When you’ve gotten nothing left to wear, maybe you should air out your dirty laundry

On Weds October 18th, 2017, after a very painful and useless mediation session, I posted this in Facebook, “I’m not supposed to do this. I know it. But I need to get it out, or at least I think I do so that I can finally sleep. Anyone who really knows me knows I am no quitter, and I’m a fighter, and I love with reckless abandon…….it’s all the more reason why this is so hard. It’s official, we are getting divorced. I’ve tried so hard, and I am so so tired. And I’m equally tired of pretending like shits ok, because it’s not. It’s really not. So please keep me and Liam in your prayers. And even though I am so angry right now it hurts, please keep Dan in your prayers. Because truthfully, I will be ok, and Liam will be ok, but Dan needs the prayers most (and he’d never ask).” I have, in my darker moments, vented too much or overshared on social media. Sometimes I’ve deleted it later, sometimes not. Overall I don’t “air my dirty laundry” for the world to see. But this was different. This was real; this was and maybe still is my truth.

My husband is a good man. His life hasn’t been easy. It never is when your only parent dies of Breast Cancer when you’re only eight. Yet he has never complained, ever. His childhood was not #blessed by two consistent parents, siblings, and stability in his family, the way mine was. Other than enjoying the inherent privileges of being a white tall attractive male, he has never acted entitled. Some might have assumed he acted “too good for other people” but in reality he actually just shuts down and goes inside himself when he is feeling uncomfortable, which happens in pretty much every conflict or uncharted social situation. Still he has managed to achieve amazing things and his drive to serve those in the world that are the most disadvantaged is admirable and inspiring. He also is an amazing father to our only son. So as you can see, I love him and I always have. Still, love isn’t enough to make a marriage work. Both partners need to be putting the marriage team first. And the truth is, my husband and I haven’t done that in a long time. We both probably feel that we have, but if we’re both capable of being honest (ok clearly I don’t have an issue with open honesty), neither of us has fully.

And that is how our laundry got so stinking dirty. We fell in love young and fast, and took on WAY more than anyone ever should individually or as a couple. As things got messy, as they’re prone to do with so much on the plate, we would try little fixes to hide the stench or the stain, like repeatedly febreezing and stain sticking your favorite jeans because you don’t want to go a day without wearing them but you also don’t seem to have the time to really wash and dry them properly. After 9 years of that pattern, a child for 8 years of it, medical school, dual residencies and fellowships, 4 different states, 8 different houses, and the list could go on forever, our laundry pile wreaks and we’ve got nothing left to wear. No amount of febreeze or perfume or stain stick can hide the grimy of our beloved jeans aka our marriage. And I tried to wash it better and earlier in the ways I thought I should. I’d beg to go to counseling, individually and as a couple….but it wouldn’t happen until we were such a mess that we were too gnarly to touch. I reached out to my family, and my support systems and gave them a very one-sided view of our issues because I didn’t know what else to do. Somewhere along the way, we both became incapable of turning towards the other…..maybe because we were both too hurt, and threatened, and it was easier to find something else to wear than do the grueling and time consuming work of washing our massive pile of sooty clothes for real.

In reading this I could see how people might assume that the other clothes we each decided to wear instead of washing and wearing our own dirty ones in this metaphor were other people. They weren’t. But not all infidelity comes in the form of affairs. If as a couple you don’t prioritize each other and support each other individually, then your job, volunteer work, kid(s), hobbies or where you put the majority of your time and money can all represent the other clothes. They become distractions or even procrastination from addressing the growing pile of smelly blemished laundry. And then you get so far off track that when your significant other asks you for help finally doing the laundry, instead you add something even dirtier to the pile and walk away. Then you’re left with not a pile, but a mountain of laundry, and one that is too big for even the both of you to handle cleaning together.

And that’s the metaphorical version of our marriage. Yes, I filed for divorce because the most recent piece of soiled laundry my husband added to the pile seemed un-washable, at least not without professional help. And I thought it was what my husband wanted based on how he acted. It seemed as though he wanted to get credit for being on the team but without having to sacrifice and play for the team. And perhaps he thought the same of me. Or perhaps I didn’t affirm the ways he already had and was contributing to the team so he figured there was no point in trying. To be fair to us, when I filed, I found the most reasonable and level headed lawyer Lubbock has to offer. I didn’t want my hurt and emotions to be played up for someone’s financial gain (like a lawyer who is quick to encourage an ugly threatening divorce). We went back and forth with considering dropping the divorce and doing a post-nup agreement. It didn’t work, we scheduled mediation. I think mediation can be hit or miss, depending on your mediator and the parties involved. Ours was an EPIC miss that solidified my greatest fear that divorce was inevitable for us. It also allowed me to officially confront the fear. Our mountain of dirty worn and tattered laundry was too big, we both just need a fresh start of clothes, a new wardrobe.

So, I aired the shit out of my laundry on Facebook because I had nothing left to wear anyway. I announced it on FB that we were divorcing and asked for prayers. And then the unexpected happened. I have never had an issue with knowing I was loved and supported by friends and family. I can’t say the same is true for my husband. And the morning after the announcement, his people reached out to him. I have no clue what was said. But something changed in him. Maybe it was just knowing that whatever happened with us and our marriage, he was loved and supported for himself helped him get over his fears and be the man I know he is. I know personally in asking for help and opening up to people, I have found the strength and support I have needed to discern what is right for me and to set boundaries so that I can be all I need to be for those who are my priorities. Two days later he mentioned he was receiving tons of emails from colleagues reaching out to support him, and for the first time I can recall in our marriage, he wasn’t mad at me for telling people about our problems.

Now, since I sent out a massive SOS call to help with my pile of dirty laundry, there is hope again that maybe my favorite and most beloved wardrobe can be washed and good as new. I am not certain and I am not naive. But I am not afraid either. I know that if we don’t end up getting divorced (divorce isn’t final until both parties and the judge sign the dotted line, which has not happened yet), our marriage has to be something like new, like a do-over, and that there’s still a chance that isn’t possible for us. I’m also prepared for the reality and possibility that he may still not want this. That’s the thing with dirty laundry…..the only way to clean it is to eventually air it out. But I think the trick in airing your dirty laundry is to ensure you aren’t doing so in a way that actually just makes it dirtier. Usually the “airing of dirty laundry” that people so dislike is not actually airing it, but rather adding to the mess. I love my husband, whatever may come…..and what I aired was raw and real, but it wasn’t done so in a way to make him look bad or to hurt him. And that’s why it probably helped. It really was airing it out. When I finally aired our dirty laundry, then all of the sudden, and in the words of Pink and Nate Ruess, “No nothing is as bad as it seems. We’ll come clean.” Because when you finally let your guard down and admit you’re not perfect and that you need help, people really do step up and care, and they’re willing to help you clean up the mess you’ve created. And many hands make light work.



One comment on “When you’ve gotten nothing left to wear, maybe you should air out your dirty laundry

  1. Shannon, sounds like you and him have been through a lot, just med school and residency alone is enough to wreck a marriage, especially when both of you do it. From what you say, I’m thinking this is not the end, maybe a new beginning of sorts- for both of you, separately or together. For Liam’s sake, I hope together. And I hope the people in your life give you whatever help you need. Thanks for sharing.

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