When I first started blogging I came across other blogs I enjoyed by various means. I discovered a number of other people going through similar (and sometimes not so similar) experiences of parenthood to me. Not far into the journey I stumbled across a blog called ‘Be Brave and Look Up’. The writer, Ava as she was then, was a recent divorcée with boys of around 10 and 12 years old. I became a bit obsessed with her story and her irreverent, self-deprecating writing style and the subject matter itself was of utmost fascination and interest to me (this was back in 2013).
Her situation was obviously quite different to mine but she was (is) the same age as me and had made the decision to leave a stagnant relationship with a man she no longer loved.
There were a couple of very memorable posts, one about how she learned to fly and gained her pilot’s licence (like a kind of very cool midlife crisis) and another entitled: ‘Zumba ruined my marriage’.
From memory, the point Ava made about zumba was that it was a personal hobby that took her out of the home, got her active which in turn made her feel more alive. As soon as she returned home the adrenaline, the fun, the buzz was utterly squashed by the bad karma and general negativity surrounding her home life at that time. And that’s how, as she described it, the rot set in.
Zumba didn’t have that effect on my marriage. In fact, it probably had the opposite effect. I went to a class once a week with a good friend for several months when my eldest son turned two and then found out I was pregnant again and had to give it up. Things were OK back then – they must have been otherwise I wouldn’t have dreamed of trying for a sibling for our son.
No, zumba did not ruin my marriage, But what about blogging?
My ex is a shift worker which has proved a bit of a nightmare at times. When you’re a parent and you find yourself essentially single parenting several nights each week (but not always the same ones) you very quickly realise that there will be no regular engagements.
No book groups, no exercise classes, no clubs or evening classes. Not much of a social or creative life at all. That’s where blogging came in.
When I first started it wasn’t meant to be a way of meeting others, it wasn’t a substitute for a social life, but what you discover fairly quickly about blogging is that it really is a social endeavour. No one really starts up a public facing blog thinking that they will do so in complete and splendid isolation. There is actually a community. People are friendly, supportive and interested and there is such a thing as a blogging conference -a place where you can meet other bloggers – people who ‘get’ you and with whom the ice has very much already been broken.
I very quickly began writing and posting and joining in with other people’s blog hops several times a week. A lot of time was spent reading and commenting on other people’s posts. The subject matter covered everything from family days out to birthday party planning, reminiscing about childhood holidays to my thoughts on humanism and feminism. I took on photo challenges and even wrote the odd poem. It was liberating, It reminded me that I was a writer once – someone with a creative drive. And it opened me up to a whole world of parenting and family experiences around the UK and US which I both identified with and which in some cases, very much highlighted this increasingly evident lack in my life.
My husband himself was vaguely aware of what I was doing to begin with but he is not a techie person by any stretch of the imagination and he still to this day does not understand either the point of blogging or the wide array of social media and networks that bloggers tend to tap into over the course of time in order to gain an audience, increase their ‘reach’, appeal to paying sponsors, up their stats – all that jazz.
As I’ve mentioned elsewhere, I believe he suffers from Borderline Personality Disorder which means that he is someone who can take offence at the slightest unintended thing. Sometimes he went looking for signs of ‘disrespect’. Sometimes he got the heads up for a newly published post by following my blog page on Facebook and something in it triggered him off. One time he came into my room in the middle of the night and angrily woke me up ranting about how I’d ‘secretly’ got myself a Twitter account, ‘secretly’ joined Instagram, ‘suspiciously’ downloaded Skype, ‘sneakily’ set up a WhatsApp account. To me, all of these things were completely innocent – just me joining in with the online world of the 21st century.
Another time he again, angrily awoke me from a deep sleep sending my heart racing and my blood pumping – the fight or flight instinct kicks in as a figure looms over you growling and your breathing comes in shallow gulps. This time he had ‘uncovered’ a post I wrote six months before, referencing a phase of bad behaviour our six year old was going through. He made me feel like I had slandered our child, airing dirty laundry in public to his huge detriment. He demanded that I delete the post in question. I said I would. He went away and I lay there wide awake, fists clenched, thoughts racing. Ten minutes later he came up and demanded to know if I’d deleted the post yet.
I began hinting that all was not just peachy in paradise in the comments I left on the blogs of people I’d come to think of as friends and in turn they left supportive comments for me which my husband read on at least one occasion. He would phone me as I was walking the supermarket aisles grocery shopping, yelling down the phone, demanding to know who this person was who had left this or that comment, and just what they meant by it.
Things came to a head the day I met up with two female blogging friends for a summer’s picnic in London with all our kids during the school summer holidays. I’d deliberately ensured that it was a week day when he was working so that he wouldn’t be able to say that I’d prioritised time with other people over him. We had to travel a fair distance to get to our destination and we came via my parents house where I ditched the car and we began our train journey into the city.
We left for home around 3pm. We arrived at my parents house around 4.30pm where I had planned to give the kids a light tea before heading home by car. He phoned up so angry then because he was home from work and (despite never normally having any real interest in parenting at that point, preferring to go for a long run or gym session) accused me of keeping his children from him. I knew it wasn’t about the children, it was about the people I had been with – two perfectly lovely ladies who he had never met and knew nothing about. The mere fact that I had met them online (through blogging) was like some kind of unspeakable betrayal to him (which is ironic considering the fact that I met him through internet dating!).
During our actual break up and previous non-break ups he used the expression ‘your blog will kill our marriage’.
Now don’t get me wrong, this is not the whole story, the rot for us set in long before I started the blog (let’s just say being ranted at when you are nine centimetres dilated, in hospital in full active labour wasn’t exactly the supportive hand holding one would expect from their loved one at such a moment) but it was the beginning of me putting myself out in the world as an independent person (not an unattached person) and that’s what the controlling, abusive part of him couldn’t handle.
So no, blogging didn’t ‘ruin’ my marriage, but maybe it did signify the beginning of the end.