The announcement of an engagement is typically made with joy and verve. We don’t think about how to break the news or what people’s reactions will be. We shout about our nuptials from the rooftop and flash our shiny rings.
Announcing a divorce is a different beast. In the days that led up to my ex-husband and I telling people that our marriage was over, I spent a lot of time twisting my wedding ring in circles around on my finger. It became a habit, my subconscious “tell” of the turmoil going on in my life. Like a genie in a bottle, my anxiety hoped that if I rubbed the ring hard and long enough that my wish to be on the other side of all of this would come true.
My ex-husband and I discussed how to let our families know about the break-up.
Like a band-aid that’s been on too long, the dread was sticking to my every pore.
Once we had made the decision to divorce, I wanted to have those conversations, as soon as possible. I called to arrange the confessional dinner with my brother on the way home from work one day, but he saw right through it. Perhaps it was the catch in my voice or the fact that we hadn’t had dinner alone together in 14 years. Either, or. He demanded I spill the beans immediately. He knew the marriage was over before I’d picked up my dry cleaning.
My ex-husband waited to tell his family. And waited. And waited. I don’t think he knew what to say so he simply didn’t say anything. It was an avoidance technique and though I was frustrated, I understood. It was a difficult conversation to start.
Being married for 26 years, my husband and I shared a lot of friendships, many made through the scope of raising our children. Church friends. Grade-school friends. High-School friends. Sleepover friends. Boy Scout friends. Dance friends. Theatre friends. Work friends. Neighborhood friends. Friends of friends. You get the idea. We lived in a relatively small community and worked and played in some pretty tight-knit circles. Telling one or two people about the separation would have quickly led to a high-stakes game of telephone. Fake news. Alternative truths and speculation. Neither of us wanted that for us, or our children.
A few attempts were made to gather groups of friends, but it was June and people had scattered for their family vacations – gatherings that were a thing of the past for our family. Waiting until August when the house was on the market and proceedings were in full swing didn’t feel right for people that were so important to us. And I couldn’t face having dozens of identical conversations. It wasn’t ideal, but we decided to send an email – one with a consistent, core message, void of blame or malice. We unconsciously coupled before it was a thing. The message was sent to 85 people.
This is something that we did not wish or intend to say via email. But time, travel, schedules and children have all gotten in the way of seeing the ones we love the most, face to face this summer.
It is with deep regret and sadness that we let you know that Ed and I are separating after 26 years of marriage. We ask that you love us and trust in our decision, knowing that this is not something that came about lightly. Please support and pray for us both as our family goes through this extremely difficult time. Ed and I respect each other tremendously and have no animosity. There are no sides – just two people that have always been very grateful for your part in our lives. It is our sincere hope that friendships will strengthen and endure for the both of us.
Katie and Ed
My hand trembled over the keyboard. I felt sick. I knew that after sending this truth bomb that there was no going back. And that even though we begged for relationships to remain intact, my extreme nausea told me that not all friendships would survive; We hoped that others would love us, try to understand us, empathize with us.
The responses began to flood my inbox. And clearly, the forward button was alive, well, and getting a workout that day.
“I never liked him anyway.” Ummmm….thank you?
“I didn’t think you were a good fit for him.” Please, tell me what’s wrong with me. I’m not hurting quite enough.
“My brother is newly divorced. Can I set you up before you go on the market?” No, and I’m not a property!
“I’m not surprised. I knew this wouldn’t last.” So glad you were right. PS: You don’t get a prize.
A lot of these people were old habits rather than true friends.
We shared carpool lines or kids activities – no real intimacy. There was a reason we had never extended our relationship beyond the circumstances, schedules or class rosters that threw us together and I was seeing it in black and white. Lesson learned. Delete, delete, delete.
Then, there were responses from friends, authentic relationships whose hearts were breaking with ours. They assured us there would be no lines drawn and that nothing had changed. They loved us, cherished our children, and would always hold memories of our times together, dear. Those emails sustained me over the coming months, reassuring me that I still had something as my tears emptied me of everything.
Shortly after I hit send, I moved my wedding ring to my right-hand ring finger. My friend Betsy says that I loved it over to the other side. It’s been almost four years since we sent that email. I still twirl my ring sometimes, rubbing my fingers over the smooth silver memory. But now, it’s my “tell” of how much I love my family, how far we’ve all come and how much I treasure the friendships that have strengthened and endured. And I am grateful for their part in my life.