I Got Divorced After 30 Years Of Marriage And I Wish My Friends Understood These 9 Things

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Heartbreak

As a baby boomer, I grew up in a conservative family that believed that marriage is permanent and divorce is shameful, no matter what.

I dutifully entered my own marriage with a solemn, lifelong commitment. We had children. We were miserable. We stuck it out for decades. We got divorced after 30 years married. People who go through divorce after 25 years or more are in an unsual club. People are often surprised and curious about why it happens and what it's like.

People were, no doubt, surprised with mine. I told only the people closest to me and I kept it off of social media. So my old acquaintances must have been shocked as rumors inevitably spread.

At first, I was too emotionally raw to handle negative reactions.

Now, three years after the separation and two years after the divorce, I’m finally ready to speak because not all long marriages are happy.

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Here’s what I want my friends to know about my divorce after 30 years.

1. I’m not going to tell you why we divorced.

I refuse to bash my ex, fight over social media, or say anything publicly that would hurt my children. That doesn’t leave much to say.

2. I feel helpless when it comes to what you will think.

Since I can’t tell you the details, I can’t defend myself or try to rally you for my side. Some of you will give me the benefit of the doubt. Others won’t and that hurts.

3. I wish you knew how boring the split was.

There was no adultery, no violence, and no alcohol or drug abuse. It was two flawed people who did what we thought we knew to do but were ultimately unable to succeed in marriage.

If you hear anything much more dramatic than that, it’s either a rumor or you don’t have all of the information.

4. I wonder how surprised you are by our divorce.

Most of my confidantes told me that we always appeared to be a happy couple.

We didn’t put on a show of affection or try to act happy in front of others; we just didn’t yell or argue in public.

In fact, we pretty much ignored each other when people were around. So the signs were there, but you probably didn’t notice our inner misery.

Or maybe you did, and you didn’t say anything. Maybe I’m wrong to worry about what you think. Maybe you’ll say, "Why in the world didn’t you two split up sooner?"

I wonder about that, but I’m scared to find out.

5. It was an agonizing decision.

You may have been taken by surprise, but we weren’t. We struggled in private for more years — decades — than I want to admit.

What you didn’t see was the endless sessions of marriage counseling that didn’t bring change, the stoic decisions to stick it out, the overwhelming unhappiness and helplessness, the tearful hours spent weighing options over and over, the consuming fear of the unknown.

We didn’t give up on the marriage easily or quickly.

6. I’m not saying I did everything right.

I made mistakes, hurt people more than I realized, learned, and am still growing.

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7. My biggest fear is that you will judge me.

If you’ve been through it, you probably understand why the divorce happened.

I worry, though, that people in wonderful relationships, who have always been able to work out their problems, will assume that all couples should be able to get along if they try.

I worry that people in difficult relationships, who are gritting their teeth and staying together, might judge me for deciding to stop doing it.

8. I have a lot of feelings about the marriage and the divorce.

My biggest regret is putting our children through the pain of a bad marriage. I struggle with feeling like a failure. I wonder whether I really did everything I could have to stay together, or whether I missed something.

I feel guilty about not giving more and angry about sacrificing too much of myself for too little in return. I feel broken in my soul, because I had so much faith for so long, and nothing happened.

I feel shame because falling in love and choosing someone as your soul mate and life partner isn’t like picking out a pair of jeans; it comes from the depths of who you are.

What does it say about who I am that I made such an unfixable mistake in choosing to marry someone who would never be right for me? That I gave it my all for over three decades, didn’t succeed, and gave up in my 50’s?

On the other hand, since the divorce, I’m proud of myself for making it on my own. I’m proud that I made choices of my career and where I live. I feel free.

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I’m over 50, but I have lots of life ahead of me, and life is good. For the first time, I’m happy.

9. I desperately want to justify my decisions but I’m trying not to do that.

Everything in me wants to make you understand that I’m "right" and that I’m a good person. But I’m old enough to wonder if that’s even true.

It’s true that I did the very best I could, but it’s also true that I’m more flawed than I thought I was.

Divorcing after 30 years means you question your entire life and your entire being. What’s worse is that, at this age, there’s so much behind you that can’t be undone, people you can’t unhurt.

Facing how flawed I am is terrifying. Finding the courage to face my true self is like falling into a hole not knowing whether there’s a place to land.

I’m discovering that I’m right and I’m wrong and I’m messed up and I can’t help some of it and I should have done other things better and I can’t fix the past but I can do my best and somehow it’s okay to know that I’m still valuable and worthwhile as a person.

No one else was with me in my private moments of unhappiness and decision.

I’ve second-guessed my choices countless times and am finally coming to accept myself and my situation. I’m happy and I hope my ex is, too.

What I hope to receive from you is compassion, friendship, and support. I’m still me; the same responsible, decent, well-meaning, messed up person I’ve always been, though hopefully with more lessons learned.

I just want you to know this.

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Frances Patton, LMFT, is a Marriage and Family Therapist. She specializes in couples and family therapy. For more of her writing, visit her blog.