Glennon Doyle Melton is the ultimate confessional writer. She will write what many feel they never can or should say. She writes what she thinks during sex. She writes about female friendships in a way that will surely end some of hers. She writes about her alcoholism in her earlier life; about her bulimia; her time in a mental institution; about her abortion.
She is the founder of the online community, Momastery, with an audience of more than a million people every day. Her new memoir, Love Warrior, charts her survival of her husband’s infidelity and the couple’s return to a place of love.
Oprah has called. Elizabeth Gilbert, author of Eat Pray Love, gushes on the cover that “Love Warrior reaches a depth of truth and power and emotional gravity that is rarely seen in the world.”
And then, right before the book launched this week, Melton confessed on her blog that she was leaving her husband, Craig. She spoke to The Globe and Mail from her home in Florida.
Are you surprised at your willingness to spill so much about the way you feel?
I have always understood that a large part of my recovery [from bulimia and alcoholism] had to do with being honest without having shame.
Our biggest problem is that we are really lonely. We all think we have to stick to this script on the outside and that the script should be different from the one that’s going on inside. So there is a disconnect. For whatever reason, I know how to make that inner voice audible for people.
Many people might feel they’re betraying themselves, their spouse and the sanctity of their marriage when they speak about it a very truthful way.
The first question is ‘why?’ Why is the thing that is so important in our lives – the connection with your partner – why is that the thing we’re not allowed to talk about? What we mean is that everyone can talk about it except real people in real ways. The only things we see, all over the TV, all over the movies, and all over the commercials, is this crappy, patriarchal version of marriage that makes us all feel bad.
Parts of this book were terrifying: in particular, the scene with the marriage therapist when Craig admits to infidelity. That must have been hard to relive.
I hated writing Love Warrior. It’s the hardest thing I’ve every written. I cried. And I thought, I will not publish this unless it’s as brutal and beautiful as I feel that it was when I experienced it.
I wonder if you feel there’s a Faustian bargain you strike when you choose to be so honest about your personal life. Does the writing of it in this brutally honest way make it harder to survive the marriage crisis or easier?
I think it makes it harder to stay. If I’m being really honest, I wonder at night if I hadn’t written Love Warrior would I be divorcing right now. But – I would never take it back. I finished the book about a year ago. And I decided to leave Craig about three or four months ago.
I sat down and looked at it all and examined what all of it meant. And I figured out in that process that I don’t fit here any more. And if there’s anything that process taught me is that you must trust yourself. That’s what Love Warrior is about. It’s about a woman learning to trust herself.
Sometimes in marriage, brutal truth telling is damaging, because there are things that you feel that you don’t want to say because they’re hurtful. Knowing when not to say anything is a good strategy for a happy marriage.
Agreed. I don’t need to tell others, even my spouse, about all of the stuff in my head. Love is kind, right? It’s not about calling someone out on every little thing you feel. But we’re not talking about that. We’re talking about huge secrets. We’re talking about lies inside of a marriage; serial infidelity.
And yet, in that therapist’s office, Craig says that he wants what you have – the ability to be completely truthful and still be loved. He has a point.
Yes, and here’s the deal. I do know all that about Craig. I now know him. I see him for who he is. And I love him. And I’m not going to be married to him any more. Women have to understand that. This is not an all-or-nothing thing.
He comes off as truly repentant.
He’s a hero. And I would never have written this book if he didn’t come across as brave as I experienced him.
But isn’t there a double standard for men and women? Women live in a sort of confessional culture. Men don’t have that.
What you’re talking about is one of the main issues in Love Warrior, which is that men have nowhere to reveal their feelings. It blows my mind when I actually consider that men are as human as I am. How can you possibly be as human and have all of the thoughts and feelings that I have and never be able to talk about it, ever? Guys are in desperate need of truth telling. They are in desperate need of a revolution.
It seems unfair. You have the support of your tribe, your sister warriors. What does he have?
The guys are going to have to figure it out just like women did. They are going to have to be brave enough to admit that they also have to be human.
Some might criticize your decision as very selfish.
Of course. If a woman chooses to protect herself and do what allows her to find peace, then that’s selfish. I just don’t hear that word any more. It’s complete white noise to me. It is something women have to fight.
Looking back on your marriage, do you feel that maybe you just married the wrong guy?
No, I never look at it like that. I don’t believe in mistakes. How can I possibly regret or think that Craig was the wrong person? I have three amazing children and a great career. And a friendship with Craig that is beautiful. We have been through so much. When we met I was a drunk. A drunk.
Do you see your marriage as a failure then?
I don’t know how to tell you, but I don’t necessarily see my marriage as having failed – at all. Our marriage is complete. It did what it was meant to do on this Earth. And it changed us both into bigger and braver and more whole people.
Can you give me a picture of how you and Craig are living now?
He lives seven houses down from me. We talk several times a day. We have no custody schedule. The kids can just go back and forth when it works for all of us. We just went to Disney together as a family. We have family dinners on Sundays. We talk openly about his future and my future. And there’s zero jealousy.
No. I think we already grieved our marriage during the whole crisis.
Sounds like Gwyneth Paltrow’s conscious uncoupling. Do people roll their eyes a bit when you talk about how happy the separation is?
I never said the word ‘happy.’ I don’t know what exactly that means. But I think that the separation is respectful. And it’s peaceful. And there’s a lot of self-control and love and, you know, a higher love, that’s being brought to it. But nobody is dancing around in fields. It’s not all unicorns and rainbows.
This interview has been edited and condensed.Report Typo/Error