The Metamorphosis of a Marriage

The Metamorphosis of a Marriage

A new swallotail butterfly ready to take flight from a green leaf.

Is there a right way to share big, emotional, life-changing news? A way to balance revealing the raw and real personal parts of an experience with respectful discretion? A way to be heard and not misunderstood? A way to be seen without judgement? A way to express the gravity of a situation and also the goodness in it?

And what about timing? Is there ever a right time? Do you wait until the hardest parts pass, hoping to eventually speak from the wisdom of hindsight?  Or do you share as things are unfolding in real time, and speak through the process, straight from the trenches?

Amidst many seemingly impossible questions that are swirling around in my head, the one that has kept me up at night is, how do you tell people that your marriage of 25 years is ending?

I don’t know if this is the right way to do it (or not) or if it’s the right time (or not) but I do know that in light of these challenging circumstances I have begun a new season of deep healing and opening up about what I’m going through feels like an important and necessary part of the process. It all just feels too big to do alone and I don’t see any benefit to trying to keep it hidden.

I’ve experienced the positive power and incredible goodness of community that extends even beyond my close circle of family and friends and so I’m choosing to trust in that and let myself really lean into it, more than ever before. The care and concern I’ve received in response to my recent vague struggle-sharing posts on Instagram and Facebook has been so comforting and encouraging. Every affirming like, kind comment, and heartfelt private message has meant so much to me and is a constant reminder that allowing myself to be seen and supported (although sometimes super-uncomfortable) can be an absolute lifeline. That truth and the knowing that I am not alone, is making all the difference for me during this strange and surreal transition.

Coming to terms with the dissolution of my marriage is proving to be harder than I imagined it would be—I’m not sure what I expected!—but in my core, I know that it is absolutely the right thing. And no matter how painful it’s been and will continue to be (until hopefully it’s not anymore), it’s hugely important to me to articulate that this dissolvement is a decision that has come from a wholehearted, mutual agreement between my husband and myself, for the sake of our ultimate happiness and that of our girls. After being married for 25 of our 30 years together and raising our two exceptional daughters (now 17 & 22), we knew it was time to separate so we could both move forward in new and different ways, independent of each other. It is our intention to try to do so with as much love, respect, and grace as possible. It is not always easy (understatement of the year) but our mantra “we will always be family” is what I’m carrying with me through this process and into the next chapter.

I want to thank you in advance for your continued kindness and understanding. Your thoughts and well-wishes are deeply appreciated.

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On the evening I was writing this post I spotted a gorgeous swallowtail butterfly, clinging to a green leaf. I slowly approached it for a few photos but it was totally motionless. I woke up the following morning and it was still there, exactly where it had been the night before. I wondered if this was normal behavior or if there was something wrong so I texted a dear friend and butterfly whisperer. She replied, “Sometimes after they are born they may hang around for 24 hours, as their wings dry. Some fly off, some wait around until they are feeling just right. You can just let it be.” I kept an eye on it all morning as I continued to write this post. Eventually, a subtle movement caught my eye and within minutes it fluttered across the yard to another leaf. And then a few moments later, to another. It got settled and still again so I left it undisturbed. When I finished this post, I got up and walked to the far window and noticed the butterfly was gone.

It’s taken me some time to get up the courage to share this post. Maybe, like the butterfly, I had to wait around until I was feeling just right. And with that, I’m choosing to suspend all fear and hesitation and hit the publish button because I know that’s the kind of bravery it takes to grow, to change, to transform and eventually, to fly.

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43 Comments
  • .Ramona Wildeman
    Posted at 21:36h, 12 September Reply

    I wondered. I do not know this particular struggle but, I know of sadness. I see you. Thanks for being brave and sharing.

  • Eren
    Posted at 04:37h, 13 September Reply

    My marriage dissolved after 19 years. It was incredibly difficult, but your classes gave me a creative outlet as a way to focus on the beauty around me. Sending you love and light! Eren from TX

  • Lisette OConnor
    Posted at 05:04h, 13 September Reply

    You have been on my mind! Thank you for sharing, fly high! Sending you hugs and love.

  • Jen Lemen
    Posted at 05:14h, 13 September Reply

    Love you Trace.

