My friends are starting to get divorced. This week, one of my university friends contacted me to say that she and her husband are getting a divorce. They have a two year old daughter.
We haven’t been in contact for years and I last saw her about five years ago. She’d heard that I am now a single mum having separated from my partner, Cygnet’s father, a couple of years ago. She wondered whether I would meet her for coffee. We are meeting in a couple of weeks’ time.
When I first separated from my now ex, I was the only one among my friendship group whose long term relationship had broken down. I was the only single mum. I knew women at work who were single mums, but they were older and their kids are older. I was an early adopter of the single mum badge. I was the only single mum in the village, so to speak.
An estimated 42% of marriages end in divorce, so I shouldn’t be the least bit surprised that my friends’ relationships are now breaking down. Love doesn’t, I’m afraid, always last forever. Neither should I be surprised that my friends contact me when their relationships are going through bumpy patches or they are getting divorced. I’ve been there, got the t-shirt, survived and, if they made single mum badges, I would wear my single mum badge with pride.
It does make me sad though. I have just re-read some of my old blog posts written at the time of my separation, or shortly after. My blog posts tell you the truth about my relationship breakdown and about my first month as a single mum. I wrote some dark words about some dark days, and I wrote quite a few posts about wanting to co-parent without a lawyer and about family mediation. I also wrote a letter to give to my son on his 18th birthday.
I’d forgotten how awful the experience was. I’ve come a long way and my heart goes out to those now going through divorce and separation. It can be tough, monumentally tough, but you will not only survive, you will thrive. Trust me when I tell you that you are stronger than you look and you are braver than you could ever imagine.
My observations and advice:
Recognise that divorce and separation can be unpredictable.
It is a cruel truth that at a time when you can barely look at your ex, you have to make a load of joint decisions. These decisions can be as small as what to do with those kitchen utensils you bought together in John Lewis, to as big as the custody of your children.
Logic and rational behaviour would dictate that the big decisions would be more emotionally charged than the smaller ones. I found that my ex’s reactions were unpredictable in the extreme.
My mum had been helping me pack up the kitchen in our jointly owned house before we sold it. She accidentally packed a piece of Tupperware belonging to my ex. His sister had lent it to him. My ex went nuts, like totally nuts. He ranted and raved. I called my mum. She found the offending piece of Tupperware in a box at her house and drove 45 minutes to deliver it back to him. He was embarrassed and apologetic to my mother. My family will forever refer to this incident as ‘Tupperwaregate’. My point is that emotionally charged situations make for unpredictable behaviour
Set yourself some goals.
About six weeks after separating from my ex, I tried to visualise what I want the future to look like. I refer back to this post once in a while to remind me of what I am aiming for with this co-parenting relationship. Sometimes I feel we’re making progress. More often, I am reminded of how much we’ve still got to work at this. The vision has helped.
It is also worth setting yourself some personal goals. These needn’t be massive life changing goals, you are going through enough already. I set myself goals like buying myself some flowers each week (I love the spring when daffodils are only £1!), going to the theatre once a month, going to art galleries and museums. These were fun goals because theatre, art and flowers are all things I love. They helped me recover because they helped me to re-find myself and who I am.
Try not to feel guilty.
I spent hours, literally hours, lying on the floor sobbing because I felt that I was ruining my son’s life. The guilt that he would be a child of a ‘broken home’ and that I couldn’t give him the childhood that I had with two parents who (still) love each other was overwhelming.
It has taken me a while to realise that the home that I left, the home that my ex and I had created together, was the ‘broken home’. The home that Cygnet has with me now is happy and joyful. He sees his father regularly. My parents are more involved than they would have been had I stayed with my ex. Cygnet adores his Grandma and gets really excited when Grandpa is around. Cygnet and I don’t spend as much time together as I would like, but our time is quality time.
I have come to realise that I haven’t failed at all. Choosing to leave my ex, the father of my son, was the bravest and most courageous thing I’ve ever done.
Divorce and separation are tough, but truly happy marriages don’t end in divorce. My advice for my friends who are divorcing ? When I meet my divorcing friend in a couple of weeks’ time I will reassure her that there is light at the end of the tunnel. She will not only survive, she will thrive and so will her daughter.