Prev Next
Single Mom: Honesty is the Best Policy

Single Mom: Honesty is the Best Policy

By Kristen Chase

Being unhappily married made me a  liar.

We teach honesty and “be true to thine self.” We even punish our kids for lying and yet so many people lie through their teeth every single day about the state of their marriage.

I lied to my friends about how bad things were. How unhappy I was.

I lied to my kids when they’d catch me crying because I couldn’t tell them the real reason.

But worst of all, I lied to myself.

I know we all do things to survive in our situations, to make the best of them no matter how awful they are because that’s what many of us have to do. Not just in our marriages but in our lives.

I’m a child of a raging alcoholic. I know about surviving.

But like childbirth and breastfeeding and all the myriad other experiences we have as parents, some of us have more fortitude, a stronger will, a type-A personality that interferes with us making a decision based on our own mental health. We associate perseverance and endurance as something noble because that’s what we’ve somehow been told.

Self-sacrifice gives you the key to the city, the direct line to admiration and deference from, well, who gives a crap? Complete strangers? Your own parents? People in your life who don’t really know one bit about what you’re going through?

But you can’t survive on admiration. You can’t feed your soul, at least for very long, with the kudos from other people.

I’ve long said there’s no “You breastfed for 2 years! YEAH!” prize, no “Hell-No Epidural” reward, and there’s certainly no “Congrats! You made it through a lifetime-long crappy marriage!” award for you to win.

And so you feed yourself with a line of crap, some of which you may have come up with on your very own and some of which may have been formulated for you from hundreds of years of stupid research studies and societal norms:

The kids will be better of if we stay together. 

My happiness isn’t important. 

I’ll never find love again. 

It’s not really that bad. 

The real truth: Your own happiness is the blue ribbon here, which yes, encompasses the happiness of your children that’s by the way strongly affected on the positive side by your own happiness, lest you think your misery is what will get them into an Ivy League school or something.

But the promise land of happiness isn’t often enough for people to take the steps that they need to get out of their bad marriage.

Of course, if I knew what that “it” was, I would tell you. And then make millions of dollars off of it.

From what I’ve experienced and observed, there’s something that will flip your switch and turn your light on, revealing things for how they are and how they could be.

My switch was flipped by the combined power of an upfront therapist who very frankly laid things on the line for me, and a friend who was in a similar situation and bravely flipped her own switch then soon after found love and happiness.

Suddenly,  I saw my current situation with more clarity, as well as my worries, and most importantly, my future. I saw the impossible as possible. I saw that my fears were really strengths. And I finally allowed myself to place a high value my own mental health, well-being, and yes, my happiness.

There’s no magic formula for knowing if you should stay or if (or when) you should leave. But the simple “honesty is the best policy” is a very good place to start.

Kristen Chase
About the Author

Kristen Chase

Kristen Chase is a writer, author, and a single mom of four. It’s as exhausting as it sounds (at least the mom part). Also, awesome.

Kristen is also co-founder of

Kristen Chase is a writer, author, and a single mom of four. It’s as exhausting as it sounds (at least the mom part). Also, awesome.

Kristen is also co-founder of Cool Mom Picks and author of The Mominatrix’s Guide to Sex.

 

icon icon
chat bubble icon

Comments

  • Ally

    I read this last night and pondered it for a while. I’m still not sure why I am thinking about it so much. I don’t know if I am reading into it too much, but it came across to me that happiness is the prize, what we should be looking for and trying to attain. I don’t really like that way of thinking. In my life I want to love and help and serve. Happiness is the byproduct of a life well lived. I have no idea what your marriage was like, but it breaks my heart to watch so many people leave theirs just because they weren’t happy. To me it cheapens the vows we make. I have a wonderful husband, and I can’t really say I’ve ever been really unhappy in my marriage or in my life. I’ve had sorrow and really really hard times, but I would never say I’ve been unhappy. Happiness seems too fleeting, and it has never been the goal for me.

    • Eh, I don’t presume to speak for Kristen, but I think this may be a matter of semantics. When someone talks about leaving a marriage because of unhappiness, most of the time I assume they’re not talking about warm-fuzzy woo-life-is-like-Disneyland feelings, but rather an overall sense of well-being. No one reasonable and/or intelligent assumes marriage will be a full-time carnival ride.

      As someone who tried everything to maintain what was ultimately an unhealthy and, yes, unhappy marriage, and who later divorced and remarried, I can say with absolute certainty that comments about “cheapening vows” and such from still-married folks are hurtful. I’m thrilled that your marriage is working out and you’re happy (truly). Presuming to know why someone else couldn’t maintain their marriage is ignorant at best and mean at worst. While some people take marriage lightly, most don’t, and divorce is hard enough without judgment from others.

      To your point about hard times and such… that’s the life I’m now living with my second husband. We’ve been through some very difficult stuff, but we love each other, support each other, and are basically happy. It’s wonderful. It’s also something I never could’ve had with my first husband (for a variety of reasons I won’t get into), and I assume Kristen couldn’t have with hers, so maybe a little compassion is in order here.

      • Yes. I’d agree with you, Mir. It doesn’t seem to me like Kristen — and so many others dealing with such an agonizing situation — are talking about that fleeting feeling of happiness, but, instead, about that feeling of well-being that results from being true to yourself and leading that well-lived life of love, help and service. From having read Kristen over the years, I have no doubt that she gave her all to making the marriage work, but, even if that is the case (and it certainly was with MY mother in her marriage), sometimes it still doesn’t work out. It’s definitely sad, but sometimes it’s the best conclusion for all concerned. 

  • I agree, there is no magic. And that the “bottom” in “hitting bottom” is not the same for everyone. For me, it was when I realized that I didn’t want to cry in the shower anymore. I wanted to live a life that was authentic, where I didn’t have to hide my unhappiness and hopefully have some more happiness. I have that now. Sometimes.

  • Julie

    Leaving a marriage because you’re fleetingly unhappy — that’s for Kardashians and their ilk. Regular people absolutely agonize over the prospect, and it takes major guts to be honest with yourself and follow through.

    We all have hard times. Sometimes people grow together, sometimes people grow apart. There’s a lot of work involved, but don’t let anyone kid you — there’s a fair amount of luck involved too.

  •   I have tons of respect for you for being able to discuss this, there are a lot of variables and history that don’t translate well to a short article.  I know I have made some extremely difficult life choices and wish I could discuss them but keep falling short.  

    Walking a mile in another’s shoes comes to mind here.  You are kicking ass and walking further than many.

  • marty

    I agree about the switch flipping. So many people claimed to be shocked when I left my first marriage. Everyone except my daddy. He always saw the truth.

    But yes, there is a switch. That light bulb moment when you realize that everything you’ve been compromising and everything you’ve been justifying isn’t worth it. That you can do better on your own. And that there is value to your own well being and happiness. 

    I’m both happy and sorry for you at the same time. Happy for the future, and sorry for the sucky parts of getting to it. It’s going to be awesome though. Of course, you already know that. You’re taking all the right steps to make sure it will be awesome.

  • Stephanie

    Thank you for this. I am newly separated, and your thoughts on not lying anymore resonated with me. I can finally be honest that things were not good, and never would be. “Telling myself it is not that bad”…. That was me in a nutshell. And I agree with the above posters. It is not necessarily happiness that is needed. More just a sense of peace.