My Perfect Facebook Posts Fooled Everyone About Our Marriage — Even Me

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couple hugging on boat

“Look this way, Bee.”

My husband knelt next to me with his phone positioned at eye level. The glittering Mediterranean Sea stretched behind him, and warm wind licked my skin.

I was sprawled stomach-side down on a sun chaise, my cheek pushed against a terry cloth towel. My head spun from drinking too much champagne, and I stared over my sunglasses, aware of the crowd around us. I flashed what I hoped was a convincing smile and tried to calm my aching heart.

My husband, the man responsible for my current depression, encouraged me to laugh. I gave a false giggle while hiding my red eyes behind oversized sunglasses and holding back the scream lodged in my chest.

When he finished snapping pictures, he sent a batch to me. I pulled my wide-brimmed sunhat low on my brow and selected the photo that I thought looked the most carefree. How had my husband captured that moment when I had no happiness left inside me?

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After a swig of champagne, I wrote a breezy caption that avoided what everyone was wondering: how were we doing? and posted it to Facebook.

Six weeks earlier, I had discovered my husband’s affair and ran away to Paris. There, I planned to regroup. We had already survived my husband’s traumatic brain injury (TBI) two years earlier. The TBI had left him unable to recall many parts of our life together, and I had used old photos to remind him of our important life events. I created the history I wanted him to know, leaving out the ugly bits.

Now, we were chronicling every supposed blissful moment of our France trip — the empty champagne bottles and strawberries, my frolicking in the sea, us smiling and laughing and looking happy. We never showed the messy parts like me wailing on the hotel floor or my husband’s face after I punched his jaw.

I only posted what I needed people to see.

I posted for his mistress. I posted for my family. I posted for my friends.

On the beach, we clicked, posted, and pretended. I believed that if we could create the illusion of a happy marriage, then maybe we could live it too, and maybe all the muck and pain of the previous months would vanish like a deleted image. I wanted to create our future like I had our past — one photo and one happy story at a time.

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I put on a brave face, not to lie to others, but because I was lying to myself.

I was terrified to let my handling of the affair be anything less than inspirational, and I clung hard to the image I presented to the world. Not that anyone believed me.

The day I ran away, my husband confessed his affair on Facebook, making what should have been a private situation public.

Humiliated, I ignored calls and messages from family and friends. The only thing they saw, after my husband arrived in Paris to reconcile, were photos I religiously posted of us cuddling on the steps of Sacre Couer and silly selfies in the Tuilleries. He had repented, and I had forgiven him. All was well. Let’s move on.

As I lay on my chaise with the sun pounding down on me, I was rewarded with positive comments and ‘likes’ on my latest batch of pictures, but my heart ached. My marriage wasn’t happy, and my posts were delusional. Our time in France was messy and painful, and I was terrified to show my raw emotions or ask for help.

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I cared too much about what others thought, and it was stunting our recovery.

Our marriage was a lifetime of private memories and events punctuated occasionally by public perception. It was not a spectacle to be played out in public.

When my husband picked up his phone again and asked me to smile, I shook my head. “No more pictures.”

At that moment, I realized we had become so obsessed with proving to the world that we were doing great that we had neglected our healing. We were perpetuating a public persona that neither of us believed, and one that prevented us from moving forward.

My husband set his phone down and wrapped me in his arms.

“Let’s be real,” I said as the tears I always held back in public fell. “Let’s do this just for us.”

He kissed my head and agreed.

A deep guttural sob ripped from me and drew looks from those around us. But I didn’t care.

We were done living a lie. It was time to begin living authentically and just for us.

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Mia Hayes' memoir Always Yours, Bee, about her husband’s accident and her subsequent spiral into mental illness, was selected by BookBub as one of “15 Powerful Memoirs to Read in 2021.” She is also the author of the women’s fiction series, The Waterford Novels.

This article was originally published at Medium. Reprinted with permission from the author.