Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Reframing Michael and Christine

Sharing life on the Internet is risky business. … Choosing how vulnerable you want to be is tricky. People assume that they know everything there is to know if they simply read a blog or follow a Twitter feed.  As if sharing one deeply personal thing means all writers share all the things going on in their lives.” - Tara Livesay

A note from Michael and Christine:

That internet thing is great, as a window. A window with curtains that can be open and shut as we please. We share some things about our kids, but not all things.  They are not all ours to share and they are not for all of you to know.  We share some things about our marriage.  And again - they are not all ours to share and they are not for all of you to know.  In our home, we give one another that courtesy because we are all awesome and we are all horrible - depending on what hour of what day.  For years we have held each other safely and carefully in our words that we speak, because we know one another at our very best and our very worst.  We are that safe place for one another and will continue to be that safe place - because we are both being and doing awesome, while also sucking and just doing the very best we can.

The two of us want to honor the fact that most of you will be utterly shocked by things we are about to share. It would be easy to say, “It’s really none of your business.”  Well, we have made parts of our lives your business, whether it has been through church ministry or speaking/teaching or online.  We have shared, always in the hopes of being a help in some way. Living parts of it out loud in case it moves someone along in the same way. So this news - this information - can now be something you may know. Now is the right time for that.

We also realize this might be very confusing for most of you.  Big shocker - it doesn’t look like how most people do it.

For a long while now we have been sharing our lives in a way that some might call a “separation.”  Except, we still live together.  Our situation has looked like this for quite a few years now. After several years of living our lives in this way, we have legally ended our marriage. We are letting a wider circle know about something that has long since transpired.

We still love each other (although, as many of you know, the process involved many days/hours/weeks of very much not liking each other).  We still run a business together.  We are still a family day in and day out.  Yet, we have separated, slowly and very intentionally, certain aspects of our life and relationship.  It has happened through the guidance of trained professionals who affirmed that we love and respect each other very much, but certain parts of our relationship were not functioning in a healthy way.  We found more peace and joy in our home once we addressed those things and made changes.  Together.  

One particular therapist was very affirming that we do this in a way that works for us.  No one should tell us how it needs to be.  That is exactly what we have done.

So, this is the confusing part, we assume, for a lot of people.  We are not mad at each other, even though parts of this have included much pain and hurt and sorrow (we are grieving this change and relationships don’t end because they are awesome!).  We genuinely like one another and want to support the other as we keep figuring out how to be a family through this. We get along and work together better than most couples we know, even as our marriage has ended.  For now, we are still going to live together the vast majority of the time.  It works for us. Any other relationships that have been in our lives or that might move into our lives, have been and will always be consensual and encouraged. Celebrated. While we still share a home much of the time and a large chunk of our lives.

There is no way to explain how perfectly matched we were, twenty years ago, to share and live out so much of our lives in the way we both wanted.  We have always viewed our marriage as a gift.  We have done big things, fun things, passionate things and changed the world, together, just in the way we have lived on this planet as a couple.  We are grateful for all we have shared.  Zero regrets.

Beyond what we are sharing?  Thank you for honoring the fact that this much is all you are invited to know.  You see, just like everyone else, our lives are complicated.  It’s not one thing, but many.  And not “bad” things.  Just different.  Complicated. We are not bad people.  We are simply allowing ourselves to flourish in what works, and give space to what doesn’t. Just like so many of you who are already friends and encouragers of your ex-spouses once you both had space and time, we have simply worked through the more challenging part before most people became aware of our struggles. Both of us are supportive of one another moving forward in relationship and life. We have nothing negative to share about the other.

Do any of you have any idea where we spent our honeymoon twenty years ago?  Nope.  Not one of you.  Not one single solitary person on this planet knows, nor will they ever know.  We are both taking that to the grave with us.  That is how we started.  Sharing things that are only ours.  Valuing it and holding it sacred.  This, too.  We have our people and our very, very tight circle of friends who are holding us up in this.  We’re covered.  We’re good.  Thank you for letting us … have this as ours.  This process.  This grief and pain. This shared love and life.  How we are choosing to live it.

Thank you for not writing us individually to ask us if we’ve tried everything or if we’ve really thought this through.  You see, that is all we have done and that is what we are still doing.  Years of therapy. Literally thousands of dollars. Intense effort. We are simply now letting you know, because at this point it has been a normal way of life for us for quite a long time.  We are not letting you know to ask you to speak into our lives.  There are trusted friends who have earned that space by investing in us over the years.  Again - we’re covered.  We’re good. Whatever it is that you want to share, we know it, we’ve read it, we’ve done it in therapy, we’ve taught it in a Bible study. If you truly know us, you know what our marriage means to us. So, you already know how much we have invested in all of this before making these decisions.

In the same way and reason we have shared other parts of our lives, it is our hope that this will actually give you all a great encouragement in love and marriage.  Just because some very significant things are no longer healthy or shared in our marriage, does not change our love and respect for one another. Also, this is not easy.  This is hard.  Still sharing parts of our lives while giving each other space in other areas … it is hard.  We are doing this because we love each other and our children so very much. We are working through the hard parts due to our love.  

Please be kind to yourself if this is bringing you some big feelings. We all have personal reasons for responding to the news of a divorce. It is based on your own experiences, history and beliefs, and you need to give yourself plenty of room to feel this. It’s okay to grieve the end of how you’ve always known “Michael & Christine.” Do that. Take time to realize your own feelings and what might be driving them. Dare to address your fears. Even though our lives are separate from you and do not dictate how things should be for everyone else, your feelings are still valid and need to be felt. Worked through. Also, thank you for not asking prodding questions to help yourself feel better or receive some closure. If you wouldn’t ask it in front of our children, then the question is more about how you are feeling and not true, genuine support for the seven of us. Thank you for thinking that through and and honoring our requests.

Be sad. Be heartbroken, even. Be disgusted or disappointed. But we also ask that you be thoughtful.
We cannot give the energy to help you feel better about our divorce. We are much too busy doing this well and making our home and family a priority. Some of you will feel it absolutely necessary to tell us point blank that you disagree with our decision or that you feel there is always a way around this (so surely we did not try everything). We cannot stop you, but we hope you will do a self-check on that need to shame before saying or writing anything. The two of us have been practicing more self-control when our feelings are really big and uncomfortable. We ask that you join us in that.

It is a big thing. A big change. Something to be felt. Don’t deny yourself that. If you can encourage us both, and encourage our family of seven and all that we want it to be, we welcome that. If you are struggling to do that, thank you for finding a way to quietly keep some distance for as long as you need. We understand. We have been in your shoes. We will honor what you need while you are doing the same for us.

We celebrate our love and our family while grieving the change and the separation.

There is no beginning and no end to the love that [we] share … it is an infinite string tied between our hearts. May that string become a violin that sings love songs throughout eternity. May the elaborate connection we share be not belittled by our separation, but admired for its acceptance of truth and necessity. May we live in respect, and cherish all that has been created because of this love.” - Ciara Blossom