“Dear Former Husband:
I assume the title of this makes your stomach flip a bit; it’s probably flipping as much —if not more— than mine is. Maybe not though, maybe you didn’t notice the date…I don’t know.
The week leading up to today has been nauseating. I have dreaded today.
This isn’t a public post to shame you or tell you off or be disrespectful towards you. It’s not me airing out all of our stuff. It’s not me sharing the details of our mess.
This is a tribute my heart needs to make, words buried deep inside me bleeding out onto the screen. You know more than most that’s how I process and heal…bleeding for the world to see through screen-ink.
August 11, 2019.
August 11, 2012.
Today would have been seven years married. Instead, it’s one year since the ending of us. Are you tearing up or crying? I am. But I think that’s okay, I think it could even be healthy to notice the pain — we have both endured way too much loss.
What a year it’s been, huh?
Hopefully all this loss created a space for us both to be renewed, remade, rebuilt into two beautiful but different and separate individuals. I feel I am becoming more beautiful and more myself and more whole, if I am honest.
A year ago today we rented an Airbnb by the Lloyd District and had wine and beer and dinner at some hip restaurant. I got my nose pierced at the mall and you ended up liking it even though you thought you’d hate it. You really didn’t want me to, but I had been wanting to, so I did it.
We were parenting four children and adopting a fifth. You were heading into your first year as a fifth-grade teacher, kicking off that new career with excitement. We had just moved into a big, beautiful home with lots of space for our growing family, close to some of our best friends. We looked like the perfect little family, and kind of felt like it too, fooling even ourselves.
I was so anxious leading up to the week of our sixth anniversary. I lost five pounds that week due to a lack of appetite, constant diarrhea and some vomiting. I hated myself for it — for feeling so anxious and depressed all at once. I hated that I was looking at our sixth anniversary with dread and fear and hopelessness…feeling like I was numbing myself as I silently died inside. Feeling trapped and confused. Unsure how I would ever feel freedom, afraid we’d both be secretly miserable because I was so broken and traumatized. I was carrying so much responsibility for our dysfunction. We both thought it was all my fault but also couldn’t pinpoint what was going on…
Remember when we were first married and I kept saying, ‘I wonder what our seven year battle will be?’ Because ‘statistics say’ (which I am learning I kind of hate statistics because they put us in boxes) if a marriage makes it past year seven, it has a good chance at success… year seven is the year of drought and divorce and battles and hard times. You kept saying, ‘Why does there have to ever be anything? Why can’t it always just be bliss and good?’ You were never really one to sit in pain.
I would have never guessed year seven would be the end of our marriage. I thought we’d grow wrinkly together when we picked out those rings and stood at the alter and vowed ‘I do.’
I guess most people standing at that alter don’t intend or imagine their marriage will end.
What I want to tell you today is that I am thinking about our young 20 and 22-year-old selves. I think about them more often than I want to. We were both so young and had a lot more mental (un)health to sift through individually before saying that vow in front of 200+ people.
I wonder what all those people think about us, the people who sat in chairs and watched us giggle through vows…the people who danced with us, who cheered us on, who ate cake with us. This whole journey has revealed that we really just don’t know people’s lives or what’s best for people. We really just don’t.
We were never going to be divorcees. Not us. There were zero doubts for our long-lasting life ahead.
But we didn’t know…we did the best we could with what we had, but the best was really quite bad.
We had a lot of learning, a lot of truth to uncover, a lot of boxes to explode, a lot of expectations to uncover and adjust. Me and you were products of a (toxic) Christian culture and had a lot of things stacked against us heading into marriage; though we didn’t see all that. We saw none of it.
I am still uncovering a lot of it.
Sometimes I am angry at my 19-year-old self for marrying you. I am angry for me, angry for you, angry for us both. We weren’t ready. We didn’t understand the gravity of the vow or the importance of truly knowing one another. We didn’t even know ourselves. I wanted to be married SO BAD. I hate all the pain we have caused each other, the lifelong of trauma and woundedness.
But…then Sage and Ira wouldn’t be ours. And that in and of itself would be the worst life…without them? No thank you. They make all of our pain worth it, if you ask me.
