“My mission in life is not merely to survive, but to thrive; and to do so with some passion, some compassion, some humor, and some style”
― Maya Angelou
When my marriage of 29 years was falling apart, I was so torn about what to do. I wished I had someone to guide me. I didn’t know what was the best decision to make for everyone. Our children were grown up & left home but I still feared disappointing them.
Sadly my marriage did eventually end but I walked away knowing I’d done my best. So I’d like to share some thoughts with you.
I am not a trained professional in these matters. This blog only contains my personal experiences & what I found useful.
Firstly, this is a really traumatic event in your life. If you are the one to walk away, it is easy to underestimate the effect it will have on you.
I can honestly say, I went crazy for a while. Partied, drank too much, actively sought male attention, loads of it, cried buckets of tears and drove my amazing long suffering friends mad! Looking back, I don’t feel I really recovered fully for at least two years.
It’s now been six years & I feel like I have some tips to offer you if you are considering leaving your spouse.
- Make sure you have done everything possible to save the relationship but not at the expense of your happiness. We went to marriage counselling & worked on it for a long time but ultimately it was never going to work.
- Make sure you put plans in place. Unless you are lucky enough to be having an amicable separation, things are going to be tough for a while, especially if as I did, you are the one moving out. Think about where & how you will live. Can you support yourself? I had a savings account into which I had put some money aside & a part time job.
- Jobs to remember, update your details with the bank, the taxation office, phone company, ie your address, phone number, & redirect your mail.
- Have some counselling! A good counsellor can not only help you cope with your grief, loss & anger but also put you in touch with the right agencies if you need assistance with housing, government benefits, hotlines for domestic violence, depression, and so on.
- Maintain your dignity. Don’t respond negatively to any provocative behaviour from your ex husband. Be kind. Remember he is grief stricken & heartbroken. Once feelings have settled (and they will in time) it may be possible to have a cordial relationship again. It’s hard to think long term at this time, but what a gift to your children & extended family if you can eventually happily attend family functions as parents, & they don’t feel like they have to worry about whether mum & dad are going to get along.
- BE SAFE!! Don’t be alone with your ex. Meet in public places. He may never have been physically abusive in the past but this is a high pressure situation. He needs time to heal & so do you. Truthfully I felt afraid of what might happen after the breakup. I found limiting the time I spent talking with my ex husband during that first year to be wise. He didn’t cope well at all once he realised I was never coming back & became very bitter. Thankfully that has completely resolved.
- Don’t rush straight into Divorce proceedings. Let the dust settle first & then start to have those conversations with your ex about division of property & settlement. Try to remain calm during these discussions. You are not at war & it’s just STUFF! Work out what’s truely important to you & negotiate for that! Accept you may not get your own way on everything. It’s so easy to slip into major arguments at this time & say things you both regret which can irretrievably damage the new relationship you are trying to build for the sake of your children & family.
- Ideally hire a solicitor if you can. This can be costly but it’s worth it in the long run. They know the law & can act as a settlement mediator between you & your ex. A word of caution – make sure your solicitor is on the same page as you. Ex hubby had one firm who drew things out as long as they could, charging all the while. He ended up dumping them in the end & rehiring someone else. My out of pocket expenses ended up around $4500 but we were involved in a large family business which was a lot more complicated.
- Recognise the ways you contributed to the demise of your relationship & be honest with yourself! Guess what! It’s not all his fault no matter how badly you think he has behaved. Consider that maybe you weren’t so perfect either. It’s not until you take this step that you can truly move on & not be trapped in that cycle of blame, bitterness & self pity. ‘Poor me’ and we all know people like this, men & women. So something to strive for definitely!!!
- Lean on friends & close family. Allow them to comfort you & help you. Now is not the time to be Miss Independent. This time in your life does get better but it’s one day at a time. Forgive yourself if you make mistakes. And you will!
- Most of all take care of yourself! Eat well, join an exercise group or walk with a friend. Do some activities that fill you up & makes you happy. Go to the library or get on line & read lots of books & articles on relationships and life after a marriage breakdown. Sounds corny but it helps. I’ll make a list with links in my next post. Until then, stay strong & true to your ideals.