dressed up like a lady: True Love and Divorce

Dec 2, 2013

True Love and Divorce


I took this tryptych picture of Cammila sunning impulsively in her PJ's a few months ago, as the last burst of late-Summer sun gave one final contented sigh before slumbering off under a pile of chilly Michigan leaves. It occurred to me as I focused my camera phone on my very own Roxy Music siren, stranded bodily on our sunbleached deck, that I never, ever thought that I would be this joyously inspired by a woman before I met Cammila. I've never felt this way about another person. Any person. I thought those kinds of feelings were pure fantasy.

I guess it got me thinking. 

Despite all appearances on this blog, if you know me in person, you know that I'm not the most extroverted and verbose guy. I tend to be a bit on the quiet side most of the time. Of course, like a lot of people, if you get to know me, I can really open up and chat your head off. And when it comes to text, I am a writer, so it's easy to get comfortable. I will say though, that despite some of my reticence in public, I'd like to think that I'm a fairly present, straight-forward person, with an "open-book" mentality on life and willingness to connect to other people through our shared experiences. Basically, ask me any anything and I'll answer honestly. 

Also, I don't believe in holding back emotions (I cried through pretty much all of my wedding ceremony with Cammila), or trying to play off what things in life make me excited, happy and fulfilled out of a misguided attempt at remaining cool, or whatever. I think you should put yourself "out there" in the world in as positive a fashion as possible, and come what may.

I had a really hard time keeping myself in this "open book" headspace while going through my divorce. Yeah, if you don't already know, I'm once divorced with a six-year-old daughter, whom I love more than anything. Ultimately, in my mind and with the benefit of hindsight, my little girl is the great, cosmic and spiritual reason and meaning behind that relationship. Of course, she was also the reason my divorce was so difficult and wrought with such guilt on my part. I take being a dad very seriously and weighed my needs and desires heavily against hers during the divorce -- I still do. Of course, when it came down to it, my daughter was also my ultimate reason for making the choice I did. Parents model relationships for their children, and I knew I couldn't silently teach her to expect resentment and dysfunction out of her own partner some day. 

But despite the fact that the issue is not to be taken lightly, there are still a lot of people who I think could use a little reassurance on this topic. So here's what I can offer from my experience: Divorce happens to good people, to educated and mature people. Divorce happens to people who outwardly seem fine, whose marriages' core problems are not always obvious. To quote Louis CK: no good marriage has ever ended in divorce.

Break-ups are hard, divorces are much more so and ones in which kids are involved are probably the worst. Mine certainly was. But it might have been somewhat easier if I'd employed more of that "open book" philosophy and had been able to talk more readily with longtime friends and acquaintances about what I was going through. Of course, the relationship itself would have probably gone a lot differently if I'd been honest with everyone, including myself, from the beginning.

Although my first marriage was troubled and not a relationship that I feel could have been fixed (you can put back what you've lost through counseling, but you can't create what was never there), it was my decision to end it and move on. That realization caused me no end of guilt and I had a really hard time talking about it openly, especially with people who had known me and my ex-wife for a long time.

I felt judged. I'm sure I was judged at times, but other times, I'm fairly certain that feeling was in my own head and had more to do with my own sense of guilt than anyone's outside perceptions of me and my life.

As an aside, I feel like men and dad's especially get a traditionally, almost cliched, bad rap in divorce. I have a theory that that bad rap largely stems from many men feeling too ashamed, too embarrassed and too guilty, to do the hard, day-to-day work it takes to remain a constant and immoveable presence in their children's lives during and after divorce. Subsequently, I think all these assholes who just "split" and henceforth opt out completely, trying to avoid all the conflict with their exes, awkward glances from neighbors, not to mention their own emotions, create this climate where people assume that a dad who ends his marriage wants out of everything; he doesn't want to be a dad. I ended my toxic marriage, but I did not "split" or abandon my child. 

Additionally, for what it's worth, and though it isn't anyone's business, I also did not cheat on my ex. I was disconnected, checked-out, depressed and unhappy, but I was not a cheater. As soon as I realized that I needed to change my life, that there was indeed someone I wanted to be with in the world who inspired the feelings in me that I'd spent a long time thinking were just a romantic pipe dream, someone I could be with in a deep, meaningful way that yes, would hopefully include sex (along with everything else that goes hand-in-hand with finding the love of your life), in the future, then yes, I ended my marriage.

