Category Archives: Relationships

Special dates

Special dates hold power.  Sometimes they’re one offs  – graduation, moving into your first house, getting your first job, walking your child to school for the first time.

Sometimes they roll around every year – birthdays, anniversaries, Christmas, New Year, Valentine’s Day.

Following a major life event – like divorce –  dates that once brought  joy, now bring… what?

I was married on November 2nd, 1977. Today would have been my 40th wedding anniversary, so it’s been looming large in my consciousness the past few weeks.  How will I feel?  How will I deal with it? Is it going to be as big a deal as I’m worried it might be.

Three years ago my husband and I were in the kitchen of our house.  I even remember what he was wearing – jeans, a blue and white striped shirt – and the scent of his aftershave – Old Spice.  We shared a kiss and discussed the fact that in three years time it would be our fortieth anniversary.  We’d been through a lot during our marriage –  separations due to his work, his infidelities and chronic health issues – and survived, so we talked about doing something special for our fortieth.

Less than six months after that discussion he’d left me for another woman.

Two months ago, they married.

To complicate things, November 2nd has always been a bittersweet date for me.  My dad died on our second anniversary, so while I celebrated the fact it was the day my husband and I were married, there’s always been a lingering sadness about the date because of my dad.

But that’s another story.

Today.

Today…?

What do I feel?

Honestly…? Better than I thought I would.

This is our third wedding anniversary since he left me.

The first one – our 38th – was very hard.

‘Firsts’ are hard, but in my experience, it was the second of everything – birthdays, Christmas, New Year, Wedding Anniversary – that was the worst.  The ‘first’ felt almost unreal.  The ‘second’ is when it really hit me – this was forever – but in the eyes of family and friends, you’re supposed to have ‘got over it’ by then – or at least, be well on the way to healing.  I know I was guilty of that kind of thinking before it happened to me, but for me, it’s this third year where things are really becoming easier.

Despite everything, I wish my husband and I had made it.

I wish we were going out for dinner tonight with our kids, our family intact.

But we’re not.

And it’s not.

And on this third anniversary of our non-anniversary, that’s… okay.  It’s getting better.

I promise you… whatever you are feeling now… it does – and will – get easier.

Hang in there.

Gaslighting

When someone you love deeply treats you as if you were nothing, it’s nearly impossible not to feel like you are truly nothing.

The term Gaslighting comes from the 1944 movie Gaslight, starring Charles Boyer and Ingrid Bergman, in which a ‘loving husband’ tries to convince his wife, and others, that she is going mad. Of course she’s not – he’s manipulating her through lies and deceit to get something he wants.

Sadly – very sadly – it’s a technique many men use when ending (or sometimes within) a relationship.

Truth and lies become fluid. If you are the victim of this behaviour, you will probably find yourself questioning your own sanity. And even when your husband is caught out in a lie, he may continue to argue it’s not something he would ever say or do. And because you love him you’ll want to believe him.

So how can you protect yourself against being gaslit?

Firstly, listen to your gut. If you sense there’s a disconnect between what you’re being told and what you feel, there probably is.

Take some time to think back on your relationship.  Are you aware this has ever happened before?  If he’s ever done it once before – even on something minor – he has the capacity to do it again.

Try and protect yourself from being taken in again either before, during or after the divorce. This might involve writing down things he says or does that don’t sound correct to you – and perhaps even e-mailing them to a friend.  If/when he denies he ever said or did them, you have the proof that you are not mad.

And if he does still try, or manage, to gaslight you… do NOT be hard on yourself.  You are NOT gullible. You are a good, trusting and trustworthy person – qualities you do not want to lose.

 

https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/here-there-and-everywhere/201701/11-signs-gaslighting-in-relationship

 

Attitude and Gratitude

Healing from an emotional avalanche is a long, long journey, often beset by many setbacks. For me, the early days were the baby steps of putting one foot in front of the other in the hope of simply making it through the day – and night – before waking up and starting all over again.

I’ve talked before about the things that helped – family, friends, walking, eating properly, starting a gratitude journal, but there was something else that helped me a lot when mind was unable to focus on reading anything longer than a paragraph. Pinterest.

Yes, you read it right.

Pinterest.

Specifically the thousands and thousands of inspiring and motivational quotes you can find there.

These and many others helped me see I was not alone in my grief and that there was hope out there.

Only as my concentration and focus started to slowly return (it took over a year year) was I able to try to read some of the books recommended by friends and family. Vikki Stark’s Runaway Husbands. Victor Frankl’s Man’s Search for Meaning, Eckhardt Tolle’s The Power of Now, Brene Brown’s Rising Strong.

I still love Pinterest for its quotes and check it out every few days.