We don’t talk about much these days except our kids, which are the best kids in the whole world. I freaking love them. They love you. They love me. I think we are doing that part mostly right, even though we get it wrong a lot too.
Off and on I wonder how you’re doing, if you’re going to counseling and have good friends who check in on you and take you to beer and concerts. I don’t ask because it’s not my role anymore…it’s not my job to make you comfortable and take care of your heart or grieve for you. I am working so hard to break that habit I built into my system…the habit of carrying your pain for you, for carrying your brokenness (and mine), for justifying why you don’t have to and I should instead.
I didn’t even realize how much I repress how I feel or what I deserve, in order to make you comfortable, even still. Two people in my life are constantly telling me and showing me how I continue to do that. STILL. Even one year out from the real ending of us. I mean damn.
I wonder if you’re able to look at our marriage and see the dysfunction — not just all the ways you might think I ran off on you because I didn’t want you or I got bored or something. I wonder if you see the ways I was trying so damn hard to save myself so we could save us, how much dysfunction was actually happening in the hidden spaces of us, how long I/we lasted under extreme circumstances that were …well I couldn’t survive if we kept going how we were going.
I was barely surviving as it was.
The kids kept me going. Motherhood saved me.
I simply wonder if you see the whole thing clearly and know that I am sad about it all, but relieved too. It’s not like losing every last thing I thought my life would be has been a fun adventure. In fact, it’s been full of pain and tears and depression and therapy and humility and being stripped of every. last. thing I thought my life would be.
I wonder about your family and what you’ve told them. I wonder if you have a whole scenario made up in your head about what happened, so that you don’t have to face the truth. Maybe that’s not true, but I don’t know. These are simply the things I wonder and then have to move on from wondering…because I don’t have energy to carry it all around.
There will always be a sadness for me and our kids (I assume you too?) that our marriage failed. But I come back to the reality that sanity and health are important, our souls are important, and our marriage was not functioning how God created or intended marriage. How we functioned behind closed doors was not fair to me, to you, or even to our kids. I woke up realizing I didn’t want to model it anymore.
My prayer is that we can keep our kids at the forefront of what is now a coparenting-relationship. They are the most important thing to us each and they are worth us swallowing our pride, working through our really deep hurt, and setting down our need to look like the victim.
I will be honest with our kids about the pain in our marriage, because I don’t want them to repeat that pattern — but I will be quick to explain that none of us are perfect and our failed marriage is proof of the importance of working through our trauma and unhealth before getting married.
Even though me and you are no longer together, I will continue to respect you with my words and attitude because I know that’s what is best for our kids. They aren’t pawns and I will never use them as such. I hope to look back in 10 to 15 years and be proud of how we have walked through this…even though very imperfect, with lots of rawness and hurt, but still…better than expected.
But also…letting the trauma and pain from our marriage turn into bitterness and hatred towards you isn’t good for my soul. It isn’t good for either of us. You didn’t choose to see me as a human worthy of cherishing and being patient with…and I wasn’t loving you as you were created to be loved. In all fairness, we both sucked at loving each other. We just did. How unfair for us both and I am relieved for us.
A close friend of ours who was a family therapist for over 10 years says he has no idea how we ended up married. He said you and I are so entirely different, we’re from two entirely different worlds…he said he doesn’t think either of us would have ever gotten to the core of who God created us to be, without the grief of this divorce.
My prayer is that both of us let God rip into us through this loss so we can be all that He created us to be. Losing everything we were and thought we would be created a whole chasm of space for Him to make something new.
You are human, I am human, we are both bleeding our own wounds of brokenness.
I believe in redemption, healing, and wholeness for me. In fact I’m experiencing it quite a bit these days… and I hope it for you, too.”
This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Natalie Brenner of Portland, Oregon. You can follow her journey on Instagram, Facebook and her website. Learn more about her book here. Do you have a similar experience? We’d like to hear your important journey. Submit your own story here, and be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories.
Read Natalie’s powerful backstories here:
‘I can’t introduce you to my kids until I know. They’ll attach to you, and I can’t break their hearts.’: Girlfriend nervous it’s ‘too soon’ to meet boyfriend’s kids, feels anxious to not ‘replace’ mom
Help us show compassion is contagious. SHARE this beautiful story on Facebook with your friends and family.