I spent roughly 48 hours talking on and off with Cammila, during which time it became increasingly (and surprisingly) apparent that we were completely in love with each other. When the full scope and weight of that became clear, I actually told Cammila that I couldn't talk to her anymore -- not until I had taken care of my own business at home. It wouldn't be appropriate to keep having these sorts of conversations with her with the mutual knowledge that we wanted to be together -- that would begin to cross the line into cheating.  

It was a moment of clarity and gut-wrenching sadness. I had really messed my life up and taken my ex, who deserved to be happy, down with me. I had to deal with that before I could have any kind of beginning with Cammila. I didn't so much as hold her hand until my ex and I had somehow gotten on the same page that our marriage was over, and I had moved out.

As the saying goes, it takes two-to-tango and yeah, I don't shoulder all the blame for the failure of my first marriage. That said, explaining my experience of how my ex fulfilled that equal role wouldn't add anything here but animosity, especially because in the end, my own actions are far more important for me to examine. Besides, it's not my place to speak for my ex. I do know that she probably would have wanted things to play out differently even if ultimately, we would have ended up at the same place. Could I have ended it better? Perhaps, but I've also come to think that the the oft shouted accusation of, "I don't hate you for breaking up with me. I hate you for how you did it," (an accusation that I, myself, have levied earlier in life) is often kind of a misnomer. I mean, c'mon, when is ending a relationship, let alone an almost ten year one, ever done the "right way"? We had our own precedent for acknowledging our unhappiness and dysfunction, but no matter how often these things are stated in a marriage, humans like to acclimate, and I don't think hearing these statements early and often makes almost anyone take the eventual announcement that their spouse wants a divorce without tremendous shock and grief

That said, I made mistakes and miscommunicated a lot of things and all of that certainly made it harder on me, my ex and our families. But it would also be patronizing to act like my ex would want things to be dramatically different than they are. The process of divorce is just plain hard. I took the action that put her through that difficulty, but let's just be clear about this: it would be ridiculous to act like her experience of that hardship equates her wanting to still be married to me. She's a great person who deserves a lot better than what I gave her for the time we were together, and I think it's a quite reasonable conclusion that she knows this truth better than anyone.

Openness, honesty and confidence are the keys to most interactions in life. To quote another cliche, you shouldn't judge a book by its cover. Of course, if you can't see the pages, the cover is all you have to go on. Which is why I'm still trying to stay to true to my "open book" philosophy right now.

In that spirit, I posted this following blurb on Facebook last week. Primarily, I just wanted Cammila to see it and hoped it would make her happy...it did! Secondarily, whenever I do feel the impulse to shout my love for Cammila from the mountaintops, it usually feels like it's the universe telling me that I need to do just that. As if by doing so, my positive reflex will counteract a negative reflex elsewhere. So, rather than cage my love in tasteful chains, I let it go free and unfettered. Whether it inspires reciprocal joy or mild nausea to read what I wrote to Cammila, or what Cammila and I post here regularly on the blog, I hope you understand we share our love of fashion, our life, and each other in the spirit of openness and positivity. Because there's just too much negativity and anger in the world. 
Here's what I wrote:
"I don't post about this very often because I figure most people that care will seek it out on on their own and I don’t want to bug those that don't. However, I just wanted say that I take all the photos on this blog. I love it and I’m proud of it. I've rediscovered my long gestating love of photography by putting it together with Cammila and it's made my life that much richer for it. I know the closeness that Cammila and I share as partners in life, love and creativity (we work at the same company, we play in a band together, we parent together, we spend every waking hour of our lives together) makes some people nauseous. I get it. That kind of 24/7 intimacy isn't for everyone. That said, I also know there are more than a few people who "get us" and enjoy sharing in this small window onto our life. Perhaps we overshare on occasion (okay, more like all the time! ) but we always try and keep it positive. Living my life with both a romantic and creative partner is what I’ve always longed for and I'm grateful every day that I have it. Cammila is the love of my life, my muse and my soul mate. I wouldn't have it any other way. Happy Thanksgiving, everybody."
 -MC

20 comments :

  1. I admire your open book philosophy; it is not something I'm brave enough to do at this point in my life. I also really appreciated this point you made:

    "you can put back what you've lost through counseling, but you can't create what was never there"

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  2. thank you for posting this. when i went through my own divorce, i was amazed how many people seemed to think that every marriage is good and saveable and that you are a quitter if you think otherwise. especially if THEY were not aware of YOUR problems. hello? as if someone else knows what it is like behind closed doors! bad marriages can happen between good people. we all make choices we do not yet understand. that is called life and learning.

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  3. That is so beautiful. You make me more adoring (& a wee bit jealous, I must admit!) than ever.

