Usually, I hate open letters, but today...today I have a lot on my heart that I would want to say to a very unlikely (perhaps) person: Anna Duggar.
I doubt anyone has missed the news recently, or the notoriety that the Duggar family has accrued, but just in case, let me explain the unlikeliness of the kinship of sorts that I feel with Anna. Anna is a conservative Christian woman. She is opposed to abortion, promotes traditional gender roles, and believes that homosexuality is a sin. Her family-by-law has actively campaigned against transgender rights and protections, and her husband has actively supported the movement to deny marriage equality to homosexual couples through a position he held with the Family Research Council.
These are but a handful of ways that Anna and I differ, but I can't help but feel compassion for her. Here's what I would say to Anna if I had the chance.
If somehow you have missed the most recent Duggar scandal, you can see Libby Anne, No Longer Quivering, or What Would JT Do for details and context.
I want you to know that I support you. I'm an atheist, a liberal, a feminist, a pro-choice and LGBT rights supporter, a transgender ally--and on those fronts, I'm afraid, we have to disagree. I simply can't support your views, which I consider out of touch with reality.
I hope you won't let that turn you off to some of what I have to say next, though.
Anna, I support you, as a woman. As a spouse, as a parent. As someone who has been hurt in a nearly unimaginable way by the person that you most trusted. As someone who is, I imagine, trying to find ways to hold your family together while dealing with such a consuming pain.
Anna, this isn't your fault. You'll be told that it is. You'll search your life for the sin, for the action, that caused your husband's infidelity. You'll say, "I didn't have sex with him enough." You'll say, "Bearing four children changed my body too much." You'll ask, "What is wrong with me?"
But you won't find the answers in your actions, Anna, because this isn't your fault. If you want to search for the sin that caused this, look to your husband. Because the fault is his. The choice was his. The decision to take this chance and risk harming your family--that was his. Not yours.
Anna, no one can decide whether you should stay or leave but you. No one can judge that but you, and I, for one, support your decision either way, although I think that I personally would choose to go if I were in your shoes. But the only person that can decide what is best for your family, and what is most importantly best for you, is...you.
You've been taught that your husband should make the decisions, and you should support him and submit to him, and trust that he has your best interests at heart. Anna, it's bullshit, and right now, you know it. Your husband took your entire family--you, him, all four of your precious children--down this rabbit hole with little to no consideration for the pain and havoc he was wreaking for all of you. He may not have acknowledged or accepted it, but he fully understood what his high-profile in the public eye would mean should the affair come to light. He fully understood what this would do to you. Sure, he probably told himself that it would never be found out, that he could get away with it--but he still knew what the consequences would be if he was wrong. And he did it anyway. He did this to you anyway. It's up to you, now, to make the decisions that are best for you and for your children. It's up to you, because your husband has failed to do that. Don't let anyone take that power away from you.
Anna, they are going to tell you that you have to forgive. "You have to forget, you have to let it go, you have to move on," they will say. "The anger," they will say, "will eat you up inside."
It's not true, Anna. You can accept what has happened to you. You can let it go. And you can still not be ready to forgive--indeed, you may never be ready to forgive, and I'd argue, Anna, that you absolutely should not forgive unless you are ready to do so. Unless it is your choice. No amount of pressure from outsiders should make you cave on this, because this, too, is part of your power.
There's a long road ahead of you, no matter what road you take. Either way, you'll have to heal, and in that time, you'll have to look after yourself first. No matter how many times you've been told that you should put your husband's needs first...you simply have to put yourself there for now. Because the simple truth is--he's not. He's not looking out for you, and right now, you can trust him to assist in your healing, to support your healing. The only person you can rely on is you. Reach out for a support system that won't just take his side. Look for people that will defend you first, that will protect you first.
There's many rough nights ahead, no matter what road you take. You're at a fork in the path. There will be tears like waves, like typhoons. There will be moments of anger that burn white hot, and peter out, leaving behind a coldness, a numbness, that's almost worse. There will be pain, and it will not always be expected. There will be time, long stretches of it, where it feels surreal. And there will be, above all perhaps, a wish that it would everything could just go back to being normal.
There may come a day when you see a picture from the BIK (Before I Knew) era, and you think, "I want to be that person again. I want to be that couple again." There may be a sense of grief for what was, for the dream of a life that you had. And Anna, you've go to let yourself process it. You've got to let it work through.
In truth, despite the many, many differences that I have with you, I wish you the best of luck in figuring this all, and my heart goes out to you. I hope that strength and healing are yours over the coming days, and I hope that you find your power and use it to steer yourself through to the other side.