Marriage and Divorce: Sharing the Details

When sharing the news of my divorce with people, I feel very awkward. People usually have the same look of shock on their faces, and I can tell it makes them uncomfortable – especially if we aren’t very close. They want to ask what happened. They want to ask what happened really, really badly. But they don’t, because they don’t want to be nosy. And I appreciate not having to talk about it in detail – but I still feel awkward: should I tell them? Should I keep it to myself? What is the protocol in this situation?

In the very beginning, I really didn’t want to tell people I was getting a divorce at all, let alone the reasons why. My emotional state was a super healthy combination of fear, shame, and embarrassment. When you get married, you check off a certain box on the Success Worksheet, and unchecking that box feels like a huge step backward. And announcing it? It’s like saying to the world, "hey world! I have failed! Look at me!"

It’s especially difficult when you don’t know many other divorced people. From the outside, everyone else’s "Marriage" box is checked off in permanent marker. It remains to be seen how many of my friends are actually happy in their marriages, and how many are serving themselves up a big ole plate of denial for breakfast every morning. In short, I’m the first one to get a divorce, and being first sucks. It’s embarrassing.

But, as my mom predicted, I got over the embarrassment pretty quickly. Now I’m just sort of matter-of-fact about it: “Yep, I’m getting a divorce. No, no one cheated.”

People have different reactions. Mostly they want to know what happened, because they never saw us having any problems. Sometimes they want to know simply because they’re curious…but mostly I think they want reassurances: did you always know it wouldn’t work out? Did you guys mean "forever" when you said, "I do"? Marriages are hard – are you just quitters? Basically, they want to hear that our relationship was fundamentally different than theirs is. They want to know that nothing is lurking in their marriages, ready to jump out and cause the D-word. They want to know that divorce isn’t contagious.

I can’t give them any of those reassurances, though, because I have no idea what is lurking inside their marriages, just like they didn’t know Divorce was lurking in mine. All we see of one another’s lives is what we choose to share – and most people only share the good stuff. After all, marriages are made up of good, bad, and mundane, and it’s hard to paint an accurate picture of what your marriage really looks like when you can’t share every little detail. I think people are afraid to talk about anything negative because they worry they’ll regret it the next day when the fight is over. Or they’re afraid their friends will judge them. Or that everyone else’s relationship actually is as perfect as it seems, and they’re the only one with major (or not-so-major) problems.

Plus, talking about marital problems can ruin friendships – everyone has a different opinion about what’s acceptable and what isn’t, and you might get a whole lot of unsolicited advice that you don’t agree with if you do choose to open up. And of course, most people only want to hear what they’re willing to confront – and some people will get angry if they hear anything beyond that.

I wasn’t ready to confront the issues that led to the end of our marriage, so I didn’t tell a single soul about them. Sometimes I worry that my friends and family feel betrayed because I was so silent.

I could end this post with a call to action: “let’s not be quiet anymore! Let’s tell the world every little detail, in the name of empowerment! Let’s blog about it!”  But I’m not going to. I actually think it’s a good thing that people aren’t sharing every single detail of their married lives on the Internet. In an online world where people can tweet faster than it takes to second-guess themselves, it’s good to know that some things are still sacred. Or if not sacred – at least private. Because too much honesty can come back and bite you in the butt.



  1. p c

    Thank you for sharing (and I commend you for not over-sharing). It is healthy to be private to keep a part of your life yours and yours alone. I don’t think there is any such thing as being too honest. There’s nothing wrong with honesty. I’d argue that it’s too much self disclosure that is the issue.

  2. Julie S-A

    One thing that I often feel is “bad” about my marriage is that we air a lot of dirty laundry to our friends and family and this makes most people uncomfortable. It’s hard to know where to draw the line. I am of the mindset that people in general feel less alienated when others are honest, at least to some degree, about the things inside that make us scared/ashamed/insecure, etc. I am often amazed when I talk to a friend about our issues and that friend, whose marriage always seemed “ideal” to me, relates similar issues. It would be nice to know more about what is a “normal” range of experiences within healthy relationships and what isn’t. My therapist helps me a lot with that.
    But the truth is that few people really know what goes on inside someone else’s relationship.

