Images courtesy of mrpuen (new life old life), Ambro (sofa separation) and Simon Howden on freedigitalohoto.net.
DIVORCE. It’s not what you planned on (until death do us part), but it’s where you’ve landed and in a way it signifies a death, the death of a once healthy relationship. People are shocked; “What a nice couple you were”, “But you were so good together”. And you were good together. The place you are now doesn’t take away from your successful years or make your whole relationship null and void. Time changes things and the two people you were when you met are not necessarily the same people now, even if they occupy the same space on the sofa. Change is natural and positive if your grow together, but when you stop appreciating and challenging each other, you grow apart.
My relationship was good. A generous, respectful and caring one. We met at 22, married at 28 and ‘grew-up’ in Holland together. However, by our mid-30s we were far from the twenty-something versions of ourselves, and unfortunately in a way that no longer gelled . A distance built up from years of compromising my dreams for his job, finally took their toll. Missed opportunities that I started to look back on with regret.
He was happy and comfortable, and why wouldn’t you be. We had great careers, a beautiful house and money in the bank. But a growing sense that something was missing was gnawing away at me, until I finally figured out what….. ME. I’d been sucked along on the corporate train and life had become about long working weeks and weekends spent buying things to fill the house. That was a far cry from who I was inside. I longed for adventure and excitement and life had become dull and monotonous. We’d embraced the rat-race big time. The difference was, I wanted out and he didn’t. He had ambition to keep climbing that ladder and filling our house. I wanted to take risks, move abroad, start something new together.
Out story isn’t special. Many people get caught in the grind. Many people don’t see it as a grind. Where we let ourselves down was by not addressing it. Neither of us have ever been great ‘confronters’ – in fact we’re both active ‘conflict avoiders’. So for years, a catalogue of let-downs were added to the pot, until one day it overflowed.
In reality, at the point we laid our cards on the table, it was already too late for us, but we agreed to go to couples counselling to try to pull it back. Couples counselling was one of the best decisions we made in our entire relationship. No, it didn’t save our marriage, but it saved us as individuals. For the first time, we spoke honestly and frankly about how we felt in a safe environment. We learnt more about each other during those sessions than we had done in years and some of it was surprising.
The honesty and understanding that grew between us during this time is invaluable. It gave us the courage to call time and walk away before things became toxic. Yes, we walked away, but with complete awareness of what had gone wrong, why and without blame. And that’s precious.
So what does life look like after divorce?
Divorce has changed me for the good and the bad, but I’ve learned some of the most important lessons of my life that I now take forward with me to my next chapter. I understand myself and what I need in a relationship better than I ever did and I’ve learned that both compromise and conflict are healthy – To avoid either is bad, to practice too much is also bad. There’s a balance.
My biggest learning – COMMUNICATE!! If you can’t do it together at home, seek someone who can help you. There’s no shame in that and it might save things before they go to far.
Being divorced at 39 is by no means an easy ride and the two years since we have split have been bad, good and bloody awful. Your identity stripped, feeling like a failure, dealing with upset family members and the practical stuff of lawyers, banks, houses etc is hard to deal with. But through 99.9% of it, we have been able to remain friends, which has removed a layer of pain and eased the process.
I honestly thank counselling for that.