Dear Carolyn • My spouse told me earlier this week that he/she wants a divorce. I had a gay affair. I was pushing for us to work past this. We both love each other, but I guess emotional love isn’t enough.
The thing is — I don’t even know where to start. I can’t tell my family. I don’t want to come out. I feel like a failure. No one in my family is divorced.
We have no kids and agreed to split everything 50/50, so this will be painful but not spiteful. Is there a step-by-step guide to this? Where do I live? What do I tell people? How do I navigate?
Dear Divorcing • — "I can’t tell my family": Yes, you can. Your current agony began with this truth: You are one person trying to live as another. Until you resolve this fundamental dissonance, you will always struggle to navigate. "Where to start" is accepting who you are, then deciding how you want to live. If you choose again to be one thing but live as another — which I certainly don’t advise — then let this experience with your spouse teach you at least to be honest with any co-stars in your act.
— "I don’t want to come out": See above.
— "I feel like a failure": You are not a failure; your marriage has failed. Big difference. Please resist the urge to see cosmic meaning in earthly things. When it all feels overwhelming, take each piece and deal with it as pragmatically as you can.
— "No one in my family is divorced": Hey, somebody had to be first! Flippant, yes, but you know what? You go with it. It’ll keep you from going nuts.
— "Is there a step-by-step guide to this?": There’s a step-by-step guide to everything. Google away. But you seem to be more in need of a safe place to sort out your feelings.
— "Where do I live?": If you are overwhelmed, find something short-term while you regroup.
— "What do I tell people?": "Spouse and I are separating. I’d rather not get into details now, thanks."
— "How do I navigate?": With confidence that you will be OK. Such shifts are scary but also necessary. Hang in there.
Carolyn Hax’s column runs Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.
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