirl without correcting things on a larger scale, because I just wasn’t ready to put all of it out there. I knew once it was out, it was out, and I wasn’t ready.  I was hunkered down with my kids, and focused on their transition as well as my own. There were many times I’ve been tempted to overshare or divulge certain details in an effort to correct narratives or defend myself at the expense of my ex, but I knew that this was not how I wanted to behave. My own parents had an incredibly messy divorce with details that were divulged throughout my childhood community and I did not want that for my kids. I had to do a very conscious detachment from what others think of me – which may be one of the most difficult but life-affirming lessons to learn in all of this: detaching from the fear of judgment. But all that to say, Mark is dating again, and so am I, and there is no scandal in that fact. We talk openly about our respective relationships  . . . sometimes laughing about how some of our former issues pop up with new partners and our different approaches to dating. That’s not to say we are besties, and we still argue and have incredibly disparate perspectives on life that rub each other very wrong. When you divorce with children, you continue living with the issues, dynamics, and resentments that were present before the divorce.

Divorce is one of the hardest things I’ve been through. I can’t sit here and say I’m following my truth or that we’re all better off. It’s shitty. For everyone. We’re doing the best we can, but it’s still hard.

Writing this post feels a bit like closure, though, because I’ve been so worried about writing it. For several years I wondered how I would explain the end of my marriage . . . how I would weather the shame of judgment and gossip, and the scorn of certain Christian circles in which divorce is like a scarlet letter. I thought about just closing up shop and walking away from the blog and the world of “internet platforms” because I felt so exposed. But the beauty of the past few years is that I’ve had to face some of those demons of people-pleasing, and slay them. I weathered the storm and came out the other side, and I’m writing this today because I feel like I’m back on my feet again, and able to share with some clarity and inner strength that just wasn’t there at the beginning of the journey. It’s still a hard road to walk, though, and if you are of the praying kind, I’ll take them. For me, for my kids, and for Mark.