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  4. This sort of scar-revealing honesty means so much to me. I relate to every single word of what you've both been talking about here, lately. Reading it is like the emotional equivalent of commissioning a painting. You both have an incredible ability to frame the right words around elusive feelings.

    Marriage is such an intimate experience, and divorce is the same intimacy once it's been distorted, twisted up and turned over on its back. It's so difficult to ever really explain what either one is like. I don't think I could ever talk about my divorce the way you do yours, even with the same open book mentality, just because I wouldn't know how. I'm grateful to you both for sharing about your lives like this because it gives me a voice, and on both ends of the spectrum. I relate to the sharp, specific pain of divorce, but I also feel indebted to you for giving me a model of what real love looks like, because now I have it, and I recognized it for what it was right away because I'd seen it in you.

    You let us see a rare kind of love, and that happiness with the people you care about should be easy because you'll always choose to fight through life's obstacles together, and fulfill yourselves enough individually to be worthy of one another. I can't tell you what this blog has done for me, and my outlook on just about everything. It's my online oasis where big hearts are the majority, and not something to be trampled on, and I'm grateful that you do it.

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  5. I'm so happy you posted this. This kind of openness and honesty is very inspiring. I have been very frustrated over the years by the stigma of divorce. People to this day will say "I'm sorry" if I say my folks are divorced. I got closer to my dad than I ever was after the separation and I know now that much of the reason for that was because he had much better access to his own emotions when he was no longer trapped in an unhealthy marriage. Just like you say, he was "disconnected, checked-out, depressed and unhappy." The span of time while a divorce is a verb is hard. But that doesn't mean divorce as a noun is bad.

    Cammila: Did B tell you his news?

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    1. Thanks, babe. He did tell me the bit of info I think you're referring to, but I think we're supposed to keep most references to him obtaining it on the DL. Don't wanna piss off some helpful dude in a Guy Fawkes mask. ;)

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    2. I feel like I have been seriously missing something!

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    3. Just the "C story" of our little script, Cait. A rather small minded lady named Wendy who is friends with MC's ex started a thread about Cammila on GOMI. Of course, rather embarrassingly for her, she thought she did this under the guise of just another unbiased patron of the net. Charmingly sad.

      Personally, as a sometime frequenter of SA and 4chan, I am unphased by GOMI. But I must admit that I'm biased against judgmental drivel of this ilk.

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    4. HA! What happened to keeping it on the DL?

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    5. Ye gods, I only meant that the means are on the hush hush. That is hardly what I think about the end produced by those means! As far as I am concerned, you should post Wendy's full name, along with the institution she works for (so the good people who fund it can see where their dollars go for bandwidth and her salary), along with her husband and his office! Fair is fair.

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    6. Heh, okay well I'll take your thoughts under advisement. Thanks, dude. ;)

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    7. I just looked and it's actually pretty pathetic. Just jealous people who are repressed about love and sex, SOOOO grossed out that you and MC are open about your relationship on the blog. Very cliched and embarrassingly transparent.

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    8. OMG but the best part is she faults you and MC for starting a physical relationship while MC and his ex were separated but their divorce wasn't final!

      UM SORRY TO BURST WENDY'S BUBBLE, BUT THAT IS EXACTLY WHAT MC'S EX DID!

      So either this wench believes in a total double standard and she is therefor stupid or crazy. Or she didn't even know that MC's ex was ALSO dating someone during that whole time before the divorce papers were signed! Gee, way to stick it to 'em, Wendy! lmao

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    9. Right, well let's just not get into any more specifics than that. You're right, Kate, but MC's ex isn't here talking about that relationship, so let's not get into her business.

      Anyway, you're only highlighting why I don't place any value in these people's opinions. I haven't looked at the thread since first noticing it exists, but if Wendy really considers THAT and indictment, well then um, yeah, sorry lady, I just don't agree with you. If she judge's others for that kind of shit, all that tells me is that I shouldn't expect a reasoned opinion from her. It really cuts to the chase! Nothing makes someone's ranting easier to dismiss than knowing they're batshit and obsessed with arbitrary dogmatic ideas that I don't subscribe to.

