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I’m Not Afraid to Admit I failed At Marriage

By Betsy Chasse

Originally published on Modern Mom 2013

It’s Friday night, my kids are with their dad and I am home sitting at the computer watching the latest episode of “Sylvester the Talking Kitty Cat” and really missing my kids.

How is that possible, right?! It’s not that I don’t absolutely love my kids and miss them when they’re gone, it’s just that it’s Friday night and I have a relatively new boyfriend and well, you know…

The truth is, my kids have been with their dad for about two weeks and I have stayed out late, drank too much wine, seen a movie or two, had lunch and brunch and coffee and everything in between, and now I am ready to go back to what I love most: being a mom.

I’ve gone through phases with this whole co-parenting thing, from crying my eyes out as they drove away to barely being able to contain my excitement as I packed their suitcases.

This is normal I’m told, although I still seem to have moments where I feel guilty. Guilty, mostly because I don’t think swapping kids from one house to another should be normal.
And tonight as I sit here and wonder about tomorrow’s transition, worrying about what kind of mood they’ll be in, will they be mad at me, will they want to run back to their dad and never see me again, will they like their dad’s pancakes better than mine, every ounce of doubt and guilt I can muster will pass through my head.

I have planned their homecoming, gathered their friends and am doing everything I can to show them they are loved and all is good and make their transition as easy as possible for them, and I worry if they’ll know that. Will it be enough for them to know how much I love them?

In addition to my phases about whether to party or not upon their departure, I have also worked through some of the phases around guilt, of which in divorce there seems to be a lot of. And all of this is normal.

It is perfectly normal to feel a sense of failure around your divorce and your kids.

I know I said the F word, but it’s probably what some of you are feeling, especially if this is a new thing and even sometimes if it isn’t. And it feels better just to admit it, to say it, say it loud and say it proud, own it, because until you do you won’t actually be able to move past that feeling, at least in my opinion.

Failure, the F word, has quite a stigma. People recoil in fear at the first utterance of the word as if it’s contagious.  Say it: “Failure.” Even when people start running and screaming and trampling over each other, say it louder: “I failed.”

I failed at marriage, I married the wrong guy, I suck at choosing men (ok, maybe that’s over the top, but it’s how I felt for sure).  And I’ll bet you are frothing at the mouth right now wanting to shake me and say something sympathetic and wise like, “It wasn’t a failure, don’t be so hard on yourself, be more forgiving and accepting of yourself.”

To those kind words, I say this: it was a failure, and guess what, I am totally cool with admitting that.

Because when I was able to admit that I failed at marriage, I could also finally see that I wasn’t a failure as a mother.  And that was huge.

I could finally see that my stint as a wife had nothing to do with my lifelong commitment to being a mother. For sure having one house, two parents is, I’m told, optimum, but when is life optimum? Optimum is a relative term. I do not have to be married to be a good mother, I do not have to be married to love my children with every ounce of my being, I do not have to be married to create a home and life in which my children feel loved and cared for, all of that and more I could do very well on my own and I do.

I know I do the moment my kids jump out of the car and yell, “MOM MOM MOM” and run and hug me, I know that I do when they call me from their dad’s just to say “I love you” and I especially know it when I make pancakes and they tell me their dad makes them better (they are right, he does), and they tell me it’s ok…I can make muffins like nobody’s business.

So as I sit here tonight hanging out with doubt and guilt, I feel a sense of normalcy. I know it’s ok to have these feelings, I know I don’t have to feed them or offer them drinks, that if they really want to watch cat videos with me they are welcome to do so.

Allowing myself to feel the way I feel has offered me a new freedom, to honestly and openly face them, to find the truth in them and the lies in them as well. We can be so hard on ourselves and I have found that speaking my fears, acknowledging my true feelings, helps
to send them away empty handed. Because the moment my kids come home and we laugh and we fight over who get’s to be what character in Skylanders, our house will be filled with love, not because of what I do, but because it’s what’s in my heart and they’ll know it and I’ll know it, and doubt and guilt won’t be hanging out anymore.


About Betsy Chasse

Betsy Chasse is a mom, author and Film Maker. Her films include "What The Bleep Do We Know?!" (Writer, Director, Producer", Song of the New Earth (Producer) and Pregnant In America (Producer) she has written 4 books most recently "TIPPING SACRED COWS - The Uplifting story of spilt milk and finding your own spiritual path in a hectic world"

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  1. Admitting failure may just be one of the bravest things a person can do in the face of our culture’s unadulterated pursuit of success. The value of failure is highly underrated. As someone who highly values and invests in her own personal romantic relationship, it is difficult for me to ever accept the fact that something so precious to me could end. However, I also know that with failure comes knowledge and, as Chasse writes, an element of freedom. It’s an interesting take on what so many today would consider devastating or crippling. Film-makers and novelists often hone in on moments or stories in which a woman struggles against such failure. Portrayals like Cate Blanchett in “Blue Jasmine” come to mind. Perhaps one of the more overlooked aspects of these turning points (aka failures) is opportunity and metamorphosis.

  2. Lessons from failure can only be learned once the failure has been admitted. Even if we only admit it to ourselves in the privacy of our own thoughts. It sure is difficult though, the bravery to do it is always commendable.

  3. I know what you are talking about. Just the thought of divorce made me feel devastated. It took me a long time to admit that I had failed at my marriage and that perhaps I was not really good marriage material. I am still married and living with my husband, but we are unhappily married most of the time! We just married the wrong people. Neither of us have anywhere else to go or we would probably have left long ago!

  4. If divorce happens it’s quite clear that the marriage failed, so the question here is why did it happen? I went through a divorce because I was too young and not committed to marriage enough, but I learned my lesson, if we want a relationship, we need to work for it.

  5. The brutal truth is that we don’t learn from success, we learn from the mistakes we make along the way. Embracing and accepting your failures is an important part of facing your true self, looking yourself in the eye – one of the hardest things to achieve in this life, but probably the most valuable.

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