Author Archives: thegreydivorcee

Travelling Alone As A Single Woman

I’ve always wanted to go to Israel, ever since I read Leon Uris’ book Exodus back in the late 60s. I even dreamed of going to work on a kibbutz when I was in my late-teens, but wars and life got in the way.

And then, this year, I finally got my chance.

But I was scared. Although I’ve travelled with friends and family since my husband left me, this would be the first time travelling completely on my own – albeit as part of a tour group.

So I sat down and went through my fears.

1) What if I died on the trip?  Well… really… if that happened, I’d be out of the picture so it wouldn’t matter, would it?!

2) What if I got sick on the trip? This one did give me serious pause, because the opportunity to book the trip came AFTER Trump had made his pronouncement about moving the US Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.  Given the violence that followed, the Canadian Government put out an official warning advising Canadians not to visit.  Because of that warning, my health insurance would now only cover if I got sick or injured myself  ‘naturally’. (Eg.  Fall and break my leg.  Heart attack.) Should I be injured and need care following a terrorist incident, I would be on my own financially.

That was a huge stumbling block.  The money I have now, barring government pensions, has to last for the rest of my life, so although I am relatively comfortable, I can’t take too many risks.

My daughter is my executor, so we had a long talk.  What if I did get injured in an attack?  What if the cost of care and returning me to Canada wiped out most of my money?

She’s done a lot of travelling, knew how important this trip was to me, and urged me to go.  I had lived in London through the IRA bombing campaign when it was at its height, and since 9/11 I have travelled to France, the UK, Germany, the US and Spain – all places where there’s been terrorist activity.  What were the chances?  Slim indeed, but still a chance.  But then again, there’s a good chance I will be in a car accident every time I drive on the roads in this city!

This was a very personal decision.  I know many of my friends would not have made it. If you find yourself faced with a similar situation, you need to think very carefully about how your future might be impacted.  

3) What if I missed connections?  I was travelling in the wintertime – what would happen if fights etc were cancelled due to weather?  That can happen any time – but I had travel insurance and a credit card.  As long as I didn’t panic, I would be okay.

4) Believe it or not, what scared me the most was the idea that I would be on my ‘own’ for a week when I was with the tour group.  Part of the joy of a holiday – for me at least – is sharing the experiences with someone, whether it’s eating meals together or discussing our likes or dislikes on a visit to a museum or stately home etc.

What if everyone else were in couples? I’d feel so isolated and obviously single, wouldn’t I?  What if – what if – no-one spoke to me for a whole week?  What if I had to eat alone at the hotels? It was almost a visceral fear like being back in High School.

But when I realized that was my worst fear – over and above being caught in a terrorist attack – I gave myself a good talking to.  Was I really going to give up on visiting a country I have dreamed about for decades because no-one might talk to me?

Really?

I mean… really?

You know what?  I had one of the best trips of my whole life.  Yes, most of the people were in couples or families – Canadians, Brits, Americans and Australians. (There was one other single woman there – a totally inspiring Australian lady – who has had the most amazing adventures alone. )

Of course people talked to me and I talked to them.  Apart from that first evening and first breakfast, I never ate alone and had plenty of people to chat during the day.  When you’re on your own, people seem to make an effort to ensure you don’t feel left out.  It’s not High School any more.

So, if you have a dream country you’ve always wanted to visit, but no-one will come with you – itemize your fears.  Are they realistic?  What is the worst thing that could happen to you?  And if it’s something you can live with, go for it!

 

Seeking Revenge

Before you embark on a journey of revenge, dig two graves.  Confucius.

In 1995, a woman in the city where I live – let’s call her Lucy – who’d been married for 38 years, was dumped by her husband for a younger woman. As with all women of that generation, Lucy had devoted her life to her marriage, family and his career.  Distraught by his betrayal and her pain, she shot him six times.

Lucy’s husband recovered and went on to marry his mistress. Lucy was found not guilty of attempted murder by reason of temporary insanity and served time in a mental institution.  On her release, scorned by society and abandoned by many of her former friends, she struggled to rebuild her relationships with her adult children and find a purpose to her life. I’m not sure she ever did, and, sadly, she died within a few years, aged 66.

