Friends, spare me the backlash, my marriage ending doesn't reflect on yours
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Friends, spare me the backlash, my marriage ending doesn't reflect on yours

The fallout from my marriage breakup was something I had not anticipated. I understood that family and friends would be upset, but I didn’t expect such backlash. After all, a marriage is between the two people in question. Or so I thought.

It didn’t seem fair that I was being judged about my personal relationship with my husband. Yet that’s what people do, they gossip and have an opinion about what, why and how. Perhaps too many people have uninteresting lives and too much time on their hands.

Memma Chierici, a mother of four, faced an unexpectedly huge amount of judgment from friends when she left a marriage she felt was limiting.

Memma Chierici, a mother of four, faced an unexpectedly huge amount of judgment from friends when she left a marriage she felt was limiting.

As the news got out, it became very clear that lines were being drawn. Mutual friends were choosing (between us) on two parameters: who knew who first, or the basis of why we split up and if they were comfortable with the circumstances surrounding it.

If they couldn’t understand why I ended the marriage or, at the least, have compassion (there were reasons I didn't want to disclose) I became the enemy camp.

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Soon it became clear that this sort of news can make us all question the strength of the relationship we’re in.

Charlie, my ex, informed his parents the day after we broke up. I was taken aback by this. Why would he tell his parents so soon? I guess he needed the emotional support and he was closest and loyal to his mum and dad first.

People close to me did not accept me walking away from my unhappy marriage. They believed that there had to be an ulterior motive, not so.

I waited about three weeks. I knew that telling my parents, particularly my mother would be difficult.

A proud Italian mother who built her life around her family, this news would be devastating for her; much like a death in the family.

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As I was driving to my parents’ house, I felt sick to my stomach. I was anxious and just wanted to get it over with. It was sad knowing that my mother wouldn’t support me and I was in for a battle.

As I sipped on a strong short espresso, I unleashed my explosive news. My mother screeched in horror: “No, I don’t accept this!”

She felt I didn’t know what I was doing, and I was clearly being influenced by the wrong people. My father sat silent, eventually expressing his disappointment calmly. Charlie had been part of the family for over 20 years and was like a son to my parents.

I didn’t expect them to disown him, not at all. Instead, I was the one more inclined to be disowned.

I had expected people in my life to want the best for me. Sure, I needed them to be a sounding board and even my adversary in working things through, but, more importantly than that, I needed support.

I needed my mother to say, "Hey, are you okay? Can I do anything for you? What was so bad that you felt you had to leave him?"

I didn't expect them to disown him, instead, I was the one more inclined to be disowned.

Instead, I was treated like a powerless fool who didn’t know what she was doing and needed to be saved from herself.

People extremely close to me, from whom I had expected unqualified loyalty, sided with my ex. My leaving the marriage was as inconceivable to them as it was to my mother and Charlie.

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They did not accept me walking away from my unhappy and turbulent marriage. They believed there had to be an ulterior motive, such as another man. Not so.

Charlie was, understandably, very distressed after our separation.

Evidently, family and friends alike took pity on him. This included my sister and her husband who were sympathetic to his suffering. Naturally, I was glad he could lean on them, but not at my expense.

I was seen as the villain. It became increasingly obvious that outsiders thought I was perfectly fine because I was the one who had instigated the split. They didn’t see the sadness and loss I, too, was living.

The grief I felt was like a death. I guess it was the death of a dream. I was quite upset by the reactions of some, but realised another important lesson: I needed to let go of expectation and others' judgments. I couldn’t think for others, nor control their behaviour.

Upon reflection, perhaps my courage was perceived as arrogance. I, too, was suffering but was being crucified for my stance.

The grief I felt was like a death. I guess it was the death of a dream.

Some people were thrown by my certainty. I was now a woman in full control of her life, and I could not be manipulated. It would take time for others to learn to interact with the new, assertive and self-reliant me.

"Take it, or leave it" was my new motto. As my self-esteem grew, so I learned to let go of my attachment to others' opinions of me.

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I clung to the friends who chose to accept and celebrate the choice I made for myself.

I was told that I would learn who my real friends were. It was true. It was painful to lose friends along the way, but it was necessary. I couldn’t hold on to toxic friendships any more than I could my marriage

(After time and therapy) my children saw their mother in a new light. I was comfortable with who I was. I was balanced and I was capable of achieving anything I wanted.

Finally, I could be a better role model, I felt. I could start afresh with my children, and we could heal together.

This is an edited extract of Out Loud, Memma Chierici's autobiography, out now.

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