This has been an enormously difficult post to write, and I have struggled for many, many months over what to write. What not to say, what to reveal, whether I should, whether I shouldn’t.
I have been hinting numerous times over the past year that something awful has been happening in my life, something personal that threatens everything I know and love. This is what happened in 2014:
On May 12, 2014, my husband for 10 years, partner for 14 (all of my 20’s and half of my 30’s), person who I wrote about my love for and commitment to in this post on our anniversary, and father to our dear 8-year-old son, left us in order to move in with his affair partner.
This was someone who he should absolutely not have been involved with in any way (regardless of the violation of our marriage vows and our trust in him and all that) – but it was someone who both professionally and legally he had absolutely no business being involved with at all.
It blindsided and absolutely devastated me.
There had been hints of difficulties leading up to him walking out; he had expressed being unhappy but wouldn’t cite what it was exactly that was wrong. I had been struggling for 4 years with being hypothyroid and being overwhelmed with the symptoms of endocrine system collapse in 2013, and had tried to getting healthy the priority for some time. I had not paid enough attention to him, he said, I had made him feel like I did not care. I had been focused on eating right, exercising, and trying to get a job so I could build a career and help support our family.
I worked as hard as I could once he expressed this to me to fix our relationship, to make him the number one priority, and to show my feelings for him. He responded by becoming increasingly withdrawn and angry even over the smallest thing, putting me down in front of our son and saying nasty things to me, and “working” longer hours.
When I found out that he had only been working an average of 11 hours a week and had instead been spending the remainder of his time elsewhere with someone else doing certain things – and the horrific details of what he had done, it was the worst shock I ever had in my life.
I could not eat or keep food down, I could not sleep more than a couple hours a night due to anxiety, stress, and shock. I lost 7 pounds in the first 10 days. Everything I ate came up again. I survived on oatmeal for weeks, since it was the only thing I could keep down. I was overwhelmed with panic and anxiety, having no idea what was happening and what was going to happen. I ended up losing 27 pounds total over the next 4 months, having panic attacks in the middle of the night, my heart pounding, unable to draw breath.
In addition to my husband very suddenly leaving, he began levying numerous threats towards us,showing up at the house unexpectedly, coming and going as he pleased, removing possessions in front of our son (whom he told that “Daddy’s job requires me to work a lot of nights, so I’m just staying at a hotel near the airport rather than make the long drive home”). He told me that I had to leave the house, our home, and go live with our son in an apartment. He told me that he would be taking our son to Japan and that I would never see him again. He hid all his wages in a secret bank account so there was no money coming in from him. I couldn’t use any money in our bank account for food or gas to take our son to school, because the mortgage was auto-withdrawn from that bank account and would default that much sooner if I did.
I’d been a stay-at-home mother for 9 years, as required by my husband and his parents, who told me repeatedly over the years that a mother’s place was in the home, raising her child, and that I should not work. I had nothing to survive on except the money I made from this blog. I began selling things on eBay so I could buy food for my son and me, gas to take my son to school, and cover his therapist’s bills. I desperately searched for work, applying to any and everything remotely related to my skills and background, but with no recent work experience or references to vouch for me except those from school, I had very few options. What stay-at-home mother with no recent work experience could go from earning only a couple hundred dollars a month on a part-time blog to instantly earning $50,000 a year?
I begged my husband not to do this, to work on our marriage, to reconcile, to do what was in our son’s best interests. He would not listen, and insisted his own life was his biggest priority.
On August 29, 2014, he filed a petition for dissolution of marriage with the Oregon court.
I was plunged into 7 months of unbelievable insanity, where my husband assisted by his lawyer (who had convinced him that this was how it was done in the United States: hire a lawyer, and you can dissolve your marriage for only $2000! – LOLOL) embarked on campaign to completely humiliate and financially devastate me in every way possible.
My husband (who was a Japanese national, having gotten his green card through me) never disclosed his international stocks, his bank accounts, his credit cards, or his position at his father’s company in Japan. I disclosed every penny I had (which only amounted to a few thousand dollars) – so on paper I looked like I was the one with all the money. I was denied from the Oregon Bar Association’s Modest Means program (that provides lower-cost attorneys) since my case involved international issues and was far too complicated for anyone to take one. Instead, I had to hire an international family lawyer to fight the egregious lies being recorded about me on the paperwork he and his lawyer and filed, to prevent any sort of international kidnapping, and to protect me and my son’s most basic rights. Oh, and since Oregon is a no-fault divorce state, everything my husband had done was immaterial in a court of law.
