The Starfish

That time we went to Maine and got married.

A little over ten years ago today, Kendrick and I – and his best man, Matt – arrived in Ogunquit, Maine, and checked into our respective hotel rooms. The rest of our family and friends weren’t set to start trickling in for a couple of hours more, so we decided to wander down to the main part of town and get some lunch, maybe check out the beach.

We wandered into a little jewelry shop – a touristy gift place, full of t-shirts and hats with GONE FISHING and IT’S BEER O’CLOCK SOMEWHERE and such on them. I spotted this necklace – a gold starfish studded with tiny crystals – and I loved it so much, but when I say that we were broke after paying all of the wedding expenses, I mean we were let’s-not-get-coffee-at-the-deli-today-because-it-costs-a-dollar-style broke. The necklace was only twelve dollars, but still. That was twelve coffees.

Kendrick bought it for me anyway. I wore it every day for two years, until all the gold was worn off and some of the crystals had fallen out. And then we went back to Ogunquit for our babymoon, just before our son was born, and stopped into that very same jewelry shop, and he bought it for me again.

Every single thing you see in this photo is gone now.

I always told him that one day I wanted to get a *real* version of the necklace made – one with actual gold that wouldn’t chip off, and maybe even diamonds (or, ok, more likely cubic zirconiums). I thought about bringing the original necklace in to get dipped and repaired, but I never did, and the original starfish went into a box in my closet and the replacement starfish went somewhere else – I have no idea where – and the years passed. We had our first baby, and then our second, and then we moved, and moved again, and then more years passed, and our marriage – and life as we know it – came crashing down.

It (by which I mean the end) started on my birthday weekend; I think some of you guys intuited that from the post I wrote about turning 37. Within a week we were separated, but even in the middle of all of that mess, Kendrick mentioned once or twice that he still had to give me my birthday present. Depending on the day, I rolled my eyes when he said that, or ignored him, or lashed out, or cried. He stopped mentioning it, and a few months went by, and I forgot about it completely.

Presents are not our priority at the moment.

Then, on Friday, he asked if he could come by the house to give me something. My birthday present, he said. Sure, of course, I said. You really don’t have to.

He showed up, and in his hand was a box, and inside that box was my starfish – the grey, tarnished one from our long-ago wedding weekend, tucked inside a little plastic bag. There was also another, smaller box, and when I opened it, there it was: the necklace I’d always wanted. He’d gone to the same jeweler who made my engagement ring, and had him create a perfect replica of my starfish, peppered with tiny diamonds in a rainbow of colors. It’d taken awhile, he explained, to get it just right.

I wish, sometimes, that love was our problem. I think maybe it’d be easier that way.

gold starfish necklace with diamonds

  • KL

    This made me so freaking sad. Only you and Kendrick know what’s really going on and what to do. But from the outside, i kind of want to grab you guys by the shoulders and shake you and tell you to just snap out of it. You’re young and in love!! You have a beautiful family! What could possibly be enough to override that? (Obviously that isn’t an actual question or anything that you have to explain.) But it’s just so sad to see you have everything (seemingly) going for you, and still have that not be enough. What hope is there for anyone else then, you know?

    • mara

      Thank you for expressing what I have been feeling while reading this blog since she announced their separation. I don’t need to know their problems, I just wish they could… just.. stay together damn it! Love triumphs all, you both can do it.

    • Sarah

      This is exactly how I have felt too. Thank you for putting it into words. There is an underlying, seemingly, unrest that I don’t understand and is none of my business but yes, I want to do the same.

    • Beffgus

      Dammit I really want you two crazy kids to work it out too!!! I know it’s not that easy, and obviously there’s more to the story than what you’ve written, but yeah, count me among those still keeping my fingers crossed. <3

    • Staci Lawrence

      I feel the same. We KNOW we don’t really KNOW but we are rooting for them all the same. Thank you for your openness Jordan! We really do wish you all happiness always. xo

      • jordanreid

        Thank you. I know, and I also know it’s frustrating to get pieces, but not the whole picture. I am so appreciative of all the support, I can’t even tell you.

    • Gina Linetti

      Same! I mean, no one can really know what’s actually happening in this situation, nor should we. But I look at most divorce/separation situations and think the same thing almost every time: this is just rooted in selfishness. Two people who each want to do their own thing, have their own version of happiness, and can’t (or won’t) compromise. I’m not implying that’s true for you and Kendrick, Jordan – it’s just what I find to be the common thing in these scenarios. And it makes me sad. I hope if that IS the root of what is going on here, you two find a way to make it through and still be together.

