The truth about relationship breakdown

On 15 February 2015 I broke off my engagement, ended my 6 year relationship and decided to leave the father of my son.

The beginning of this year was really difficult for me. My son was about 4 months old, I was on maternity leave, I had just about mastered the whole breastfeeding thing, but it was still really difficult. I was getting very little sleep.

I was also supposed to be planning a wedding.  I was planning a wedding that I wasn’t excited about. In fact I was dreading the day, partly because I knew that my then fiancé’s family were in the middle of a feud and no weddings, christenings or funerals were going to melt the ice that had frozen over, partly because, deep down, I knew that I didn’t want to marry him.  Arranging the wedding was a chore at best; at worst it was a nightmare. My ex wanted me to ask my family to contribute more money.  I wanted him to ask his family to cease their feud.  I didn’t ask my family for more money.  He didn’t ask his family to cease their feud.

My then fiancé wasn’t there. 

He wasn’t there when, in my sleep deprived state, I nearly crashed the car carrying our 4 week old son.  He was in Washington on a work trip.  He didn’t call. 

He wasn’t there after I asked him, just once a week, to get home by six in the evening to bath our son.  Not for me, but for our son, for their relationship.  He didn’t make it once, not once in eight weeks. 

He wasn’t there to eat the dinner I had cooked.  He called me from the pub to ask whether I could put it to one side so that he could eat it later. 

When he was there, we argued.  He said that he would ‘blame, begrudge and resent me for the rest of our lives’ if I did not agree to have our son christened a Catholic like his mother wanted.  He said I needed to compromise, but compromise only ever entered my ex fiancé’s vocabulary as an instruction.

So, I turned to Google.  Yes, you read that right.  I turned to Google. I typed:

‘What is love?’

‘Should I end my relationship?’

‘relationship problems’

‘marriage guidance counselling’

‘when should relationships end?’

‘relationship breakdown’

…and probably about fifty zillion other search terms along a similar vein.

Believe it or not, Google didn’t know the answer.  Google knows most things, but Google didn’t know this answer.    

Part of the reason I set up this blog was because I wanted to speak to people, to read about people, to connect with people who were going through exactly what I was going through, who had been through exactly what I what I was going through.  I wanted to know if I should end my relationship.  Having now separated from my ex, these are my words of wisdom if you are considering separation, if you are teetering on the edge and don’t know whether to take the plunge.

These aren’t the answers, because only you know your answer, but asking these questions helped me to find my answer.   

Would you be happier on your own…possibly for the rest of your life?

Now, I am not saying that you will be on your own for the rest of your life.  I hope that I will not be on my own for the rest of my life, but I do know that if I am on my own for the rest of my life I will still be a lot happier than I would have been had I stayed with my ex.

Every relationship has its ups and downs.  All relationships go through tough times. Few couples could say that a new baby didn’t put a strain on the relationship.   And the grass is always greener.  There may be a guy or girl in the office who is really funny and vaguely attractive.  There may be an ex who you haven’t seen in years and who you remember fondly now.  You may even have found someone new.  These affairs and infatuations may turn into something.  I hope for your sake they do, but they may not. You need to make your decision on the basis that they will not.  Relationships made at this time may not be built on the best of foundations.

Do you have different values?

Every relationship requires compromise, negotiation, respect for your partner’s values and assimilation of those values into your life, but sometimes those values are too distinct to ever be reconciled without drastic compromise.  Drastic compromise is likely to cause a rift as one of you struggles against what you really want and what you must become in order to fulfil the other person’s needs. 

My ex has shown his true colours and I don’t like him.  I don’t like his values.  I don’t think he has integrity.  He certainly has no respect for my values or my sense of integrity.  I wish I had seen my ex’s true colours sooner.  I think he hid them, and I didn’t follow up on the clues.

What impact will your separation or divorce will have on the children?  

This was the question that perplexed me the most and for the longest.  I do worry about the impact that our separation has had on Cygnet and will have on Cygnet for the rest of his life.  Not a day goes past when I don’t wish that Cygnet had a Mum and Dad who love each other.  But Cygnet has never had a Mum and Dad who love each other.  Staying together would never have given him a Mum and Dad who love each other.  We would have been living a lie, when we were able, and miserable hell when we were not able to live the lie.  I try not to think of the impact that staying together would have had on Cygnet in the long term.

Cygnet’s relationship with his Dad has improved beyond measure since we separated.  Cygnet and his Dad spend time together.  They’ve bonded.  My irrational self is sad about this.  I want to be the centre of Cygnet’s universe and had we not separated I would have been.  My rational and logical and level-headed self knows that Cygnet now has two centres to his universe.  He has a Dad who is more engaged than he ever would have been had we stayed together.  He also has me –  the real me, and not the me trying to live a lie.  This can only be a good thing.  