  • January Ford
    Posted at 06:43h, 13 September Reply

    Thank you for sharing your struggle with us. I’m so sorry you are going through this, but I am sure you will move through this change with grace. We are here for you. ❤️

  • kristin z
    Posted at 06:46h, 13 September Reply

    a deep sadness in the ending of one and the beauty of becoming something new

    sending love and strength for you and your family

  • Christine
    Posted at 06:54h, 13 September Reply

    My best friend of almost 40 years lost her mother and then 8 months later her husband of 25 years told her he was leaving. Both were unexpected and devastating to her. We are 8 years down the road now. Looking back, her grief for both was very similar. Sorrow, then anger, then why, then confusion and then back around to go through them all again. Both things were a death and both had to be grieved. I can only speak as her friend looking in, but I’d say both things were raw, with painful sharp edges that would often surprise her at first and are now still painful but the sharp edges have dulled and the surprise emotions pop up much less frequently. I think she would definitely define herself as happy. She definitely struggled with letting go of the vision she had of how her life would go for the next 25 years but she has slowly started developing a new vision and now realizes it too can be filled with happiness and love. I hope your sharp edges aren’t too sharp and are quickly dulled and I hope you see the rainbow amongst the storm clouds. I know it’s there. Don’t be afraid to dump it all out on a trusted friend or two, even at 2 am or 3x a day, if needed. They can take it. Big hugs from afar.

  • Debby Rose
    Posted at 09:36h, 13 September Reply

    I saw your comment this morning on Instagram and came looking for your post. What a glorious photo to accompany your honest and courageous and heart wrenching words.

    My 30-year marriage ended ten years ago. Like you, it was a completely mutual decision, and because it was, I never anticipated the dark night that it would throw me into or the odyssey I would experience for many years. How I wish I had had such a community for support and love and I’m so happy that you do.

    As hard as it was, I wouldn’t change a thing. It led me places I never dreamed I would go and to new depths of experience and opening. And he and I have come through it with our bond intact because like you express, we are family.

    Sending lots of love and the warmest thoughts your way. You are an inspiration.

    Debby

  • Kim TS
    Posted at 11:13h, 13 September Reply

    We will continue to be here to bear witness and uphold you with all the love and empathy you need, for as long as you need it. Much love, Tracey. x

  • Kris
    Posted at 11:28h, 13 September Reply

    Sending you all the love. We are always here for you. Be as kind to yourself as I know you are to others. Big hugs.

  • Diana Foster
    Posted at 11:46h, 13 September Reply

    I.love.you.

  • Honey lazar
    Posted at 11:56h, 13 September Reply

    The courage to face the unknown and speak the truth can never be underestimated. Thank you for inspiring all who might be afraid and for being the incredible human I have enjoyed “following” for a very long time.

    I send an embrace.

  • Darlene Cunnup
    Posted at 12:29h, 13 September Reply

    Love you tracey – you are a strong lady
    I am 2 1/2 years out since my life partner Greg left after 28 years
    Everyone story is different and ours definitely was I was happy to finally get my freedom
    I am enough and I am a photographer

  • annie samuels
    Posted at 12:36h, 13 September Reply

    Sweet Tracey, I am so sorry. I am sending you shutter sisters love and I hope you will feel the support of all of us who adore you as you navigate the coming days.

  • Connie Knapp
    Posted at 13:47h, 13 September Reply

    Oh Tracey what a difficult decision and how wonderful that you know that it is the exact right thing to do. I have been there and I know it’s hard. I hope you can feel the support of those of us who may not be close but aren’t far away.

    I cherish my memories of the Creative Joy Retreat in Garrison with Jen Louden and Marianne Elliott, and I have followed you in the seven years since then!

    Peace to you,
    Connie Knapp

  • Jeanine LeRoy
    Posted at 14:31h, 13 September Reply

    Been there. Know there does come a time when it is no longer painful. You will get there …day by day by day. You are enough. You’ve been so much for so many…including me. Thank you for being tracey clark…

  • Lisa Allen
    Posted at 15:55h, 13 September Reply

    I know this struggle, though my marriage ended much sooner than yours (10 years). I’m 12 years on the other side and can assure you that time helps. I love your mantra of always being family. Sending you much love and thoughts of peace.