    I’m sorry you’re going through this, and I’m sorry you have to deal with other people’s reactions—like the process itself isn’t hard enough! Thanks for your honesty. I agree that it takes a fair amount of courage that many don’t have.

  3. krista

    This is a great post, Sara! I actually think that people are generally willing to share the negative before the positive (at least, generally speaking, and maybe if they don’t have secrets to share- you know?) As for your friends and family feeling betrayed, I can’t speak for everyone. I think you just have to look out for you, and do what feels right at the time. Love ya!

  4. Erika67

    I really like this post. I admit I am guilty of what you are saying about the reassurance – I got a little excited to know why you were getting a divorce. I got married around the same time and my son is the same age as Charlie. He had colic and the first year was pretty rough on us. I took out all my frustration that I had on my husband because I didn’t dare take it out on the baby. I am not saying that happened to you guys but just insinuating. I had to admit it but yeah I am curious how it goes from there to the D.

    Hope this rough patch goes by quickly!

  5. Shelly M.

    Could not have said it better myself, every word. I so, so agree with what you are saying, about people wanting to know about your divorce because they’re either curious or because the announcement shakes them to their core or both; about people only sharing the good of their marriage and how that contributes to a divorce announcement being shocking AND to all of us privately torturing ourselves about why OUR marriage isn’t as good/successful/happy as the one next door; and about all the different reasons people do that (particularly the part about not wanting to confront the deficits in your marriage yourself).

    As far as sharing everything: I think everybody should do what feels right and comfortable for them. For some people, it could be helpful/therapeutic to share some (or a lot) of the “what happened” and what they’re going through. But personally, I wouldn’t want to share something so private online; I tend to want to process these things, my feelings and all the questions, on my own before I put things out there (and the grief associated with them). And even after that, this would be the kind of experience I would only share in detail with a select few I really trust.

    All that aside, I want to say again how sorry I am for the pain and difficulties you must be going through, and offer up any help you might need (a last-minute babysitter, getting together for lunch or coffee, or whatever.) Clearly, I can see from the FB and blog comments that you have a lot of friends and family who are here for you, so I don’t worry about you at all 🙂

  6. Rachel Gitner

    Hi Sara! Another great post. I just had to share my perspective. Perhaps I am rare in that I have never thought of marriage as part of a successful life. Maybe it’s because I am a child of divorce and still fail to see what is so “successful” about getting married. In fact I fully expect my own marriage to fail, not because we have any super major problems, but because this is modern life we’re living in, and people change and grow so fast! How can two people possibly make it work for the rest of their lives?? I have serious doubts about this – especially when I see most of my friend’s marriages fail. I have one friend who got married at the same time as you, divorced last year, and is married again! All of this feeds my total ambivalence towards marriage. I will also add that being a child of divorce, I think I am just as, or better adjusted than most of my friends, am able to have long-term successful relationships, etc. In short, I don’t think divorce messed me up any more than anything else in childhood. So, I hope you don’t feel too bad about this (other than the normal feelings of grief, etc.) I just think divorce is, well, part of life for a lot of people! Hugs!!!

  7. Mel T

    completely understand the “failure” feeling. It’s completely
    embarrassing and people try to offer all kinds of advice that they think is right for you.
    When someone told me to pretend I was preggers to keep my husband from
    leaving me, I quickly learned to take advice with a grain of salt. The best thing I did was started seeing
    a counselor right away, and she gave me the best piece of advice,
    “worry about yourself and no one else.” you need to do what is right for
    you and C right now. that’s all that matters. it’s going to be a roller
    coaster and know that divorce is just as bad as losing someone who died. i
    almost feel it’s worse because it has so many emotions including
    rejection. stay strong, and know you’re not alone.
    😉 good luck and you will find you’re so much stronger and can handle so
    much more than you ever knew before. ❤ Melissa T

