Why we almost got divorced - and how you can prevent it!
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This is not a subject people like to talk about - especially on the internet and especially especially when they are an influencer - hello perfect life, amiright?. But I don't think there are any influencers out there like me, so I'm going to spill the tea on my life, my struggles, and how you can *hopefully* prevent these things from happening to you.
To quote the sound of music, lets start at the very beginning - a very good place to start. Charlton and I met at a Christmas cookie bakeoff at our church in 2013 - I know, so Hallmark movie of us. We chatted about our favorite places in Austin, our iPhones, and BBQ places we wanted to try - buy the end of the convo we were making plans to go on a BBQ tour road trip together, mind you, we JUST met! But something totally clicked and I swear to this day, even though I was dating someone else and not interested in looking elsewhere or getting married, like ever, I thought - "I could marry this guy". I don't know where the thought came from, but I do remember having it!
Over the next few years, we never took that BBQ road trip - in fact, Charlton moved to North Carolina and I stayed in Texas and we lost touch except for an occasional Facebook "happy birthday" or a liking of a picture.
In 2016, through a random series of events, we ended up at another church at the same time and started hanging out. And before you knew it, we were inseparable - late night grocery store runs together, lunch after church, Bible study, we did a lot together! He even moved to a different apartment across the street from mine so we could be closer.
6 months before we said I do, I got a call no one wants to get. Cancer - in the cervix, and it's bad, needs to be removed asap. A hysterectomy. No more chance to ever have more kids. Major surgery that would put me out of work for 9 weeks - and at half capacity for weeks and weeks after. The emotional turmoil I pushed down and masked away because I needed to be the "strong" one. I felt I wasn't allowed to feel the feelings that I was experiencing, because people in my family had it worse. But it was another roadblock we would later have to address in our "happily ever after."
2018 came and on the beach in Mexico, we made it official. Husband and Wife. But it wasn't that easy - we moved in to Charlton's apartment because my lease was already up, my daughter stayed with my sister and her husband until we all got to move into a place together a few months later. The "newly wed" bliss we had, quickly turned into routine - but not like you're thinking. More like, he did what he was used to doing and I did what I was too. Separate lives. Just together? He would pick up food on the way home while I was cooking. I would go hang out with my daughter, who was now living with us, and he would come home to an empty house. Our communication sucked. We were fighting over the smallest things. Intimacy was non existant. I had just left an incredibly abusive salon and opened my own, and with everything else plus the stress of starting a brand new business, all I could think is, I have had enough!
When Charlton got home that night, one week exactly after our one year anniversary, I broke the news to him. I am unhappy, I don't want to fix this, I'm done. I want a divorce.
It felt like I had let a bomb out in the room and no one knew what to do. We both knew we were unhappy, but didn't know how to fix it. We were both so settled in our ways before we got married, we didn't know how to break those cycles! We weren't two young kids running off and getting married, he was 43, I was 34 and a single mom. I had decided before my surgery that I didn't want to have more children, but he really wanted them. I think he agreed knowing that it was what I wanted to hear, but the subject of adoption came up more than once in that first year, and it was a huge factor in me wanting to leave.
My amazing sister was so generous to let me and Lagan move in with her and her husband. They took care us of while I took time to figure my shit out. I was beyond devastated. How could I not make this work? Why was it so hard? I felt like a complete and utter failure. Which, if you know me, is my greatest fear in the world.
We were radio silent for a few days. I don't remember who reached out first, or even what was said, but Charlton was bound and determined to make this marriage work. His parents had divorced when he was a teenager and it ruined his very "Leave it to Beaver" upbringing. He didn't want to become that statistic.
He would bring me cards and chocolates, flowers, and hand written notes, telling me of his devotion to me. It felt good in the moment, but I knew it wasn't going to last, and I wanted to see real change in him, and in me. After all, I knew I had not been the wife that I knew I could be.
We quickly enlisted a marriage counselor, learned about our fighting styles and why they clashed, our issues on the daily, parenting struggles, intimacy issues. You name it, we talked about it. I heard some stuff about myself that I never wanted to hear from anyone, much less my husband. He did too. But in the end, it was so important that we got these things out in the open because these, the little secrets we held inside about our partner, are what ultimately drew us apart.
We learned to set boundaries with each other, how to fight fair, how to fill each other's love tank, how to communicate when we need something from the other instead of assuming they knew how to read our minds. We separated our money - which was a huge thing for us both and allowed us to feel more in control. We talked about children, and came to the realization that Charlton didn't actually want them, he felt pressure from his family to have them, and took that out on me.
The game plan was laid out. It wasn't pretty, but it was going to have to work for us. On the outside it didn't look good. My daughter, who was 17 at the time, stayed with my sister and BIL. She was in a more stable environment with them, and I knew they would do everything they could to make sure she was taken care of. The environment of two broken people trying to fix an even more broken relationship is not the best place for any child, much less a teenager who's already going through enough - remember how much life sucked when you were 17? Yeah! Its not fun!
Luckily they lived very close and I still hung out with my girl as much as I could. We moved outside of the city to be closer to all of my family, we were all hanging out and having family dinners on Sunday nights, things seemed to be working really well. Then Covid hit - I was actually so impressed that we only had one really big fight during our stint at home together. Being in the same room with the same person, day in and day out can be challenging for any marriage, but we had the tools we needed, and our counselor on speed dial, and we made it through!
So it's been 3 years since lock down. We will have our 5 year anniversary in June of this year (2023) and here is what I have learned:
You marriage doesn't have to look like someone else's for it to work for YOU.
Traditional "norms" of what you're supposed to do, or what he is supposed to do are stupid - in the words of Carrie Bradshaw, we get to make our own rules.
Boundaries are important and keep you both healthy and respectful towards each other.
Don't take marriage advice from people who don't have marriages that you want to mirror.
Communication is KEY! If you need something from your partner, you have to let them know, they aren't a mind reader.
Counseling is SO important.
You will both change. Learn to love the new version instead of wishing for the old one back. If you simply can't, it's time to look internally and figure out why.
Don't EVER ask other people how often they are having sex, it will just make you feel bad either way. You will feel like you're having it too much or not enough, so don't ask.
And Finally, do not, under any circumstance, tell people in your family or close friend group when you're fighting or what you're fighting about (or disagreeing - it doesn't have to be a big fight). YOU will forget, but they never will, and all you're doing is painting a picture of your partner that is terrible, selfish, and not worthy of mending to your friends and family. It's ok to have an outlet, but let it be your journal, your personal counselor, or if you MUST talk to someone close to you, keep the details to yourself and only seek vague advice or support.
Some of our favorite books of the trade are listed here, if you're struggling in your relationship, remember that its normal, but it's not ok to sit and stay when things are unhealthy - but there are lots of tools out there that can help!
Books and resources: