Realities on Divorce, Dating, Parenting and Re-Invention

#5. Behind Closed Doors

Married Bed

#5. Behind Closed Doors

This weekend I attended a Single Parent Group social event in mid-town Toronto.  I had never attended any kind of group like this.  I had joined the group many months ago, but made one excuse or another to not attend any of the events.  In the interest of finally moving on with my life, I thought meeting others who shared a similar past would perhaps bring clarity to to the closure of one chapter and offer support for the next. 

There is something liberating about having your own sad divorce story shared by others.  Tragic that there are so many of us, but comforting to know that we are not alone.  As we shared out tales of disappointment and disillusionment from our marriages and the various challenges of single parenthood, the wisdom that each person brought was eye opening.  Specifically, hearing the men tell their stories.  I admit, whenever I met or even heard about a man who is divorced, I wonder what he did that made his wife throw him out.  I have been convinced that these ‘throw-away’ divorced men were all adulterous sociopaths. I mean, why else would a woman voluntarily become a single mom?

Apparently, these guys had suffered through their wives adulterous relationships and bad behaviour too.   The same stories that we women had, were spoken with great sincerity and self reflection through the male perspective.   These men still tried to make their marriages work despite the broken vows.  They were willing to forgive their wives and went through extensive marital counseling, until they realized that their relationships were not salvageable.  Not just because of the cheating, but they came to realize that the relationship was always unhealthy and as a result they did not like who they had become.  Like many of us women, they married in their 20’s and didn’t have a steady handle on who they were and what they wanted.  They too got swept up in the trend of marriages around a certain age.  Perhaps they married because they thought the time was right rather than the relationship.  Whatever the case, we all found ourselves playing the role we thought we should in our marriages, rather than roles rooted in reality.  Many of us were blindsided by cheating, and others just couldn’t get along.

I started to reflect on a moment about nine years ago when I had just left my son’s father.  I remember taking my son to see a “Bear in the Big Blue House” theatrical production.  Before the show began, I looked around the auditorium to see a barrage of happy couple’s reveling in their toddler’s excitement.  They all found what I would never have.  Tears streamed down my face throughout that show.  They had the families I so craved.  How was it that they found the fairy tale that had eluded me?  Why weren’t my expectations met with a lifetime of joy, milestones and an intact traditional family unit? 

Fast forward eight years to this past summer.  I had the occasion to attend a family type event with the same sort of families that I saw years ago at the same Theatre.  Although this time I wasn’t feeling envy when I looked upon the barrage of married parents.  In fact, I was so grateful not to be them, I was bordering on smug.  Grateful that my marital misfortune saved years of profound unhappiness.  Many of these parents barked at each other, bickered and looked downright miserable.  I get that there is a shorthand that develops between couples, but I’m telling you, many of these people looked like they had just given up on life altogether.  Resigned to the reality that this was their lot in life and that was that.  Was I just seeing it now through clearer eyes?  Did I just romanticize the Norman Rockwell scene of happy families at the Theatre years back? Was I now being a cynical, jaded and a harsh judge?  I don’t know. 

But the courageous folks that I had the great pleasure to meet this weekend reminded me of one very certain reality.   Until our splits, outsiders would not have guessed the degree of misery and strife that had become our marriages.  We hid that from the world. We played the parts that we wanted others to believe for some reason. 

If there is one thing I know for sure, it’s that you never know what’s really going on behind closed doors.  We single parents have the best part of ourselves in common.  The strength to open that door, and walk out.

  1. Anonymous
    AnonymousAug 30, 2011

    "We single parents have the best part of ourselves in common. The strength to open that door, and walk out." Thanks for reminding me!

  2. Sara
    SaraAug 31, 2011

    Just found your blog Hayley and love it. I'm a single mother by choice…but I still know the feeling of looking at the 'traditional' family and wondering why not me. But like you – when I look a little closer – the grass is not always greener and I love our peaceful little team of 2. Look forward to reading more!!

    • Hayley
      HayleySep 02, 2011

      Congrats on your choice! I always think, no matter how I got here, I am LOVING being a single mom. I feel very lucky! Thanks for reading! Looking forward to your future comments.

  3. Bob
    BobAug 31, 2011

    Just finding your posts this afternoon and finding the very fun, but this one hit home in the first half.

    As I said in your previous post I am a single FATHER. Notice I did not say single man. I went to a divorce group and experienced the same story as you said; the presumption of guilt and "why is he here" looks from the women. Then I told my story, which did include some adultery by my ex, but mostly included the fact she stayed at home with the kids, but sat in her room and ignored them. the fact that she told them to their faces "I wish I never had you", sometimes in my presence, which led to some nasty fights, let me tell you. So the point I wanted to make is not every single mom is a saint. I now am the primary parent for my three kids, while their mom moved out and was engaged to a man with no children less than two weeks after our divorce was final. My kids have been to counseling while their mom felt they did not need any, and in fact the kids were smart enough to have worked out a lot of their issues in the years of our marriage when everyone saw the wreckage.

    I do think the happy family is possible and am moving in that direction myself, but sadly I do think it takes understanding that your younger idyllic self just assumed to many differences in a marriage will work themselves out, and they do not. If everyone could understand that you need to bond with a person because of their character and not anything else, I think we would all be better off. We'd avoid the "playing of parts", the fake happiness and all the other things you spoke of. I know I would rather be alone than be connected in a false way again, and that's why I am unafraid of having very blunt and direct conversations with my significant other. So far so good, but you are right that the strength to walk out if that changes is a big lesson learned in the process we have all gone through! Look forward to hearing what else you have to say.

    • Hayley
      HayleySep 02, 2011

      Love your comments! It’s so great to hear a man’s perspective. Your stories and insights are invaluable! You seem to be on a really great track – and you clearly deserve it!

  4. Dee
    DeeSep 01, 2011

    Hm. A group for single, previously marrieds? Having never been married myself, I sure would like to attend a group event such as that, so that I can gain a perspective from others’ experiences. Like you and your single-dom, I too am sometimes smug about never having been married (and thus, never having been divorced.) So many people I know are either divorced (and happier for it), or still married but fairly miserable. Then there are those who are married and have children and assure me that that kind of life is not all it’s cracked up to be.

    Also, like you, I do sometimes wonder why the bliss of family life eludes me. So on the one hand, I metaphorically wipe my forehead with a “Whew” that I have not been married, but I still wonder if is in the cards for me to rise to the challenge of working at and being in a successful relationship.

    • Hayley
      HayleySep 02, 2011

      Better single and happy than coupled and miserable! Besides, the definition of “a successful relationship” are highly subjective. I think the best we can all do is figure out what that is for us. Thanks for reading!!!

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