I am not for a second trying to downplay the damage that parental separation and divorce can have on children.  What I am saying though is that there are opportunities and positives to come out of every situation.  Cygnet’s relationship with his Dad is one of those positives (logical self speaking!). 

I think, at times, we have to reconcile ourselves to the fact that some relationships should end.  Some relationships are toxic and have to end.  Some relationships just run their course.  The challenging thing is having the bravery to take the plunge and to admit that the relationship can’t continue.  Ending a relationship takes courage.  A bucket-load of courage. 

Truly happy marriages don't end in divorce

Truly happy marriages don’t end in divorce

My Kid Doesn't Poop Rainbows
And then the fun began...
Single Parent Pessimist

39 Comments

  1. November 3, 2015 / 11:58 pm

    Oh so very brave and true! You had to do what was right; especially for Cignet. It really sounds like your lives have improved as a result. So so sorry for your anguish, though. Good on you for having the guts to share this….and I google crazy things all the time!!!
    Anna Brophy recently posted…FEBRILE CONVULSION : THE DAY OUR WORLD WAS SHAKENMy Profile

  2. November 4, 2015 / 2:03 am

    I have been married for the past 22 years. While it hasn’t all been sunshine and roses, we really are a great match together. We’ve built a wonderful family of 10 children and are expecting our 11th child any day now. We fight. We make up. We laugh. We watch Netflix together. Life is good. Now, my mother on the other hand…married my father knowing he was a drug abuser. She thought she could “fix” him. Did she love him? Maybe. But she’ll admit to just wanting to escape her awful family home that was filled with violence due to two alcoholic parents. So she married my father, had me…then he wound up in prison for drug charges. She worked hard to support me. She bought a home. When my dad was released, he came back to live with us. My sister was conceived. We are five years apart. My dad started hawking all my mom’s things to pay for his drug habit. He always came home high. There was fighting in the home. My mom finally left him (divorced him) when I was 8 years old and my sister was 3. I remember how wonderful it felt to just live with my mom, to have NO fighting in the house except for me and my sister’s squabbles. My did had little to do with us afterwards. I didn’t mind much at all. My house was peaceful and we lived in a beautiful neighborhood. Safe neighborhood. I had my mom, my sister, and my grandma and I loved my childhood even though i didn’t have a dad around. My mother to this day feels guilt that I didn’t have a father around to help raise me. I think she’s crazy for thinking that way. I was happy. I grew up happy. Now, I am a happy adult. What she did was the BEST thing for me and my sister. My dad wasn’t a good father. We were better off without him in the home. Better to be raised by a single, happy parent than by two miserable parents who are always fighting and hate each other. That is my story. I don’t really have much to offer as far as MY marriage goes, but that is a child’s side of divorce. I’m so glad my mother didn’t stay with me dad just because of “the kids” and wanting us to have a father around. Better to have no father than the wrong kind of father, you know?

    • thesingleswan
      November 4, 2015 / 10:44 am

      Hi Katrina,

      thanks for sharing your story. It sounds like your Mum had a really tough time of it and had to make some tough decisions, but ultimately she made the right ones and that is what matters.

      It is also lovely to hear about your happy and long marriage, and your soon to be 11 kids. A lot of the stuff that you read suggests that divorce and separation has a negative impact on children’s ability to forge happy relationships of their own when they are older. You story is clear evidence that this is not the case, so thank you very much for sharing it. It gives me courage. x

  3. November 4, 2015 / 6:07 am

    The stress of planning a wedding often seems to be too much for some couples. The realisation of what they’re doing focuses the mind. I’m seen and heard of it happen many a time.

    Having been through a divorce, I don’t think it’s a decision to take lightly (obvs), but sometimes it is the correct decision (I believe it was for me, although immensely painful at the time). What anyone should consider, however, is whether the grass will genuinely be greener? But that’s just my two penneth worth.
    JOhn Adams recently posted…Male infertility; would you talk about it?My Profile

    • thesingleswan
      November 4, 2015 / 10:40 am

      Hi John,

      thanks for your comment. ‘Is the grass genuinely greener?’ is probably a phrase which should ask ourselves at various points in our lives and in the face of any life changing decision. I am glad that divorce was the correct decision for you too, albeit immensely painful obviously.

