An Anniversary Announcement


We humans are consistently inconsistent in how we observe the milestones of life.

We celebrate birth, childhood achievements and birthdays, graduations from preschool through college and beyond. We fawn over couples’ engagement and wedding photos and the births of their children. We congratulate colleagues when they begin a new job, close a sale, launch a product, start a company, or have a successful exit. We honor the memory of those who die and show our love to the bereaved.

Other milestones pass in silence: Getting fired, shutting down a business, divorce. We often learn of these events indirectly through gossip. Details are omitted, embellished, and changed until something that bears no resemblance to the truth becomes common knowledge among a social circle.

Perhaps these milestones pass silently because we associate them with failure, which we see as shameful. This bias is unfortunate; failure is vastly more instructive than success. When we fail, we can discover what went wrong and learn from it. But it’s much harder to learn from success. We never really know if we succeeded because we were good, or if we just got lucky.

Perhaps we avoid sharing our bad news because some people don’t respond well. They might offer advice or judgment when all we need is a bit of empathy. We decry gossip, but it might be rational to outsource the spread of bad news to the gossip train when dealing with judgmental people!

With that prologue, here’s some news:

IMG_0363

Twenty years ago today, I got married. My marriage is over. I moved out six months ago to begin the 12-month period of legal separation that my state requires before a petition for divorce. Temporary orders for child custody and post-separation support are done. Distribution of assets and the rest of the process should be settled in March.

What happened? From the outside, perhaps we seemed to have things together. We were an educated, hard-working couple, successful enough to enjoy a very comfortable life with all its trappings. We had three wonderful children, the oldest about to leave home for college. We were active, lifelong members of the Mormon church, which emphasizes the importance of families and keeping them together.

But behind the scenes, things were a toxic mess. Three years ago, convinced that all our problems were due to failures on my part, I sought help from a therapist. I learned about codependency and emotional enmeshment. I learned how to establish and enforce healthy boundaries. I came to understand that my identity was so tied to this toxic relationship, my self-worth so uniquely derived from caretaking, that I could not leave without annihilating my sense of self. I was stuck.

It took several years of regular therapy, study, soul-searching, boundary-setting, and hard work before I could get unstuck enough to give myself permission to leave. But I couldn’t bring myself to actually do it until early January, when it became clear that the status quo presented an imminent threat to the life of one of my children. My therapist and attorney helped me come up with a plan, and I leased an apartment and moved out to begin the divorce process.

The following months were full of learning. I saw many things from a new perspective. I felt how painful it was to participate in the Mormon church alone. I saw no role models there who had been in my situation. The church’s culture had reinforced my codependency, and it was pulling me back into those same patterns I had worked so hard to break.

I decided that I could not heal unless I separated myself from the church, something unfathomable just a month earlier.

I communicated this decision to my bishop, adding that while I had no plans to participate in the future, I saw no need to resign my membership unless my ex made false accusations that would lead to a church disciplinary council. In that case, I would resign to a) deny her the ability to use the church to hurt me, and b) allow the church and its leaders to minister to her alone without any conflict of interest.

She ultimately made those false accusations in her court filings. When she did, I resigned my membership. And I am completely at peace about doing so.

I’ve shared this story with a handful of people who make up my immediate support system. Words are inadequate to express the love and gratitude I feel for each of them.

I share it with you now for several reasons:

  1. Everyone who knows me is going to hear this news eventually. It makes sense to communicate it clearly and directly.
  2. I’m not ashamed of this experience. I’ve learned a lot, and it has helped define who I am. There is no reason to hide it.
  3. I know others in similar situations. Few men are treated this way by their partners. It can feel very lonely, but you are not alone. Please talk to a therapist or another person who understands.

I feel no hostility toward my ex. I think she did the best she could in our relationship. We shared many beautiful times, it was not all toxic or abusive. She may never accept the reasons why our marriage ended, and that’s fine.

I feel no hostility toward the church. It taught me many good things, and some unhealthy ones that I have rejected. Overall it was a positive influence, and I am better for it.

Finally, thank you for reading and for your friendship. I anticipate more-positive news in the future :)

11 thoughts on “An Anniversary Announcement

  1. Hi Zach,
    I’m so sorry to hear about what you have gone through. I can’t say that I know how you’re feeling but I’m here to support you in any way I can. You’re a great guy and I know that you’ll succeed in overcoming this obstacle. Hang in there and please reach out, if you want to talk.
    All the best,
    Wayne

    1. Thanks, Wayne, I appreciate your friendship and your kind words. I’ll definitely reach out next time I’m in town, it would be good to catch up :)

  2. Zach, We are part of the same online support community & I’ve appreciated your perspective. Thank you for coming out of the shadows and being brave enough to share what very few will understand. Praying for continued growth & healing.
    -K

  3. Hugs friend. You know lots of my journey, but if you ever need to chat, please let me know. I’m so sad we were both suffering in silence and neither of us knew.
    All the best in moving forward!

  4. I’m shocked and extremely saddened at this news. I hurt for you since I have experienced separation by death. This may be as hard for you. Marriage is work and 2 people must give it equal effort.

    Hopefully you will reconsider your position with the church. God loves you and will give you understanding if you seek that. The restoration is true and we have a prophet today. Don’t throw that away with the marriage.

    I have admired you and your family for years and will continue to do so. Don’t forget us at any future time.
    With love, Pat Hargett

  5. Zach,
    I can only imagine how difficult this post must’ve been for you, especially with having children involved. While I’m sure you aren’t looking for approval from anyone I applaud you for having the courage to explore who you are and put yourself, and your children’s, health and well-being ahead of anything and everything else. Many people struggle with seeking the help you sought out to find and hopefully your story will resonate with someone else struggling to find the right next step. Wishing you and your kiddos (and your ex) nothing but happiness for a better future.

  6. Zach,
    I was sorry to read about the heartache and pain you’ve been through. I hope time brings you healing, comfort, and peace. Best wishes, Coby

  7. Congratulations on embracing change and on learning from it. Life must go on and it will. Wishing the 5 of you the very best on this new chapter.

    Abrazo muy fuerte!
    Alejandra

  8. I know the words of an old friend of your little sister’s means nothing to you but I want to say three things. I hope you stay close to your parents and brothers because you have a wonderful family. Thank you for not trashing the church on your way out, I respect that. Lastly, I want to say that it’s true. That isn’t meant to negate your experiences or step on your agency but someday we’ll all know it and as long as we can say we followed our conscious and did our best the plan will work and all will be well. Wish you well.

  9. Zach, I can’t begin to imagine the bravery necessary to post this. Thank you for sharing your story and exemplifying strength and patience through adversity.

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