Twenty years later, after almost exactly the same number of years of marriage, I found myself in the identical situation when my husband left me for a younger woman.  Consumed by my own grief and emotional pain, I  understood, in a way I never could have before, how and why Lucy did what she did. I even admired her for it.

In those first awful months after he left me, I swung between two fantasies.  Ending my pain by taking my own life – that would show him!! – or taking revenge and ruining his – or hers – personally or professionally!   

Thank goodness I followed neither of those paths.

As time passed, I realized (as I wish Lucy had) that a man who treats you like like that isn’t worth it. (No matter how much you love(d) him or how many years you’ve been married.)

I repeat – a man who treats you like that ISN’T WORTH IT!

And neither is his mistress.

My husband and his mistress had, I believed, ruined my life, my sense of myself and self-worth. Had I followed through with either of those ‘fantasies’ the one person who would have been hurt the most, would have been me. (Closely followed by my kids.)

I couldn’t – couldn’t – let that happen, because if I went down either of those destructive paths, he would have won in utterly destroying ‘me’.

I only had to look at the difference between Lucy and her ex-husband’s obituaries to see that.  His lauded all his wonderful accomplishments, both professionally and in the charity world – accomplishments Lucy had supported and encouraged.  Her obituary? The first thing after her name was the crude nickname she’d been given by the press and the details of her crime.

Did – do – I want my life to be defined by my husband’s betrayal and the failure of my marriage?

Or do I want to rise – stronger than before?

Do I want to rediscover ‘me’?

George Herbert said, Living Well Is The Best Revenge.  I both agree and disagree with that sentiment.

Disagree in that it assumes the other person gives a s—t about you and your future!

Agree in that – hard to believe when you’re in the middle of the emotional agony – you’ve been given second chance.

Finding ‘you’ again, finding purpose, joy and meaning will take a lot – a lot – of hard work.

It’ll take time.

It’ll take learning to believe in your own worth and value.

But persevere.

Please persevere… even in the darkest of moments.

Try not to obsess about him.  About her.  About them together. Difficult at the best of times – absolutely impossible in those early days.

Surround yourself with family.  With friends. Let their support and love help heal you.

Go in search of the ‘you’ that got lost in your marriage.

Life will get better.

You will get stronger.

Yes, there will still be times, even years later, when grief intrudes, but your ex is not worth the pain of wasting any more of your life on him.

I wish Lucy could have known that.

This too shall pass…

There are times when all the inspirational quotes in the world, all the positive self-talk, all the telling yourself that you should be over this, that you’re moving on, that you’re stronger and better than you were, all the kind supportive comments of friends, family and counsellors just don’t cut it.  Something triggers you and the tears and pain and grief cuts right into your soul leaving you as raw and in such emotional agony as those early days.

There’s nothing – nothing – anyone else can do to help or console you. You know you’re just going to have to go down that dark path by yourself and know you’ll come out the other end into the light.

And when you do emerge into the light, it’ll be bitter-sweet, because you know that somewhere down the line – maybe not for weeks, months or even years – that darkness is waiting for you up ahead, hiding out of sight, waiting to pounce again when you’re feeling vulnerable.

For me, it was a combination of things. I had packed away all the pictures that include my ex-husband – or at least I thought I had.  But last night I came upon a family photo taken of us all a couple of years before he left me. We look happy.  Solid.  I’m looking at the camera with total innocence, his arm around me, no idea that my marriage and family are about to implode.  

Was he planning his departure even then?  Is that photo a lie?

And if it’s not a lie, if we were happy, if we were solid, if he did love me, how could he have stopped loving me so suddenly?

That’s almost worse to deal with.

That started the descent. I’m also jet-lagged, recovering from a bad cold and dealing with a chronic low grade pain in my hip which is currently being investigated, so finding that photo when I was tired and run-down led to the perfect storm.

I cried for about a solid hour  – probably the first time I’ve cried that much for over a year – and I know that, sitting here writing this right now, it wouldn’t take much to start me off again. 

