One of my passions is to connect people. I find there is enormous value in meeting someone who’s been or is in a similar situation to you because the connection is often invaluable. Not always of course, but the ‘getting it’ and truly knowing how someone else is feeling is a deep relief. I found it an incredibly cathartic experience to connect with others who faced the same ordeal. When they said ‘I know what you mean’, I really knew they knew what I meant.
It’s because of this I’d love to feature the stories of others on this blog, however far through your journey you are, so drop me a line at email@example.com if you’d like to share your experiences, anonymously or otherwise. I’ve made several new friends and rekindled old friendships on the basis of separation and divorce. There is great comfort in being fully understood, and being able to identify with someone else is the reason I both started this blog and wrote my book. Surviving Separation and Divorce features the stories of five friends, each of whom has a unique experience and perspective on a whole variety of scenarios.
I have never told the full story of my separation and divorce on The Entirety of Life. There are a few reasons for this, some of which are as follows…
I decided not to share what happened for the privacy of my ex. Strange as that sounds, and as I discuss in my book, I would never share all my own mistakes with the world, so why would I cast up his?
That said, the decisions he made were his. In writing ‘my story’ for Surviving Separation and Divorce, I was factual as I saw it from my perspective. I tried to reflect on my own shortcomings, as well as the actions that triggered the end of our marriage. So why did I share it in the book? I felt it was important for authenticity, and also because many of my experiences reference what happened and because it had an impact on my interpretation of the world around me (sometimes even now).
I wanted to leave the door open. I wanted my marriage to work out. That said, I couldn’t fathom how I would ever trust him again, but I still wanted it to be saved.
By keeping our story private, I also made it more possible I felt, for him to return to our marriage without (to my mind) everyone’s disapproving eye. Once time had passed, our separation was ‘normal’ and people still didn’t know, there seemed little point in opening the can of worms that was ‘the story’.
I didn’t want people to read this and assume that my experience was unlike, or just like, theirs. Everyone’s experience is unique, although some are sadly similar. While my experience is common, I didn’t want people to feel unable to identify with the feelings and emotions purely because their experience wasn’t quite the same.
I was ashamed. I hated what happened and how it ended. It connected to all my feelings of ‘not-enough-ness’.
But that said, here is my ‘Divorce Story‘ with a few of the questions I’m asking others too.
What is your ‘divorce story’?
My ex had a relationship with someone else. When it came to choosing, he didn’t choose me and our marriage. That, in a nutshell, is it.
My story though, as you’ll know if you read my posts, is much longer, more nuanced, and complicated than that. There were huge heartaches, lessons learnt and believe it or not, positive experiences. I learnt an enormous amount about myself and who I am and who I wanted to be.
What did you find hardest during separation and divorce, and how did you cope with it?
I found loneliness one of the hardest things. I wasn’t used to being alone and didn’t want to be. I’d lost my best friend, lover and companion. I was often physically and emotionally on my own.
I found great comfort in the company of friends who came alongside me and supported me, welcoming me into their home and family life. When I knew I wouldn’t eat or would sit at home and cry, I’d pop round there and just be in the normality of their day-to-day life. In my own surroundings, I found that shifting the space around helped me to adapt to the isolation because the gaps from his belongings or presence weren’t as apparent. Skyping friends and having them ‘around’ via the internet was another saving grace. I gradually got used to being alone and have become a lot more comfortable in my own company.
How did you manage your relationships with your in-laws?
Because we didn’t have children, my relationship with my in-laws naturally faded, but that’s not to say it wasn’t difficult or upsetting for that to happen. I wrote to them to thank them for their support and involvement in my life because it was important to me that they knew I had appreciated that, whatever had happened between their son and me. I also periodically text if there were big events such as a birthday, but I found it painful when it was clear my number had been deleted. I didn’t resent them for this, but it was clearly time to move on from even those most infrequent of niceties.
What were the biggest emotions you experienced?
Retrospectively I found it interesting that I was only angry at the woman involved in his relationship, perhaps because at the time I still loved him. My biggest emotions were shame, utter devastation at the way things had turned out, and relief. I was relieved when a decision was reached, 18 months in, that we would divorce. I was relieved not to have to wonder or feel confused and desperately hopeful yet despairing any longer. In the early days I can vividly recall sitting on the floor of my flat, sobbing, with my heart in physical pain, and the sickening feeling of reading through things that had been said. It doesn’t hurt anymore but I can truly understand the horrendous double grief of betrayal and loss.
How did you practically separate?
We flitted back and forth between living together and not, living with friends (me) and family (him) for a while too. We then lived together while separated which was emotionally draining and physically awkward. Ultimately he moved out when I gave an ultimatum of ‘her or me’ but his belongings remained for about a year. When we reached a decision on divorcing, I chose to pack up his things and for him to collect them with my present. I explain more in my book but in essence this was my ‘safe’ space by then, and my independent home, and I didn’t want either compromised by him being there along or looking through my things. Thankfully he agreed to this arrangement and a family member joined me as he moved out his things to support me.
What have you done with memorabilia from your marriage?
So I think most of it is still in storage at my parents’..! It’s one of those things I keep meaning to get rid of and sell on but never quite get round to… I plan to sell my wedding dress and other various things like that. I’m not sure what to do with the photos really, but I still have the album (I think?). It’s actually fun seeing photos of family and friends from so long ago, if you leave out the actual wedding element. I sold my engagement ring, which is a story in itself you can find here. I really do need to get round to sorting all this…
What were some of your most memorable elements of that time of your life?
The friendship, love and compassion from others is the standout for me. I feel hugely fortunate that the main memories are so positive. I could never forget the support and love extended to me in such generous and bountiful measure. My book is dedicated to those people and the acknowledgements go some way to describing the sheer gratitude I feel for those people. This is the thing that makes me cry about my separation and divorce – the unconditional love I was shown throughout and could never even hope to repay.
What did you learn about yourself through the experience?
I’m stronger than I ever thought I was. To live through that experience and emerge without being bitter was not easy, but it happened. I hope that I’m also softer, with more understanding of situations people end up in, and their complex emotions in those circumstances.
What does life look like now?
Life looks radically different these days. I changed career, moved to London, met my new partner and had a baby. Oh and wrote a book about my divorce. If you rewound 10 years and asked me, this isn’t where I’d have expected to be, but I love my life now and am thankful for all the new experiences and opportunities that have happened along the way. I didn’t believe some of them would happen, and I would never even have imagined others, but that’s one of the beauties we can find in separation, divorce and relationship breakdown; while some doors close, others open that we’d never have expected.
What piece of advice would you share with others in that situation?
It changes. It sucks, big time, but it does change. It may be awful right now, but your circumstances won’t remain like this forever. There will be days of brightness, opportunities and experiences you can’t think of yet, and ultimately there’s the possibility of great happiness again.
If you think this would help a friend, please pass it on. I’m always happy to chat to anyone in this situation – just send me an email.
If you have a story you’d be willing to share or that you’d like to share anonymously, please drop me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org – I’d love to hear from you and share your story to help others in this situation.