You’re getting a divorce. Almost as hard as reaching that decision is making The Announcement to the world. Who should you tell and how should you tell it? There are those who say almost nothing. And then there are those (like me) who go public and say it all.
My journey to blogging and sharing my journey of marriage to an alcoholic, escape, and survival started a year ago. After I left my husband, he threatened to tell the children what a horrible person I was. He told mutual friends absolute lies about me (that I was a thief, a liar, was faking my cancer diagnosis just so I didn’t have to work, and so much more). I was trying to make sense of it all.
One day, I just started writing and it was cathartic. My children would some day be able to read my side of the story, especially if I wasn’t around to tell it myself. I also felt a strong need to provide a rebuttal to my ex’s terrible statements about me, even if no one I knew actually ever read it.
In the beginning, my blog readership ranged from about 15 to 30 per post and that was fine. Finding a large audience was never my intent. I knew nothing about blogging and the legalities of sharing, nor did I think about it. It was just my story, for better or worse. I even used last names and photos and some of my posts were incredibly raw and snarky. I used no filter on what I wrote—I just pored it all out and rarely even edited before publishing.
Then one day, I got an email from my ex. “You better take your blog down within 48 hours or my family and I will sue you.” Somehow he had found my blog. After years of being bullied and intimidated. I became angry and defiant. In fact, that very same day, I wrote a post called “Notice: The Bullying Is Over” in which I announced to him and anyone reading it that I would not stop writing or blogging my life and if someone didn’t like it, too fucking bad. And then I called an attorney to make sure I wasn’t doing anything illegal. After that conversations, I made a few minor tweaks and kept blogging more than ever.
If you decide to go public, here are a few pointers.
1. Be truthful
Truth is an excellent defense if someone ever tries to sue you. In my case, everything I have said is true and I oftentimes include emails and texts that back up my claims. If it’s your opinion, make sure your reader knows that. You can use phrases like “I believe” or “Some people say” or “My experience tells me that”… You get the picture. Honesty is always the best policy.
2. Do not disclose private matters publicly
The way the law was explained to me, a writer should not disclose private information publicly. Examples of “private information” are medical conditions (“he is HIV positive”), sexual orientation and history, and financial status that is not already known by many others. There is gray area here because if it is determined to be newsworthy, it becomes more difficult to prove a liability charge. I asked my attorney specifically if disclosing that my ex husband was an alcoholic fell into this category. He said that I was on solid ground—I am hardly the only person who knew about his excess drinking and it is an integral part of my story. Is it newsworthy? I say yes. Since I am not an attorney and am not giving legal advice, when in doubt, seek legal counsel of your own.
3. Avoid using last names
While using my ex’s last name wasn’t illegal, it was better to simply delete it. These days, I stick with first names.
4. When using photos, think twice
If you took a photo or if someone sends you a photo, you own it and you can do almost anything you want with it. There are gray areas, however, like if you use a photo with someone in it to promote a product without their written consent. Typically, I use photos in which my ex’s face isn’t easily recognizable at a glance.
5. Wear thick armor
I have received hundreds of messages and comments from my blog and articles. Probably 90 percent are positive. But there’s that 10 percent that aren’t. If you are highly sensitive to negative feedback, maybe going public isn’t the right thing for you.
6. Refuse to be bullied
You must be emotionally strong and resilient if you are to go public with your story. Refuse to be bullied or intimidated by those who don’t like it.
7. Be prepared for haters
Several months ago, my ex’s sister texted me that she would have no contact with my children because of my blog. That meant that her sons and my girls would not be allowed to have a relationship anymore. It was another way of my ex trying to bully and intimidate me. While I understand his family’s hatred of me after I went public, I was prepared for it. Truth was, his entire family knew of the horrific abuse that the children and I were suffering at the hands of my ex and they had done nothing about it. I forgave them and had hoped that whatever ill feelings that existed between adults wouldn’t affect innocent children. Was that an unrealistic expectation? Apparently! And I can’t control how others think and feel. Still, I was unapologetic and unwavering in my decision to blog. Writing was part of my healing process and, simply put, I loved doing it. My decision, however, is not for everyone, so think carefully before proceeding.
Personally, I love writing about my life. To the extent my story interests others, great. Going public has been an amazing learning experience for me and if I could do it all over again, I absolutely would.