  4. November 4, 2015 / 6:24 am

    I agree it must have taken a lot of courage for you to end your relationship, especially when that meant you were becoming a single parent. Scary stuff. I also don’t believe that having two parents living under the same roof is the best. Surely two happier, separated parents is much better for a child. You sound really tough, I hope you’re proud of how well you’re managing x

    Thanks for linking up to #fartglitter x
    Mama, My Kid Doesn’t Poop Rainbows recently posted…#BestAndWorst LinkyMy Profile

    • thesingleswan
      November 4, 2015 / 10:37 am

      HI, thanks for your comment. I don’t feel tough, trust me! but it is really nice of you to say. #fartglitter

  5. November 4, 2015 / 1:19 pm

    As a child of divorced parents you have made the right choice. Living in a house with arguments and resentment is hard. You sounded like you thought things through so well and your little one has benefited. Brave post and I hope life is a bit brighter for you now xx #thetruthabout
    Sarah Howe (@RunJumpScrap) recently posted…Best and Worst Week #25My Profile

    • thesingleswan
      November 5, 2015 / 8:50 pm

      thank you! It is really nice to hear positive stories from children of divorced parents. The impact upon Cignet is what worries me the most. Thanks xx #thetruthabout

  6. November 4, 2015 / 2:51 pm

    Brave post. How awful and stressful to go through such a traumatic and sad time with such a tiny bub and in such a sleep deprived state. I wouldn’t have thought the break up will have a vast impact on such a young bub and even if it did, you’re 100% right that having parents apart and happy is much healthier than parents together and sad/angry/stressed etc. I have friends going through it now and the guilt they say they feel is overwhelming but you have to take care of your own needs to be the best parent you can. You’ve defo made the right choice, however hard that was/is. #theTruthAbout

    • thesingleswan
      November 5, 2015 / 8:49 pm

      Hi,

      thanks for your comment. I appreciated it. x #Thetruthabout

  7. November 4, 2015 / 4:55 pm

    It sounds to me as though you thought long and hard about it and came to the right conclusion. Many people jump into marriage without really thinking all that much first. It’s bl*** hard work! Well done for being brave and taking the leap. Not an easy decision of course. x
    Suzanne recently posted…Can you keep a secret?My Profile

    • thesingleswan
      November 5, 2015 / 8:48 pm

      Hi Suzanne,

      thank for your comment. I appreciate it. I think I did us both a favour really. I escaped a divorce and he escaped a second divorce (he was already a divorce). I don’t think that his mother, who is a devout Catholic, would have looked kindly upon a second divorce.

      Here’s to not jumping into a marriage. x

  8. November 4, 2015 / 7:52 pm

    I guess the reason why Google doesn’t know the answer to the question is because everyone is different and everyone’s situation is different – sure there will be similarities but there will always be things unique to you and your relationship too. I don’t think anyone can say you didn’t try hard enough or the grass is always greener because with you and your partner there were definitely irreconcilable differences. Cignet will definitely be better off with a happy Mummy. X #thetruthabout
    thenthefunbegan recently posted…The Truth about… #50My Profile

    • thesingleswan
      November 5, 2015 / 8:46 pm

      Hi,

      Thanks for your comment. In my case, the grass was greener, a hell of a lot greener and for that I am thankful! Thanks for your comment.

  9. November 5, 2015 / 9:29 am

    Such a great post that I am sure will help many people. It’s so important to do the right thing for you – and it seems that your decision worked out best all round..I hope you find happiness with someone on the future but you’ll always have your son anyway 🙂 Thanks for linking up with #TwinklyTuesday
    Lisa (mummascribbles) recently posted…Twinkly Tuesday {3/11/15}My Profile

    • thesingleswan
      November 5, 2015 / 8:44 pm

      Hi Lisa,

      thanks, as always, for your comment. #TwinklyTuesday.

  10. November 5, 2015 / 2:14 pm

    Having done pre-marriage prep classes as part of Rev T’s job, it’s astonishing the number of people who get married without talking about major life issues – exceptions, money, children etc – and discover during the course of the classes that they agree on much less than they thought! Having shared values is vital

    • thesingleswan
      November 5, 2015 / 8:44 pm

      Interesting. Pre-marriage classes sound like a good idea. Maybe I should draw up a tick list of key questions to ask my tinder dates… Might as well suss out our values early.

      thanks again for commenting.

