A famous blogging couple announced a split, and the internets are wondering how it happened. I wrote about the sadness we feel when a couple we thought was healthy breaks up over at the co-parenting blog I write with my ex-husband, but I thought I’d talk about what it means to be a blogger who reveals something so big and so secret.
The thing about blogging is that you share so much of yourself with your readers, but you’re not sharing everything. Those of us who have been online for a long time have gotten very good at sharing the essence of us, without every detail and every interaction. When you’re in a marriage that’s going south (or even in a job you hate but aren’t ready to leave, or another situation you have to be loyal to until you can make the break), you aren’t asking for input. You don’t want to crowdsource marriage counseling or whether you should stay or go. So you CANNOT say anything about it until it’s a done deal. There’s a part in the amazing book Uncoupling by Diane Vaughan (which I recommend to anyone going through a breakup because it’s just a timeline, not a guilt trip) that talks about having that seed of doubt that your relationship will work but not being able to be disloyal by saying anything about it to your partner. In a way, in blogging, your readers are your partners. If you know something is wrong, but you can’t tell them, that means you have to try even harder to live on the good parts and only write about things that seem normal.
Add to that the complication that in a divorce you are in a legal fight and have to defend yourself and advocate for your best interests constantly. Until the settlement is signed, it’s constant negotiation (negotiation if you’re lucky; donnybrook if you’re not) and anything can change anything. From something as small as which set of grandparents your children get to spend Labor Day with this year to where your children live and what school they go to to how much money you will have to live on in two years–it’s all up for grabs.
Even if you both want the split, even if you agree on how the days should flow for your kids, even if you trust the other person to do what’s best for the kids (and those are some huuuuge assumptions), there are moments in which you panic. You are assessing exactly who you can trust and exactly how much you can trust them constantly, and if you find out that there’s been even a tiny breach, it can send you into a tailspin.
The media image of divorce is that it’s a knock-down-drag-out in court with parents who become so self-centered that they will do anything they have to to get their ways, or (the latest media darling, and yes, my ex and I have been asked to play into this image all the time) so calm and peaceful that the separating is just logistics. And maybe there are some people who fit those extremes. But the truth for most of us who’ve gone through divorce is that your story changes every single day. And I don’t mean that in a bad way. You are simultaneously trying to figure out what happened, figure out who you are, figure out what is best for your kids, figure out what’s best for you, and then fight to get those bests against someone you thought you knew but don’t want to be around anymore. It is exhausting and hopeless, with no safe place to stand.
How could you possibly let your readers into that? Some of them wouldn’t understand, and some of them would understand too well. Some of them would take anything you wrote as the truth for always, and some would dismiss everything you wrote as being too emotional. So, honestly, it’s best for everyone if you write about the same stuff you’ve always written about. Eventually you will have your feet under you again, and that stuff will become the truth once more.
Even if you are tempted to blog it all, every incident, every revelation about yourself, every emotion, you can’t if you have children. You cannot throw your children under the bus by saying negative things about one of their parents. Whether it’s the other parent or you, you can’t leave a trail of things on the internet for them to read about what a bad/weak/disloyal person their parent is. If it’s true, they will figure it out on their own, in private. If it’s only a (perhaps temporary) version of the truth, you will hurt them by writing it.
And so. The straight facts are out there: he is moving out, she is leaving, we are splitting. And while your regular readers give you the benefit of the doubt, others do not. But you can’t tell your whole story, especially while it’s happening. You can only keep writing the essence of who you are and hope that they understand.