  • Hannah Marcotti
    Posted at 17:18h, 13 September Reply

    I just want to say, I see you. I adore you. The hardest thing I’ve ever walked through was not renewing my soul contract with my husband. It took many many years to walk through the healing. Now, we are quite good friends and both so much better. Kids, so much better. My heart is with yours. xoxo

  • Adrienne Low
    Posted at 17:39h, 13 September Reply

    I know you did not make this decision lightly. I hope you continue to grow and ponder and experience your family in a new and lighter way. It is very brave to make any type of change and to hold it up for others to scrutinize. Know that I support you and love you and hope for the best for all of you.

  • Cheryl Doran-Girard
    Posted at 19:41h, 13 September Reply

    Having walked the path you are traveling, I hold you in my heart. It’s hard and allow yourself (& your girls) to be cradled in the comfort & love of your support tribe.

  • Wendy Kline
    Posted at 20:19h, 13 September Reply

    Tracey, I met you when my world was falling apart and you never knew how important our fleeting interaction would be to me. You SAW me and shared pre-Shutter Sisters with me and I still cherish that spiral journal. I was able to use the creative outlets you created and they were such a saving grace. I applaud you on your bravery in sharing your vulnerability. Though we haven’t stayed in day to day contact over the years, your online presence has always been a soothing retreat in my hectic life. THANK YOU! While I’ve been down the road of divorce, there are no two that are the same. If I can be of comfort to you, I hope I have the opportunity to return the gift you gave me so many years ago. In the meantime, I SEE you Tracey Clark and I’m sending you much love and support as you navigate these new waters.

  • Kristen
    Posted at 21:41h, 13 September Reply

    I was with my ex for 30 years, as well. Waited until my youngest had graduated high school. It was a sometimes hard, sometimes easy, always an emotional roller coaster, until, as you suggested, until one day he wasn’t anything other than my ex, and the day was just the day. Sending you love, comfort when you need it, and peace.

  • Janice Croze
    Posted at 23:36h, 13 September Reply

    Oh Tracy, I am so sorry!! I know this is such a painful stage, but I am so glad you and your husband are going through the process in a healthy, amicable way! That helps sooo much! Sending you love and HUGS!!!

  • Laurie Smithwick
    Posted at 06:43h, 14 September Reply

    Just want to send you all the love. All of it.

  • Aloha Kuhr
    Posted at 07:45h, 14 September Reply

    Sending you love and prayers for a healing heart ❤️

  • stefanie renee
    Posted at 07:47h, 14 September Reply

    sending you so much love and wish I could give you a great big hug. thank you for sharing your heart xoxo

  • Holly Clark
    Posted at 09:29h, 14 September Reply

    Beautiful, heartfelt post Tracey. Thank you for releasing the thoughts that have been weighing you down. I hope that your heart feels lighter in the future and that you’re hanging in there. Much love to you, xo

  • Suzanne O'Brien
    Posted at 09:42h, 14 September Reply

    Beautiful words from a beautiful heart. Thank you for bravely sharing your feelings, and being authentically you as you move through this vulnerability. As always, you continue to inspire – xoxo

  • Carol Gregersen
    Posted at 10:16h, 14 September Reply

    Tracey,

    Sending love to your entire family during this time.

  • Asha Dornfest
    Posted at 14:13h, 14 September Reply

    Sending you love and healing as you make your way. Hugs to you. I hope we can have a wonderful coastal car ride again someday soon.

  • Stacy Morrison
    Posted at 17:51h, 14 September Reply

    I have so so many things I want to say, as an esteemed graduate of the lying-on-kitchen-floor-sobbing school of divorce. But I am proud of my divorce and I can tell you will be, too. In the meantime though, it’s a lot of suck with moments of grace. Collect those, and really see the good, hard work you are doing, and walk directly into the arma of the woman you want to be on the other side of all this. She is waiting for you and she already knows you are forever changed and always exactly who you have always been. And the butterfly!!! Pure grace.