  8. Wabadee1

    I just wanted to say I get where you are coming from. Completely. I was the first of my friends to get divorced, and since then there has been only one other, and all of my other friends are marriend and making babies like crazy. It can be a very alienating feeling.
    Divorce is awful no matter how it happens. Everyone’s is different and have different levels of complexity. After what I learned going through my divorce is that you should let yourself feel whatever it is that you do at any given moment. If you’re sad, it’s ok to be sad. If you’re angry, it’s ok to be angry. If you need to yell, yell. If you need to cry, cry. I also learned that if I felt like I could only get through a minute at a time, that was ok. So I took one minute at a time at first, then an hour at a time, then a day at a time. I don’t have kids, so maybe things are different when you have a little one to consider but I hope this advice is helpful in some way.
    Oh, and something very practical… don’t forget to eat. I stopped eating altogether, which was bad. If all you can do is an energy bar, at least they are packed with fat and calories.
    If you have the time and inclination, it might be good to research the stages of grief, it was helpful to know that what I was feeling was accurate and not wrong.

  9. Rachel Gitner

    Oh and I will note that all of my friends who have gotten divorced have been artists or artist-types. I just think our lives tend to be more unpredictable than most and relationships can be more difficult. My husband’s friends, who are generally not artists, are all still married.

  10. Sandylwatson

    Thank you for this thoughtful post. I completely agree with what you said “…it’s a good thing that people aren’t sharing every single detail of their married lives on the Internet.”

    So many people feel entitled to answers…just because someone wants to know and asks doesn’t mean they are entitled to information that I would prefer to keep private…but it’s hard to know what to say to people when they ask those types of questions.

    I will admit that I become borderline obsessed when I hear that certain people are getting a divorce…even people I don’t know in “real life” and only know through the internet. There are some couples where it is not at all surprising when I find out they are getting a divorce…sorry to say that, but it’s true. And then there are the couples that seem so normal…like they respect each other and love each other and are so great together and work through their issues/problems…and those are the couples that shock me when they get a divorce. I want to know the reasons because it’s so hard to imagine what went “wrong”…I can’t imagine what happened…so I become obsessed with trying to figure it out. I guess I want to know because I want to prevent it if at all possible…I know that is really flawed thinking, but it’s the only explanation I have.

    Despite my own selfish reasons for wanting to know why you are getting a divorce, I RESPECT YOU SO MUCH for maintaining some privacy for your family and especially that adorable baby girl of yours.

  11. Amandaehaskell

    As someone who is happy to be considered your friend in real life, I think you totally captured what I and others have been experiencing since you made your shocking announcement. Of course, we WANT to know what happened between you two, but are too polite to just ask because we realize it really isn’t our business. Your post was insightful and definitely captured what it feels like for an outsider to be in a parallel marriage to yours (married within a few months, babies within a few months, both had high-needs babies, the list goes on and on…) and to wonder what is lurking in other people’s marriages, or worse, one’s own marriage. If your seemingly “normal” marriage didn’t work out, then what could possibly go wrong with ours?!!? This is particularly exacerbated for me by the fact that we spent time with you as a couple and never saw any inklings of trouble. Of course, on the internet anyone can make their marriage look all shiny and happy, but I truly am surprised and devastated to hear about you and Y.

    That being said, I totally respect your privacy, especially in this new age of internet sharing, and feel confident you and Y didn’t just jump into this decision impulsively. Something must have been seriously wrong for you to rock your (and C’s) world so dramatically, especially when you seemingly “had it all” otherwise. I hope that while you are justifiably uncomfortable talking to the internet, you have someone you can share with who can support you. A therapist sounds like a really good idea right about now, if for no other reason to help you sort out all the co-parenting stuff.

    Hugs and I am here for you if you need me!


  12. Stephanie

    Sara – this is such a great post. For everyone. I hope that you are doing well and I’m happy to hear that you are taking things in stride. Thinking about you guys!