  11. November 5, 2015 / 10:56 pm

    This is a great post and so interesting to read. Our divorce stories are quite different but I share exactly that guilt of not being able to offer two parents in the home – the ‘perfect family’ . I’m just starting to realise that to be anywhere near perfect parents we have to be happy parents, and then (hopefully) everything else will follow. I admire your strength so much and when your fluffy cygent is a majestic swan he will do the same, I am sure. X
    Clare recently posted…Fancy A Game Of Teen Bingo?My Profile

    • thesingleswan
      November 13, 2015 / 1:42 pm

      Thank you Clare. I appreciate your comment. I have to say your blog post about your ex and yourself being the waiting staff at your daughter’s 16th birthday is my aim. I have 15 years to get there – it could be achievable. thanks again for your comment. x

  12. November 7, 2015 / 2:22 pm

    These are very important questions to ask. I think there is also an important fourth question to ask. How would staying together harm your child?
    I dont mean physically, if that is the problem you need to get out. But in terms of their emotional development, their expectations of relationships, and their developing attitudes towards you as a mother and a person.
    If you had stayed in the relationship, your son would have seen a different you. He would have learnt from his father that you and your views/feelings and opinions are not that important.
    I know this because it happened to me. I stayed in a bad marriage too long, thinking it was better for my sons to have a family.
    My youngest especially learnt plenty from his dad about how to treat people. He is I hate to say it not a nice boy. He treats people including me with the same distain as his dad does.
    Thankyou for linking up, Tracey xx #abitofeverything
    Tracey Abrahams recently posted…That Friday FeelingMy Profile

    • thesingleswan
      November 13, 2015 / 1:40 pm

      Hi Tracey,

      thank you for your comment. It must have been really hard for you to say that your son is not a nice boy and to have to watch him treating you badly and with disdain because he has learnt that behaviour from his Dad. I am not saying that our separation won’t mean that my son won’t treat me with disdain, I have absolutely no doubt that my son will hear bad things about me from his Dad and his Dad’s family, but by separating from his Dad, I am at least sending out the message that I don’t condone it.

      thanks again

      pen x

  13. November 9, 2015 / 1:22 pm

    Being a child of divorced parents I can say that although at the time it had a huge impact on me (I was 14), it was by far the best thing for everyone. My parents were never really happy, I don’t ever remember them being affectionate to one another. Now they are both married again and very happy. I don’t see my mother, but I do know that my father and step-mother are happy. It does take courage to end that relationship, but sometimes that is the better choice. I can’t imagine what my life would’ve been like if my parents had stayed together. Sending hugs hun. I’m sure it was a very difficult decision to make. xxx
    #abitofeverything
    Morgan Prince recently posted…Capture Those Special MomentsMy Profile

    • thesingleswan
      November 13, 2015 / 1:36 pm

      Thanks for your support. I particularly like hearing positive stories from children of divorced parents. Keep them coming.

      THanks again

      Pen x

  14. November 10, 2015 / 12:22 am

    You know I adore every single word that your fingers tap out, Pen, and this was no different. I think too many people don’t ask themselves these truly important questions. I know I was no exception. When I was planning my wedding to my first fiance, I KNEW deep down that something wasn’t right, but I didn’t want to go through the enormous hassle of calling it off (even though divorce is arguably a significantly larger ordeal). Thank God he cheated on me. That experience forced me to ask uncomfortable questions when my now husband and I were discussing marriage. And you know what? BEST. THING. I. EVER. DID. was sit down and have that hard conversation. It showed us that we WERE compatible, that we WERE in love, and that we WERE ready for this.
    I’m so proud of you for being so brave and sharing your journey. I know from experience that being honest about our tough times is a special sort of hard.
    Also, can I just let out a huge PREACH at this sentence: “He also has me – the real me, and not the me trying to live a lie. This can only be a good thing. ” In my opinion, the best way for a child to know to live it’s best life is to witness it’s parents doing exactly that. You’re being strong and true to yourself. That’s better than any amount of privilege your child would have by having married parents.
    You’re doing this the right way. Keep on keeping on.
    Bekah Rigby recently posted…It’s That Month Where We’re Only Grateful For The Good Stuff, Which Is Sort of BullshitMy Profile

    • thesingleswan
      November 13, 2015 / 1:35 pm

      Hello!

      Great to see you back here. How is the book writing going?

      Thanks so much for your kind words. I too will be having some hard compatibility conversations in the future (I hope, that’s if I meet someone!). There is no way I am going to ignore the clues again in the future. The fissures were there, I just ignored them and plastered over them.

      Thanks again/

      Pen xx

    • thesingleswan
      December 29, 2015 / 11:03 pm

      Thanks Min. You too. Take care. x

  15. December 30, 2015 / 10:48 pm

    googling whether to break up with something, i have done this and still been confused too lol.
    the gut never lies, we just need to learn to listen to it sometimes.
    Claire Jacobs recently posted…Single Parent Linky; 2015 Round UpMy Profile

    • thesingleswan
      January 4, 2016 / 10:14 pm

      Ah yes, so very true. When your heart, your head and your gut are say the same thing you really really need to listen. Thanks for the comment.

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