  • Dotti Rinehart
    Posted at 18:13h, 14 September Reply

    I am so sorry to hear this, Tracey. But you are strong and you still have much to give and much to create. The healing will continue. xo

  • Claudia Wrightson
    Posted at 09:48h, 15 September Reply

    Sweet Tracey- Im not certain of why the number 25 hits us so hard, but like you my marriage of 25 years ended – 19 years ago. I found myself saying that number out loud as people would ask me about “why”. for me perhaps I was at a place in my life where i had grown and saw my partner not on the same path. No matter the reason learn from this ol gal who has seen where i couldve done a few things different.
    Dont assume ANYTHING — protect your future and make sure the people in your life understand the why of it. Hopefully down the road they will grow and understand. My prayers are with you and know you will get to a place where you will understand your growth beyond the sadness and pain.

    Hugs!
    Claudia

  • Tracie West
    Posted at 10:03h, 15 September Reply

    Oh goodness Tracey, I don’t know you very well but I admire you from afar, This news has me wanting to give you a big real hug.

  • Kyla
    Posted at 11:11h, 15 September Reply

    Huge ((Hugs)) from me. Marriage takes a lot of work. From BOTH sides. Sometimes communications break down and cause a deep chasm that just can’t be breached. It’s heartbreaking to see so many years of companionship and love reduced to memories. You have a wonderful support group and God must have newer and bigger plans for you now. Push onward into the love our Creator has destined you for. 2020 has been a year. That’s for sure. Embrace all the joy you can find and don’t dwell in the dark places.

  • Valerie Foltz
    Posted at 12:56h, 15 September Reply

    So beautifully (and gently) said. All of this. Divorce is so hard. 15 years ago when my now ex and I were standing in front of the judge (similar to how we stood in the church at our wedding), the judge paused, took a deep breath and said, “I separate people, not families.” He looked at us deliberately and meaningfully. And that simple statement has guided us through the our post-divorce relationship. I can say that he is one of my closest friends and we rely on each other in ways we couldn’t when we were married. The scars will heal and things will be stronger – different – but stronger.

  • Christina G
    Posted at 21:28h, 15 September Reply

    Can I just say “well that really sucks”? I don’t know the circumstances, and you clearly feel like this is the right thing, but man it does suck to go through, am I right? I am hoping for better days for all of you. Thanks for sharing your heart.

  • Carrie
    Posted at 12:41h, 20 September Reply

    Sending you much love.

  • Janel Brown
    Posted at 07:08h, 05 October Reply

    I am so very sorry. I hope, that like the butterfly, you can find time to “be still”, heal and then find the strength to “fly”. I am sure that the process is slow and at times excruciating. May each day you find some joy and strength from all that surrounds you. ♡

  • Clare Brinkley
    Posted at 02:18h, 06 October Reply

    Butterflies are my most favourite of creatures. Not just because of their beauty! I find them fascinating. They can lay up to 60 eggs, one after the other!! And they are the ultimate transformation.

    Marriage, separation, divorce. The transformation of a couple. The beauty of what was remains.

    Strength and courage to you Tracey. Remember the beauty.

  • Nancy Moon
    Posted at 15:33h, 26 October Reply

    Dearest Tracey, what a community you have built and how very smart to come back to it to be embraced during this difficult time. I remember when I took one of my first classes, remember that with Bindu? I remember how I knew I was in such good hands with you. Best to you, Love, Nancy

  • Sandra Favre-Byles
    Posted at 22:02h, 26 October Reply

    Sharing a life experience is always therapeutic and you have written everything so well. Many of us have lived through a divorce and we have survived and become stronger for it. Your passion for photography, and your love of sharing it with others, will be your anchor. You have your lovely daughters too.

    I enjoyed reading all about your lovely new ideas concerning photography coaching and more Picture Series. We are here to enjoy that with you and to support you with our presence and our enthusiasm!

    The butterfly is a perfect symbol for your transformation.
    With love and kind thougts for all you undertake,
    Sandra x

  • Marianne Hale Levitan
    Posted at 10:01h, 27 October Reply

    I am just reading this and hope that 6 weeks in from this post, you are starting to feel the glimmers of light and the new you coming through. I am happy to take the gratitude journey with you again this year! ❤️

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