I begged my husband to not do this, to stop with the lawyers, to not financially devastate me because in the end I would not be able to take care of our son and keep his life stable, that our little boy would be the one who suffered the most. The person I was still legally married to sneered that he had to use a lawyer to protect his interests since I said crazy things like I would get the house, I would get child support, I would get spousal support. I pushed and pushed to just hire a mediator and saved money. He was, as he had been for years, still living off his parents’ credit card and money, he said, was of no issue to him: his parents were rich and could pay as long as it was necessary.
On March 27, 2015, I was forced to accept a settlement where I got a completely inadequate amount of child support (since my husband was working only 19 hours a week when it was assessed). I did get a lump sum spousal support (instead of monthly since he refused to agree to it) which went to cover bills and debts and refinance the house, and, most importantly, I got the house – and was able to make stable the only home my son has ever known, so he can grow up here with all his friends in our neighborhood.
It was either accept the settlement or pay another $20,000 and force it to Court, where the judge said she would be deposing my father-in-law as to the full extent of money my husband had been using. My husband said that his father had lawyers in Japan and would fight it. I could choose to rip apart his family and their privacy to lay bare the full extent of his resources in Japan – and get the judge to award me some of those resources on paper, that in reality I would likely never see – or I could fold and accept a completely inadequate offer, which included no other support or obligation to helping pay our son’s school costs, daycare fees, sports fees, or even support for the dog that he left with me (since the girl’s place that he moved in to did not allow dogs).
I could stand or I could fold.
I stood for my marriage, my vows, and my family for as long as I could.
I looked around, and I was the only one standing.
So I folded, and did to my son the unthinkable, the unforgivable as a parent. I signed a document that split our family into two, that now drags my son from here to there and back again all within one week, that destroys his template of a marriage and an unbroken family. I had absolutely no choice to do this to him, and the guilt will haunt me for the rest of my life.
And here now, is The Aftermath.
I survived. My son survived.
I came out of it in one piece (though often I never thought I would), with the support of family and friends, some whom I will be indebted to for the rest of my life.
I lost social circles, in-laws, people whom I trusted. I found family, friends, and people to trust. I found support where I never thought I would find it.
The person I used to be married to still sees our son once a week or so when he is around. Apparently he’s quit his job and after a month of traveling around the world, he’s now a month in Colorado training for a new job.
But it doesn’t matter. I secured my son’s home, my son’s school, his routines, and his life. After working 4 part-time and freelance jobs to make ends meet, I finally have a full-time job that I love and that I can support myself with. Most of my possessions I still have. I’ve sold what I don’t need or want, and cut back. I’ve cut our monthly expenses as far as I can go. I am surviving.
I felt I needed to share with all of you, my readers, the truth of what happened, of why I’ve slowed down in blogging, why it has been immensely difficult this past year and a half to write about fashion and DIY and what had begun to feel, to me, like very trivial things when my life was being turned upside down.
I am not saying that I was good and the person I was married to was bad, because nothing is as simplistic as that. There were things that I could have done better, ways that I could have prioritized my relationship more, old hurts and difficulties I should have dealt with earlier in order to improve our relationship. I could have communicated better. But I never would have chosen this as an option for dealing with a tough relationship, especially once there was a child involved.
It is very difficult putting myself out there on the internet like this, showing how vulnerable I am to the world. But I am done keeping other people’s secrets.
All I know is this intensely personal and difficult experience has allowed me to grow and learn about strength and resiliency in a way I never could have, and provides valuable life lessons in moving forward. Of course one of my major reasons for not putting it out there was the potential harm to my son, in him finding out the truth about what his father did. I still have to lie to my little boy every day (as dictated by all the parenting books, therapists, and advice out there): in verbally accepting full and equal responsibility for what happened in our family, in never saying a bad word about his father, in never sharing the gory details and instead sympathizing with the pain my son still experiences. Someday I will share with him and answer his questions honestly in order to hopefully impart life lessons about choosing the right person for a long-term commitment, someone who shares the same value system – and how to make a commitment actually work for the long term.
Someday I will know how to impart those lessons.
Just not today.
Thank you for reading, and for sticking with me and this blog through the slowdown of posts, the lack of good advice, and the overall somber and melancholy tone over the past 18 months. I appreciate each and every one of you so much, and it is in part due to this blog and my dear readers that I made it through to the other side.
