A couple of weeks ago, I wrote that we decided to rent out our big house with the big monthly nut and move into a smaller rental. What I sidestepped in that admission was the news that Atticus and I are getting a divorce.
I’m not going to delve into the reasons. Some of them involve circumstances that frequently bring down a second marriage: issues involving exes and stepchildren, big issues that come between partners and keep a blended family from truly blending.
Unlike my first divorce, this one is amicable. Atticus and I still care about each other and simply recognized that, in our desire to make the family we hadn’t made in our previous marriages, we convinced ourselves that we were more compatible than we are.
So far the kids are basically all right. Kevin misses Franny, and is actually sleeping over at our townhouse this weekend. Because Luca lived with his dad for a year, then spent a year-and-a-half in residential treatment, he doesn’t share the same history of being part of our blended family. Franny, in her typical Franny way, has taken the whole thing in stride, her biggest beef being the beige wall-to-wall carpet in her bedroom that doesn’t go with her turquoise-and-black color scheme.
Still, the example of a second divorce was not one I wanted to set for my children. And, truth be told, my first divorce still haunts me. Growing up feeling painfully self-conscious of being the adopted child of older middle-class parents, tacked on to a family that never quite felt like a family, I craved the trappings of the large, affluent clans I grew up around, the trappings that seemed Rockwellian and normal: a big house, a pool filled with raucous neighborhood kids, summer vacation homes to visit year after year with my future husband and children.
All of that I had with Prince. But sparkly externals don’t make a marriage real, or healthy. Now I find myself wondering about this next chapter of my life, and fending off the embarrassment of a second marriage that didn’t stick.
Most people in my family aren’t divorced once, let alone twice. I do have a very glamorous debutante cousin Alex who had a psychotic break and hired a hitman to kill her first husband. Luckily for her first husband, the hitman turned out to be an undercover FBI agent. Amazingly, after my cousin got out of jail, her husband took her back. Yes, really. Still, she divorced him, and married a second husband, then divorced him too.
So when I sit with the reality of my second marriage ending, I try not to compare myself to cousin Alex. Or people on the Jerry Springer show.
Last night, I e-mailed a friend from college and told him about my latest divorce. He responded in his typical witty, gracious and insightful way with an anecdote about a friend now on her fourth marriage. The last time he saw her, he said, he kidded her that she was “always a bride, never a bridesmaid.”
Which cracked me up. And told the spectre of shame that’s been trailing me to go shoo.
Certainly a second (or third, or fourth divorce) is nothing to be trivialized. But there’s no reason to vilify those of us who have marched down the aisle more than once. I clearly have some work to do figuring out how I got myself here again, but I hope to do that without self-flagellation.
Not sure if I’ll be a bride again, at least while I have kids at home, but I do hope to move forward embracing life with hope, gusto, and a sense of humor.