      • Val

        To me, letting go of a person you love with your whole heart is the epitome of unselfish acts. It’s easy to want to keep them and gloss over the bad parts, but to recognize that the other person may be happier without you? To let them go forth and carve out a life of their own, where they can flourish as an individual? Not so easy. If it seems selfish because of the children, well, my parents stayed together about ten years longer than they should have, “for the kids”, and my sister and I both wished they’d gone ahead and separated a long time before they actually did. It was miserable for us, yet they thought they were clever about hiding their problems from us. Staying in a relationship and making it work isn’t easy, but separating from the person you love isn’t easy, either. Maybe a different perspective is needed here.

  • Mel

    Ok I just went through a bit of trouble to post this on my phone because I think it’s important for you, Jordan, to hear from somebody who’s gone through a divorce without hating her ex. Love was never our problem either. There is still love between me and my ex, and we can still give each other thoughtful gifts. Some commenters since your separation announcement can’t seem to get over suspecting that the stuff you keep private is insufficient to justify separation and divorce. Girl, I’ve been there. I still love my ex and think she’s (yes, queer) a wonderful person who’s better than 99% of people. We had a beautiful love story and a picturesque ten year marriage. I also learned that there are ways you can be on the same wavelength ideologically, in terms of parenting philosophy, love each other, want the best for each other, even have a decent sex life, give each other thoughtful gifts, and still be fundamentally incompatible in a way that impacts each partner and child negatively. The decision to separate and/or divorce can be a good decision between people who still love each other. Society feeds us a whole lot of BS about what marriage and family should look like. Putting aside all the tough moments, once I got past those, to living alone 50% of the time and being free of the bad parts of a codependent relationship (that, yes, also had more good parts than the average marriage [because most people have what I consider very unhappy and dysfunctional relationships]), I am happier, more myself, more free, more satisfied in my career and in my everyday life, and a better mother. Maybe you and Kendrick will work this out so that you can each be yourselves and have your needs met within the marriage, figure out how to make space for each of you. Or maybe being apart will be the better option for your family. I wish you insight and peace as you walk this exploratory path.

    • Staci Lawrence

      Beautifully said.

    • jordanreid

      Thank you for this. I think there’s a lot of anger on both sides, but there’s simply no hatred – which makes things easier in some ways (we’re able to hang out together with the children, able to hug and work together on *some* things, etc), but harder in others, because it’s so hard not to have a lovely dinner together, or whatever, and then start questioning the whole thing. What it comes down to is that regardless of what the future looks like, the way we were was simply unsustainable. Something big had to change. And I’m so hopeful that we’ll be able to accept that change and grow within it, and stay flexible and loving and focused on the kids, and see what life hands us.

      • jordanreid

        (And the reason I keep writing about this – even though it’s awkward and uncomfortable and a little weird, given that I’ll share some things and not others – is that I think there’s value in seeing the just how many shapes a family can take, and still count as one.)

        • Mel

          Our motto is “one family, two houses.” Families can and do take so many shapes. So do lives. Liberation from standard notions of what it means to be a woman, a family, a partner, a mother has been the best part of my life’s journey. I hear you when you say it feels like it would be easier if you hated each other. Maybe it would, maybe it would not. Your key insight here is that what you had was unsustainable. I know it looked real pretty on the outside, but you know the inside, and you know it was not sustainable for you. It’s a hard path to walk, but a core insight like that is the one to follow. And the one that will serve you and your family best. Kids know when something is at its core unsustainable, no matter how beautiful it looks. They can’t verbalize it, but they feel it, and it shapes them. Wishing you find peace and liberation on the path you walk. <3

    • Val

      Mel, thanks for voicing this so perfectly. I’ve been wanting to say something similar but haven’t been able to articulate my feelings. I have a couple of exes whom I still very much love, respect, and enjoy as humans. . . but this particular type of relationship – a committed, monogamous, romantic relationship – was not in the cards for us in the long term. I am still close friends with three of those exes.

      If people are trying to imagine circumstances in which two people can love and respect each other but still not be able to make a relationship work, I can give examples from my experience. In one case, it was a matter of differences in the way we viewed personal responsibility and things like finances (in general), and planning for the future/retirement. We simply could not come to any agreement in those departments, and I saw major problems on the horizon (we were already having issues that were not workable a few years in). In another case, it was differing views on what commitment and marriage meant in very fundamental ways, as well as some additional family issues that we could not agree on. Neither of us was willing to waiver on our views/needs/wants and I don’t think people should compromise on things that involve fundamental values. You assume that after you’ve been with a person for a certain amount of time, you’d know you were on the same page with these things – or at least, that’s what you tend to assume, until you find out otherwise, sometimes too late. In that case, we discovered these things after we got engaged but before we placed a deposit on the wedding venue (thank the lawd). Another time, we’d been together for four years and had talked for at least three of those years about eventually moving to another state (we lived in a relatively small town in Florida at the time, and it’s not the greatest place). I tried to move that conversation past the daydreaming phase and into planning phase for a long time, and finally realized he was never going to make that move. He was content to stay in one place – physically, mentally, emotionally – and I was not. Like Jordan and Kendrick, we evolved in different ways over the years, and we went from being extremely compatible to not compatible as partners. He is now married to a very nice woman he went to high school with, and I have lived in four different states and am still single. Yet he and I count each other among our very closest friends and talk almost weekly. We still sometimes revisit what went wrong, and we continue to agree that we wished we could have been happy together forever, but that it simply wasn’t possible.