Hi carly. i have been following your blog for several years and am very saddened to hear about this horrible ordeal you’ve had to go through. i am glad to hear you remain positive and strong – thank you for sharing this part of you life with your readers. i wish the best for you
Carly, I am so proud of you! Your son will be fine because he has a great mom for strength and guidance and most of all love. So glad you figured out a way to keep your house and got a great job. XXXOOO Pat
Carly, my heart breaks for you, that you have gone through all of this. Thank you for sharing. I’m in awe what you’ve made it through — you are one tough cookie! Good for you for holding it all together for your son and yourself and coming out the other side. I wish you healing and love and light.
You are beautiful, brave, and authentic in your vulnerability in sharing this experience. I am so proud of you, thankful to you for baring your soul, and I cannot wait to see the incredible things you do in your life. You and your son have built an even deeper bond through this hardship. I am so glad you two have each other. I look up to you!
better things are on their way…. I know that sounds ridiculous, and it is hard to see now, but I have been there, and trust me, God has something much better planned for you
Hi Babe, I am so sorry you’re going through this. I want you to know, you’re not alone. Sending you so much love
Gosh, I can’t imagine how difficult this must have been for you. I’m so sorry for what you’ve been through. Please don’t beat yourself up for “folding,” because I’m sure you’ve done the best you can, and no one can ask anything more of you. Stay strong!
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Thank you for sharing. Your honesty, simplicity, and directness are admirable, and your efforts to move on with dignity and respect for your son’s needs are worthy of the highest admiration. Best of luck on your future arc.
Carly you are an amazing person/mom and have done an excellent job making decisions and remaining positive. I wish you all the best for the future. I hope you will continue with your blog, it’s always been one of my favorites.
Sending you and your little boy love, light & positive thoughts for the journey ahead ~ xox
Thank you, Birget, I so appreciate that!! <3
Hi Carly. I just wanted to say that however corny that may sound – we love you, and when I read that post I felt really angry with your ex-husband because you and your blog made me go through a really tough patch in my life (depression+ eating disorder). When I felt like I can’t make it you and your tutorials made me push through… I wanted to live another day to complete another DIY project. Don’t give up on the blog, but most importantly don’t give up on yourself, because nobody will take such a great care of you as you would. Girl, push through. We love you.
I’m really surprised that my blog helped you through a difficult patch, I never really thought of it being so helpful in that way Agu! It was always a way for me to share things that I noticed and tutorials I thought of and I thought it might help others to live more frugally or creatively, but I honestly never thought it could connect with someone like that. I am so glad that it made a difference to you. I am working hard on regrouping and trying to figure everything out. Thank you so much for your positive words! 🙂
Carly, I’m so sorry to hear all this. It’s awful that you had to go through all this. Glad to see you’re moving on and hope the next 15 years are 1,000x better. Best wishes.
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Thank you, Suzannah, for your kind words. It has sapped all my energy for the past year and a half and I am ready to finally move on. I hope the next 15 years are too!! Thank you for your support <3
I would like to start exercising more often. I need to be more active.
Carly, I am so sorry you and your son had to experience this. Bigger and better things are on it’s way to you. You are courageous and strong! God Bless you and your son.
Thank you, Michelle, you are so kind. I hope things are looking up from here on out!!
Hi Carly I’m so sorry to hear about what you had to go through. You are so strong and brave. You are not alone you have friends all around the world that read your blog not only because of the content but because you are such inspring and positive person. Well done for managing to keep the house and for standing on your own feet and not giving up xx
Thank you Dom, for your heartfelt and encouraging words! It was very hard but I became a much stronger person because of the hardship. Thanks so much for reading 🙂
From MEXICO, My best Wishes for you…. Life has a lot of troubles….only the best save it! YOU DO IT…. take care your child and you,,,, XOX.
Thank you, Sandy – that is kind of you! I am doing my best 🙂
thank you for sharing such a difficult and personal story. I hope you and your son will only have happier times ahead. Stay strong!
I am sorry you had to go through this. I am praying for you and your son and sending you good vibes. Believe this – you are going on an amazing and beautiful journey and heavy luggage will only weight you down. Open your heart to God cause He has better plans for you.
God Bless U & your Son
Thank you Wanda, I appreciate your kind thoughts 🙂
I just re-discovered your blog after going on a DIY kick this weekend and stumbled on this post. I admire your ability to share something so personal. The way that you fought for yourself and for your son is truly inspiring and I wish you blessings on blessings a la Big Sean style. 🙂
May 2016 be your best year yet.
Sending you tons of love and light,
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Thank you so much, Nina Kristine. You are so kind to leave your comment and thoughtful words. Wishing you too the best for 2016! xo 🙂