Series 40: For the Love of the Elephant in the Room | Episode 07
Elephants in the Room Part 7: Getting Real About Divorce with Jen, Kristen & Jamie
Get ready for some real and raw conversation with Jen and two of her most trusted friends about an experience they’ve all shared [which happens to be this week’s elephant in the room as well]. We’re talking about divorce. We’ve all heard the not so fun stat that at least half of all marriages in our country end up in divorce. No matter how it happens, who makes the choice, or however long the marriage lasted—it’s traumatizing. Like any elephant in the room, there’s a sense of failure, a sense of shame that keeps the pain and loneliness of a marriage that is on the rails shrouded in silence and solitude, and when the marriage finally crumbles––we’re not only grieving over own dreams and expectations dashed, but wondering how we’ll manage all our people’s disappointment and confusion over it all–including our children’s. And moving forward as a single person after being married has its own challenges as well. How do you tell people in the office your plus one has vacated the position? Who’s your emergency contact now? Do I keep the same last name? How do we even process it all–what we were taught about marriage to begin with, why we stayed when our boundaries were pushed to their limits, and who we can trust as we put our lives back together again? Jen shares more than she ever has before about her own divorce with her good friends Kristen Howerton and Jamie Wright who walked with her through every step of the process. They discuss the trajectory of their marriages, how they each grappled with choosing divorce, and what they are learning in “real time” in the aftermath. And here’s the good news–they all agree that as devastating as it can be, our friends can help us remember who we are in all of it; new dreams can be made, old dreams can change and hope and healing is possible.
Hey, everybody, Jen Hatmaker here, your host of For the Love podcast. Welcome to the show. So right now, we’re in the series called For the Love of the Elephant in the Room. And the podcast team and I were like, “Let’s do a series on uncomfortable topics we would prefer to avoid.” That’s it. Things that are hard to discuss, things that are hard to admit, ideas that have a stigma around them in one way or another.
And so today, I thought we would talk about divorce. First of all, nobody gets married expecting to get divorced, right? But sometimes, years, even decades into the relationship, people find themselves as participants in relationships that just aren’t working anymore. And sometimes divorce doesn’t even feel like an option even when the marriage has become a complete misery. I’m going to talk about that a little bit. Or it could be that you were not expecting your marriage to blow up and you were handed a surprise. You’re in somebody else’s fallout of their decision. That wasn’t something you saw coming.
But however it occurs, divorce is deeply devastating to each of us personally and then, of course, it fans out and affects everybody that’s integral to the relationship as well like the kids and our grown siblings, both sets of parents, in-laws, the friend group. Maybe it’s your faith community, or whatever your little sub-community is. It all just gets really sloppy, and really confusing, and there’s not a playbook through this. And there’s also so many decisions that have to be made. Who lives where? Who gets what? Legal, financial, physical, it’s endless, oh my gosh, so endless. You watched me do it last year.
And then there’s this whole elephant in the room aspect, which is feeling awkward or embarrassed or humiliated or like a failure when a status that has been so prominent in our life and to who we are dissolves. And for some of you, if you’re a person of faith, what’s this going to mean in your place of worship? In your little religious community or whatever. How do you tell people in your office that your plus one has vacated the position? Who’s now your emergency contact? Do I keep your last name? How do we manage all of our people’s disappointment and frustration and confusion? It’s a real identity shaker that is super unique and it will rise into our world in many different ways.
So listen, if no one has ever told you this or acknowledged this for your life, no matter what precipitated the breakup of your marriage, it is traumatizing. Okay. Even if you made the choice. Even if you made the good and the right choice, there’s so much personal and societal impact and it’s real. And so it is normal and even healthy to be reeling after a divorce no matter what brought you to that place. So what do we do? How do we pick up the pieces? What lies ahead for us? What’s the possibility on the other side of divorce? Because guess what? Guess what I’m learning right now? You are watching me learn this in real time. New dreams can be made. They can. And old dreams, frankly, can be modified. I’m here to tell you, there is hope, there is healing.
Let me just say it, there’s even happiness on the other side of the divorce tunnel. It’s profound and life changing. It’s wildly disruptive, but you will not just survive, you’ll thrive. That has been my experience. From how I was living and managing my life last year at this time, really just to how I am right now, even let’s just say a year later, it’s so monumentally different. I steered so hard into recovery in every way: financial, emotional, spiritual, relational, physical. There was no lever I would not pull to process, not just my own trauma around divorce, but the pieces of me that were complicit, the pieces of me that needed to be reexamined.
Parts of me that I did not want to take into this next phase of my life, much less my next relationship.
And so a lot of this was internal, some of it was external, it was physical. I had body healers, I had it all. I put every single possible thing in the soup pot and just stirred. I’m like, “Okay, we’re doing this.” And I have emerged. I’m telling you, I am deeply happy in my life. And I think you can see it. I think you can see it and it’s real and it’s genuine. And one of the things I put in the soup pot, this is a huge ingredient actually, it outsizes a lot of the other ones, but were my people, my friends. My friends who love me and did so much heavy lifting for me that I could just sit here and cry my eyes out. I’ll never forget it as long as I live. My friends picked me up off the floor in my darkest moments and they have walked me and even shaken me back to life. They comforted my kids and made safe spaces for them. They made it all so much less lonely, because divorce feels so lonely.
And so I’ve talked at length about a group of friends of mine and the internet made us friends about a decade ago. So we’re this kind of weird cabal of authors and teachers and justice people. Anyway, we’ve been through it all together. We all knew each other in our first marriages and now three of us through our divorces and into new life. And so two of them are here with me today. So two of my best friends in the world, Kristen Howerton and Jamie Wright are on the show today. But you may remember Kristen, she was a part of one of our recent book club episodes and you’ve heard me talk about both these girls a billion times. She’s one of my favorite people on this earth. So in addition to being a tip top friend to me, she’s a therapist, she’s a mom, she’s a podcast host.
And Jamie is just one of my favorite people in the whole world. She is also an author, an incredible justice seeking person in the world in all the best ways, and she’s such a dear friend to me and we are all divorced and we have all lived to tell the tale. So that’s what we’re talking about today. Listen, if divorce is not something you have faced at all, if you’re a happily married person, you should still listen to this episode because people you love will go through this if they haven’t already. This is usable information for every single person that is in a relationship with anybody else right now.
And so maybe you’re happily married, maybe you are staring down a divorce. Maybe it’s just something in your mind. Maybe you’re in the middle of it. Maybe you’re just after it. I don’t know. But this conversation will serve you no matter what, wherever you’re on the spectrum. And it may just help you serve yourself and it may help you serve someone else, but either way you are getting the full deal today, the hard truth, the real stuff. We kind of laid it bare. So delighted to share with you two of my favs in the world, Kristen Howerton and Jamie Wright.
Books and Resources Mentioned in This Episode:
No Cure for Being Human: (And Other Truths I Need to Hear)
by Kate Bowler
Everything Happens for a Reason: And Other Lies I’ve Loved
by Kate Bowler
Stay Connected with Jen Hatmaker:
Thanks for listening to the For the Love Podcast!
XO – Team Jen