What We Don't Talk About When We Talk About DivorceTracey Gaughran
There’s an invisible, sacred circle of trust that surrounds each and every marriage – a boundary none of us dare cross while we’re in it. And though it’s a hard thing to describe or detail, where that line is precisely, I think we all instinctively know it exists, and where it is. There are things we just don’t talk about, publicly, regarding our marriages. There are secrets, hidden joints and junctures between two people in a relationship that no one else knows about, or should ever know about. In many ways, this is what makes the marriage bond what it is. There is a shared immutable trust and respect, a sense that, come what may, this part of life will not be penetrated by others. This part of life is truly private.
And though it might sound old fashioned in our age of internet exhibitionism and wild public abandon, I believe that the same should hold true of divorce.
Recently I’ve been watching, at a distance, several people I know publicly go through the throes of separation and divorce. And when I say publicly, I mean PUBLICLY. I mean: detailing, down to recording actual dialogue exchanged between the husband and wife of the couple involved, the breakup of their marriages. I mean dissecting and skewering their exes in public – on their blogs, on Facebook, on Twitter, and elsewhere. Things I didn’t believe these people were capable of, they apparently are, and it’s a startling thing to watch unfold. It is, really, what amounts to a public bloodletting writ large – one played out before an audience not composed of friends and family, but of spectators. In watching this, I want to rush at the person writing and throw a blanket on the over-exposed nakedness of their words, protect them somehow from what they are doing to themselves, to their children, and to the person they once claimed to love and once committed their life to. I want to tell them that despite all the comments of apparent praise and support, that the internet isn’t their friend, and that the people urging them to continue bleeding themselves out as spectacle aren’t really on their side. If those people were on their side, they would tell them to PLEASE STOP TALKING NOW.
During my own split, I wrote constantly about my feelings of pain and loss on my blog, quite publicly. I wrote about my heartache, about my fears for the future, about feeling inept and terrified set before the task of parenting and taking care of a household and financially surviving – all without a partner. I wrote about mourning a life I had invested my heart and soul in and never expected to end. But I never, EVER wrote publicly in any detailed way about my marriage, or about why it ended. I never wrote any specifics down about my split, or about what was said, or about what happened. I never wrote about about blame or anger or about any of the other things I see many people writing about ad nauseum and in detail now. I kept my marriage, and its ending, distinctly private. What my marriage was, and the hows and whys and details and specifics regarding how it ended, are, to me, sacred. They are a part of the promise I made to my ex when I stood before everyone I know and love and said, “I do.” Because part of what I promised was to honor this person. And to drag our marriage and its ending out into public and dissect it, and my ex, before thousands of strangers… well, that wouldn’t simply be breaking that promise. It would, to me, represent a total lack of integrity and untrustworthiness. It would be something I couldn’t live with on a personal level, honestly.
But some clearly don’t feel this way, and I’m fairly certain there will be many who will respond to my words here indignantly, praising the Divorce Truth Tellers for their Bravery and Honesty. And though I of course realize there are some who indeed do benefit from reading other’s experiences of divorce, who gain real comfort and strength from reading about it, I would argue that no one needs to know the nitty gritty details – that those details do not make the pain more “honest” or more “real.”
And I can prove it. I couldn’t even tell you how many emails I’ve received over the past two years from virtual strangers, thanking me for my “honesty” and “bravery” in writing about my divorce online. But in reality, what they mean by honesty isn’t exposing details, rather, it’s offering emotional honesty. Those people read my words, and my words made them feel less alone – made them feel understood. THAT is what they responded to. I don’t think my airing personal details and dirty laundry would’ve made them feel even less alone. Or that dishing dirt on WHY my marriage ended would’ve made my words somehow magically braver. No, in my opinion, doing those things would’ve just made me imprudent and dishonorable. And if I had done those things, I would hope to God that someone would’ve told me to PLEASE STOP TALKING, just like I hope that someone cares enough to tell the people I’m watching disembowel themselves and their exes online to please, please, for their own sake if no one else’s, hush up already.
But again, maybe this is archaic, old-school old-lady thinking on my part. Is it? Where do you draw the line, or believe the line should be drawn? What will you say publicly about your own split, and what won’t you say? Do you think it’s wrong to dish publicly about divorce? Or is it anything goes?
Read more from Tracey Gaughran-Perez at her personal blog Sweetney.com