I know it’s going to be better.  I know my life already is better.  I just have to look at the jar of dimes I started at the beginning of the year – two jars, one for bad days, the other for good days. I add a dime to one of them every evening.  There are only 3 dimes currently in the ‘bad day’ jar.  Three out of seventy-two – that’s pretty damn good.

But when you’re in that pain, it doesn’t help.

But… I’m holding on. I know I’ll get through.  I know I’ll come out the other end.

But I’m not the same as I was and I have to accept that.  That happy innocent woman smiling at the camera has gone forever.

On the outside I might appear like I’m moving on, that I have my life in order – and I am.  Trust me, I am. But inside I know that my heart is broken.  It will heal – it is healing – but someone who has had a heart attack is left with a permanent scar on his heart muscle.

It’s the same, I believe, if your heart has been broken emotionally. That scar will always be there.  Most days you’ll be fine, but once and a while you’ll get a reminder of the damage.

And then it will pass again.

Hang in there.

It gets better…

Although my husband left me almost three years ago, I was only officially divorced exactly one year ago today – March 6th, 2017.  One of the saddest days of my life.

In many ways, I feel the end of our marriage was the biggest failure of my life and for so long the pain was excruciating, both physically and emotionally.

I remember people who’d been through the same thing assuring me that things would get better, but in the midst of that agony I couldn’t see light at the end of the tunnel.

If you’re in the early stages of this process, I want to let you know that they were right. It does get better.  I know it might not feel like it right now, and you may still have many dark days ahead of you, but it will get better.  You will become stronger.  You will become more resilient.  You will – you will – become happier.  That’s not to say that there won’t be times, like today for me, when you won’t look back with a sense of loss, but it will get better.

This time a few years ago I couldn’t have imagined today.  I spent it with my brother and sister-in-law.  We had a lovely lunch out, then we went for a walk along the Thames, enjoying a chocolate ice cream as we watched ducks paddling furiously against the current, dogs careening around the park, tails battering with joy from side to side, new mothers out walking their babies, adults out walking with their aging parents.

Despite today’s anniversary and the sad loss it represented, it was a good day.  I had a good day yesterday.  I will most likely have good day tomorrow.

And so will you. If not tomorrow, then one day.

Hang in there.  I does get better.  I promise.

It Takes Two To Make a Relationship Work…

… or does it?

Princess Diana famously said, ‘There were three of us in our marriage, so it was a bit crowded.’

And then there’s that old chestnut, “It takes two to destroy a marriage.”

After my ex left me, I wrestled with both those sayings.

If it hadn’t been for my ex’s girlfriend (now wife) giving him an ultimatum, would he have ever left?

And if it takes two for a marriage to break down, then I must share 50% of the blame for the failure of mine. 

I asked my husband, ‘What did I do wrong?’ 

‘Nothing’, he replied.  ‘I just wanted more. I fell out of love with you and in love with her.’

But I continued to berate myself. I must have done something wrong, or there must have been something so wrong with me, that he would give up on our almost 40 year-old marriage without ever telling me he was unhappy. If he was prepared to go to pre-marriage counselling with his girlfriend to prevent them making the ‘mistakes’ we had, couldn’t he have suggested counselling for him and I before he decided to leave me? Maybe that way we could at least have tried to sort out what issues it appears we had?

What was the ‘more’ that I was so lacking?  The mental agony and guilt of wrestling with my ‘failure’ as a wife is, I’m sure, what led to me having a nervous breakdown in 2016.

And then a few months ago, I read this article https://pro.psychcentral.com/recovery-expert/2017/10/the-myth-of-it-takes-two-to-ruin-a-relationship/ and it was as if a weight lifted from my shoulders.  The article suggests that it’s not true that it take two for a marriage to fail.  It will fail if only one person is truly in that marriage.

If I’m 100% honest, there are probably some things I could have done that might have saved our marriage, but in the long run, I’m not sure they would have made a difference.  Given my ex later admitted he’d wanted out of our marriage for over 15 years, it means, for 15 years, there was only one of us in our marriage.

And it wasn’t him.

The reality is, we’re now divorced. He’s remarried. I’m rebuilding my life.

But the weight of that burden of guilt I carried has been somewhat eased.