      And hey, if she's so grossed out with our existing descriptions of our relationship, I wonder how she'd handle knowing we always seem to have the most MIND BLOWINGLY AWESOME SEX right after hearing about her starting drama? I should do an EXPLICIT post every single time! ;)

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  6. OMG, i am sorry to burst your bubble cait, but you sort of sound like an asshole. you're suggesting that because matt's ex was in a relationship while separated from him, that somehow it's the same thing? wtf? does that make her a cheater? disloyal? a hypocrite? did she leave him? are you serious? way to be puritanical.

    if person A leaves person B because they're in love with someone else and B kicks them to the curb for that, cool. add to that months of blog bullshit, bickering, bullying, gaslighting and tons of litigious suits filed by person A against person B, mmmmm k. then person A's own sister acts as matchmaker for person B because they think person A is being a dick, yes, his own sister sets it up, fact. well by golly, then it's fine for miss single mom B to start dating someone 8 months later, to make her feel less shat upon. you see how that works? if you get dumped, it is ok to date again, all bets are off, all contracts nullified.


    sometimes you have to be a dick to find true love, that is a fact, sometimes. is matt better off with cam? oh yes. am i happy for them? yes. could things have been handled better and differently, absolutely. didn't you read his blog you dolt? he wrote some heartfelt things, but i am looking for the lines where he says his ex-wife was' just like him' or accuses her of cheating on him, or was disloyal. nope, he never said that. he has never said that.

    so no, it isn't the fucking same. when you're dumped, the dumper dumps all over you, the dumpee has to sort it all out, pick up their pieces and move on. the last thing the dumpee needs are your stupid insipid comments. oh, in case you're wondering cait, this isn't his ex, she has better things to do, like paying the bills, finally getting that mind blowing sex she wondered about while married, and taking care of their child.

    baahahahahahaa!!! lmao.

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    1. I apologize if I was not clear. I wasn't faulting person B. I have ZERO problem with either person doing what they please after a separation. I was reacting to the stupid idea that it matters more to have a piece of paper that says "divorced" than it does that two adults have decided their marriage is over. THAT is puritanical. A person who is dogmatic enough to think that it is bascially cheating to begin a relationship when your divorce isn't yet official, even though you've both decided to GET divorced is a hypocrite if they don't hold both people to that standard. Meaningless as the standard is!

      But don't get me wrong. I think such a person is a fool in the first place for being that dogmatic!! The technical side of divorce exists to serve the personal choices of adults, not vice verse. I was pointing out the hypocrisy. That is all. I do not care one fig what kind of dating MC's ex did. More power to her!

      Re: "gaslighting": I don't know what you mean specifically. But I imagine it is the kind of BS both parties can accuse each other of when a marriage goes bad. From my end hearing about this situation (via Friends Only channels, obvsly, not this blog) I think that being married to person B for years and years and them always saying "Too bad if you're not happy. That is your problem. You should have married someone else" whenever person A admits their unhappiness?? THAT sounds like "gaslighting" to me.

      Re: "litigious suits": Boy, it is hard not to blab about person B's business when you insist on making accusations like this. Did you even hear about all the things person B tried to do to person A legally?? Talk about frivolous legal actions. Person B would agree to NOTHING without going to court over it. You realize two divorced people don't HAVE to go to court over things like 50/50 parenting time and agreeing on schools, right? But if person B says "We will do what *I* decide and I refuse to compromise or talk about it. You are a bully if you don't agree with me. We are done talking" the only option for person A is to try to solve it with lawyers and a judge.

      I can imagine what you would say now. Divorce is very hard right? It is traumatic to be the dumpee? I get that we should cut person B some slack because of that. But if we agree to forgive person B's actions because of being the dumpee, then we should also agree not to villainize person B for dealing with that with the only options at hand.

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  7. MC probably knew to expect this when he wrote it, but I think it's a shame. I cried when I read this post because it's beautifully written, and from the perspective from someone who experienced an ugly divorce, and moved on to better things. Considering how common divorce is and how uncommon it is to hear anyone talk about it so openly without an obvious undertone of bitterness and resentment, I think it was definitely worth posting. It's always nice to be inspired by people who can crawl through something heart wrenching, and come out smiling on the other side.

    I have no doubt that this post was written with good intentions. This entire blog is solidly positive and authentic all the way through, and I know they make a conscious effort to keep it that way. So, for this to be turned into an outlet for gossip and bickering is frustrating. I think there were probably a lot of people who read this, and felt something good, but were reminded why it's risky to be so open. No one should feel this entitled to spout off someone else's personal details when they were intentionally left unmentioned. It's inconsiderate, and disrespectful.

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  8. Thank you for posting this. We're in pretty similar situations. I am a divorced mom with a five year-old son and I recently got engaged to my best friend and soul mate. When I announced our engagement I felt this weird trepidation over it because of my divorced past. But this made me feel worlds better. Why hide a love so pure? Having gone through the hell that is divorce, why not let people know there is a light (that never goes out) on the other side.

    Much love to you two!

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