I recently watched the movie “The Queen” as well as the documentary to commemorate 20 years from Princess Diana’s death. It wasn’t like I was on some quest of digging out royal secrets. One showed up in my movie queue and the other happened to be on as I was cleaning up the house. But getting to my point…Princess Diana went through a very personal and very traumatic experience of a divorce…publically. It’s an extreme example but I simply cannot imagine going through a divorce publically.
I got goosebumps when I heard Prince William talk about how isolating divorce was on his mom. She was first surrounded by the royal family, royal help including protection, and then, as she was transitioning to no longer being royal, she was cut off from the life she had come to know. What stood out for me was the acknowledgement that while she started using her stardom for raising awareness in humanitarian efforts and kept really busy, from meetings with Mother Theresa to mine fields or AIDS hospitals visits, she was often surrounded by people, but yet still isolated.
I don’t know if isolation has become my safe-place or a painful reminder but I have isolated myself in many ways. I isolated myself from many married friends because I don’t want to cause stress on their marriage. I know that divorce is not contagious but I feel like me complaining about my relationship may cause stress even with a simple agreement like “oh, I know how that feels.” I also feel surprisingly judged when people say, “We all have to put up with someone’s quirks.” It’s as if my situation could be boiled down to me being impatient or unreasonable or not forgiving enough. I don’t want to feel judged or judge someone’s behavior and be on the edge, so I’ve kept to myself. I’ve also kept to myself with work friends who can’t understand why my child being picked up early from daycare on my day is causing me anxiety and affecting my ability to focus. Or so I think…so, I don’t share.
I haven’t shared my story of abuse – verbal or physical, because people have asked me, “Are you sure he did X to you?” or “Maybe you were hormonal” or “You need to forgive him, for your sake.” First, a lot of these comments come from people who don’t know enough but like to offer “helpful” feedback. Let me say it frankly…it’s not helpful! Second, I find it highly dismissive and get livid when someone tries to ask me if something really did happen. It’s as if I am a child who cannot tell apart imagination and reality. I’ve already given myself a hard time for every single unoriginal accusation they can come up with. I have even convinced myself many times that “it’s not that bad.” The only way in which I can make healthy decisions now about myself is to ask “what would I want my daughter to do in this case?”
I shy away from play dates with school friends, afraid that parents will not want to coordinate play dates. I see most kid’s families as whole and mine as broken. And, while I never judged another person for divorcing, I judge myself and shame myself into isolation. I absolutely hate saying “My days are X, Y, Z and I can’t make the birthday because it’s their dad’s day.” These are my issues which in some ways are petty. What’s stopping me from saying “Sundays are good. Does that work?” instead of trying to explain a long history. And to be honest, it may be TMI but I feel vulnerable and I have the need to share what I’ve been hiding.
Finally, I have to admit something I haven’t admitted aloud, even to myself: I haven’t accepted the fact that I am going through a divorce. I haven’t admitted the fact that I still love the person I married and am unable to reconcile that to the person he is today. I haven’t accepted the fact that when I think about moving, I imagine the white picket fence with our family living happily inside, with our issues disappearing as a bad nightmare. It’s isolating because I feel like a hypocrite.
Did I try enough? Did I give it my best? Did I give it my best enough times? What do I have to lose if I try one more time? Will my friends or family judge me for trying, or are they afraid to encourage me to try? Through my separation, I started reading a lot about co-dependence and unfortunately I am co-dependent. I think that somehow, I can love/care/support/try-to-do-something-for someone enough and they would be happy/fulfilled/better. It’s a distortion. It’s tying my self-worth to someone’s actions that are outside of my control and I wouldn’t do it justice other than to say many therapy sessions later, I still have those thoughts. But as I said previously, what helps is to be able to observe my situation in terms of my daughter – is this a healthy relationship/life/situation for her or not.
What’s also isolating, by the way, along with my acknowledgement that I still dream of us being the perfect family, is the fact that I’m…afraid…Afraid to reach out for help from divorced friends. Some of my friends are dating happily. I cannot imagine that for myself, and don’t want to imagine that. I also don’t want to rain on their parade because am not the best company to go out with these days. I also don’t want to get stuck complaining about the ex with other divorced friends.
In this whole process, I am on the outside of all of my circles. I feel like I have been in this dark tunnel for over a year, and I don’t see clarity or light just yet. I sometimes wish I was so angry that I had the clarity that there is no going back. But, I am not angry; I need to co-parent with this person forever. I don’t have the light or clarity. So, “logically,” in my mind, until I have clarity on my feelings and my position, I choose to not burden my friends, to spend any free time with my kids and any time the kids are not here, working on things I once enjoyed. And this is why I feel isolated.