      In all cases, we were together for at least two and a half years and had loving, respectful, FUN relationships. Great sex, shared sense of humor, plenty of shared activities we both enjoyed. I tend to discuss rather than argue, so there wasn’t ever a bunch of drama or hurt on either side; we just talked and talked and talked and finally had to accept we would never be able to agree. In one case, we saw a counselor who helped us to realize that it was actually okay to concede that we were at an impasse, and that we shouldn’t view it as a failure, or “giving up”. It was simply making a decision that it was best for us to go our separate ways.

      Jordan and Kendrick’s love story has been one I’ve enjoyed and seen as inspirational, and aspirational, for years. I’m sad about what’s happening, too, but I hate to see people say that if they love each other, they should magically be able to work it out. You know how many people I love? Hundreds. Can’t marry everyone you love and make it work. <3

      • Val

        …and I realize that having children and actually being married (which I never did) is a different level of commitment, so my experiences aren’t exactly apples to apples as compared to Jordan’s. I just keep hearing (or reading I guess) Jordan say that love is not their problem, and people seem to be having a visceral reaction to that. Which I completely understand. I’m just saying, I can relate to that. I understand the particular sort of heartbreak and frustration that comes with having to leave a person you love. It seems there should be a solution when you love a person *that much*. I am still talking with a former partner twenty years later about how we might have been able to make things work. Sigh.

        • Mel

          Agree, Val. And your therapist helped you have a key insight about letting go when it’s at an impasse. We humans tend to spend too much time forcing and faking things. If love were all we needed, the world would not be what it is. We must chart our own liberation in this morass, and we can. Good therapy is often the key. Wishing you the best on your journey too <3

  • Evie Lane

    ♥️ All you need is Love ♥️
    ♥️ Love is all you need ♥️

    • dena

      No offense meant, but I can’t imagine the “all you need it love” mantra is very helpful right now. Also – patently false. If love was all you needed I would have married one of the 3 people i fell in love with before meeting and marrying my husband. dang.

  • Jess

    Warning: I am totally on the- if you love each other, stay together train. Although we don’t know whats going on with you and Kendrick, and of course, we certainly don’t need to know, I can’t help but say if you love each other, try to make it work. Don’t hate me for saying that! I used to look at my grandparents and see that they had lived a whole lifetime, through wars, poverty, child loss, deaths…etc. and stuck together because they made a commitment, and that means something. You don’t always have to like each other in a marriage, I know they certainly didn’t- but you do have to respect each other, which it seems like you two do anyways. Even in my own marriage, there has been so may years of intense ups and downs but you have to hold on, because I think at the end of your lives you’re not going to remember the anger of today, the petty resentments that you harbor for each other, half of which you built in your head with unrealistic expectations ( I am guilty of this 100%)- you will remember what mattered: starting a family, building a life, building a community, standing for each other, seeing it through until the end. That is the beauty of it that makes it worth while. Be kinder, be easier, be humble. It is so hard to do those things, but I think when you take a look at the bigger picture you will find that none of this mess you’re in will matter in the end.

    So let it be messy, let it be loud, let it be bad- who cares ! But don’t give up on that 20 something couple who fell in love and made big promises. My husband and I were the same 20 something couple, too.

    And of course, I am not judging whatever choices you both make!! I just know that I’ve had to learn to open my heart more, say things that hurt my pride, face truths of my own, learn to re-love that same person. Facing my husband with all of that vulnerability is the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do, but I don’t regret it – not for a single second.

    Much love Jordan

  • mara

    After reading all the responses, I have mixed feeling.
    I got married at 24, way too young. By 28 we were looking a way out. I had a bag ready so I could leave after the last fight I would ever allow us to have. But kept staying, for years. Fights about nothing, just bottled up resentment, anger about the world, shitty jobs, being young and not knowing ourselves, blaming the other person for our pain.

    It is true, something has to change. Someone has to change to make it work.
    He changed.
    I don’t think we would have stayed together if he didn’t make the decision to change first. It was certainly not all his fault, but he made the first step, and everything got better.

    I agree with some of the comments, if you keep trying and trying and nothing changes, why stay in the marriage? love yourself first, find your own happiness. Move on from pain.


    If you make a last effort (either of you), things can be everything you ever wanted. And that is what I’m hoping for Jordan. That something clicks and makes the difference in her life that she is looking for.
    With her husband.

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