  13. carin

    Having followed you since your weddingbee days, lord knows I am curious (I’m just being honest, it’s human nature!), but that’s my problem, not yours. I can’t speak to how you plan to handle it with close or even not-so-close friends, but as far as THIS forum? Don’t share. GOD FORBID things turn ugly during the proceedings (and I sincerely apologize if this is already the case), you don’t want to give Y any extra ammunition, especially when it comes to custody. Gosh, I wish there was a way to send a stranger like good “strength” vibes or something.

  14. Nodakademic

    I think you hit the nail on the head with this post – you’re describing how I felt, 4 years ago, too. Embarassment. Everyone is curious. Everyone PITIES you. Everyone tries to give you advice on how to fix a problem they couldn’t even begin to understand, as if you just told them you are contemplating divorce, rather than delivering the news. It comes off as if you had just told someone you’re dead, and they respond by telling you to take a multivitamin and get a little exercise. I think it’s good to keep your issues private if that’s what you need to do. Some things are meant to be kept to ourselves, and we as bloggers tend to forget that sometimes. But i do encourage you to talk to at least one person about it if you start to feel too bottled up inside…a sounding board can really help, in a lot of cases (good friend, family member, therapist, stranger on the bus who you’ll never see again).

  15. Brooke

    Well, for starters you’re not alone. I blogged about my ruined marriage (an annulment on the grounds of domestic violence) but… that was kind of different. It was more to help warn others about the dangers of abusive relationships, and to shed a little light about how sensible women get sucked into them. And that there’s hope after it ends.

    I’m glad you’re handling things in this manner. It’s great to know, and yet not know, you know?

  16. Marisa

    I say that your story is yours to share, but only yours. I shared a lot about my part of my divorce because it was gloriously freeing to finally let it out after years of keeping mum, but I did keep my stuff to myself for years until I could process my own lessons.

  17. Jenna Cole

    There area lot of people who need posts like this. I forwarded it on to someone in my life who is going through the same thing you are, and I’m sure feeling the same way “Wait? Divorce? But why!?!?”

    I’m with Nodakademic. I hope you have someone to talk to now.

  18. Danielle

    You are truly amazing. I met you only once in my life, from the Knot days, but you made an impression on me then and you continue to do so with your class and elegance.

    I still recommend your business to friends getting married, you do such fun work!

  19. Shawna MalviniRedden

    Sara, sending you e-hugs. I’ve been behind on my google reader, and was just about blown over to see the divorce posts. I appreciate your perspective here, and I agree with you about not blogging the nitty gritty because it really can come back to bite you later. Ugh. Hope you’re hanging in there.

  20. Saltfeld

    Divorce makes married people nervous. It’s fear and insecurity. They wonder if it could happen to them. Being able to identify “reasons” or “mistakes” or “flaws” in others and their marriages helps reassure people that it couldn’t happen to them.

  21. Two Brunettes

    ahhhh! im just reading this! Sending you so many hugs and can’t believe your bravery. If you need to talk you know where to email me. C is one lucky little girl to have you as a Momma.

  22. Chanel Jibal

    I know I’m late here… and I hope you don’t take this too seriously… but I wish I could retweet this post. I mean soooo many people should read this. So many. Everyday I check instagram… or facebook… or twitter and people are airing out every detail of their private lives. I simply don’t understand it. Call a friend. Call a parent. Talk to the people who really love you without judgement. I can sense the strength you have in this post. I admire it. Someday I hope it have it 🙂

    I wish you the best of luck.

  23. Miss "Too Sensitive"

    Super late here, but thank you for writing these posts. I’m a 29 yo SAHM and struggling with my marriage so so badly right now. Your too sensitive post especially resonated with me. I don’t know if you want to post about it, but it would be great if you wrote about what made you finally at enough is enough and what you did when making that decision. Did you try therapy? Did you just leave right away? Did you do something else? If you don’t want to share, I totally get it.

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