But there’s also one video I return to that is inspiring and humbling. Maybe you’ve seen it already – Randy Pausch’s Last Lecture. (Click here to view.) I saw him first on Oprah and then watched his Last Lecture in its entirety on Youtube before buying his book.

The lessons he teaches are simple yet profound. My body might not take too well to bouncing anymore, but I’m going to work hard at following his example and be a Tigger rather than an Eyeore.

A friend in need…

I always thought I was a pretty solitary person, and that I didn’t have many friends. How wrong I was. They say ‘a friend in need is a friend indeed’ and when I was in need, they showed up. I can only hope that in future, I can be such a friend to others.

The following is a letter of thanks I sent to those amazing people who helped me through that first year. I’m posting it here for the following reasons.

  • During that year, there were countless nights (and days) when I was literally on my knees with grief. The pain was so great there were times I dreamed of going to sleep and never waking up. But there were good moments too – more than I realised until I wrote them down – and I survived. And you will too.
  • Friends and family were – and remain – crucial. They will be there for you. Accept their help.
  • An acquaintance read my letter. She had a friend going through something similar, and she said the examples I gave, suggested ways she could help her friend.

Dear Friends:

Tomorrow, August 5th, 2016, is a day I never imagined would, or wanted to, happen. I will be signing the final settlement papers on my divorce.

When I took my wedding vows back in 1977, I meant every word, yet here I find myself, 39 years later, a soon to be divorcee. What the hell happened? If you’ve been told that we ‘drifted apart’ or that our split was a ‘mutual decision’, please know that’s not what happened. His ‘office wife’ demanded – and was given – a promotion.

The last 15 months have been hell. They say grief is the price we pay for love. Trust me, I have paid. Big time. I never realized grief hurts so much, both emotionally and physically, and there is no way I would ever have got through the terrifying sensation of teeteering on a high wire with no safety net below me, or the countless nights that found me curled up in a ball on the carpet sobbing, without the support of YOU – my family and friends. So if I have spoken to you in any form – in real life, by phone, skype or digitally – since that morning he walked out on me, please accept a huge thank you from the bottom of my heart.

This – in no particular order – is just some of what you have done for, and with, me over the past eighteen months: helped me carry 66 heavy packing boxes into my new apartment, refused to allow me to spend ‘trigger days’ alone; hauled me off for the weekend on my birthday; opened your homes to me so I can just ‘be’, cry, sleep and walk your dog; taken me dog-walking in the park at midnight; introduced me to Chinese food I would never have tried on my own; spent endless – endless – hours on skype or telephone calls assuring me I will be okay; accompanied me to legal or financial meetings; walked a labyrinth; tried to teach me to swim; taken me out on the lake in a paddle boat; taken me to the theatre, movies, a home music concert, a folk festival; invited me out for coffee, lunch or dinner; planned the entire itinerary of a holiday so all I had to do was show up; introduced me to live jazz; climbed hills and mountains; ticked a climb to a Highland lochan off my bucket list; written and thrown a message in a bottle into the ocean (no reply yet!); taken me to, and picked me up from, the airport; ordered in pizza and laughed with me at Graham on the Beeb; given me a hug just because I looked like I needed one; given me foot balm to ease my ‘soles’; made me laugh by signing yourself the founding member of FAAC – Frank’s An Arse Club; gone through my settlement line by line, time after time, helping me through the legal morass; stood under the Big Dipper, glittering in an indigo sky, and reminding me we were truly blessed; asked a musician to play my favourite tune for me when I was too shy to ask for myself; cooked for me; allowed me to cook for you; taught me Feelin’ Groovy on the ukulele at 8 in the morning; sat in the sun or round the kitchen table sharing a bottle of wine (or two) or a meal; walked – through fields, glens, parks, ancient historical buildings, city streets, shopping malls, lanes that Mary Queen of Scots once rode down; come with me to the vet when I had to put my beloved golden retriever down; shared a picnic in the park; played guitar and sung in front of an open fire in a Scottish pub; encouraged me to get back to writing; gone second-hand clothes shopping and giggling like teenagers as we mixed and matched outfits in the changing room; made me beautiful handmade Christmas decorations so I can start afresh with new holiday traditions; assured me that I wasn’t going mad – that it’s all part of the process; inspired me by surviving your own later-in-life divorces and showing me there is light at the end of the tunnel; shared the challenges of divorce from a kid’s point of view so I can try and understand what my own kids are going through; been present at the birth of my grandson – (was also present for the birth of both my granddaughters before all this began which was just as incredible); invited me to visit you, no matter which part of the world you live in – I hope you meant it because if I haven’t already, I will turn up on your doorstep (having given you warning and making sure the invitation is real) one day; encouraged me to (successfully) submit a photo to the BBC.

YOU ARE ALL AMAZING – EVERY SINGLE ONE OF YOU. To have you all in my life, to have your support and friendship, I truly am blessed. You know that saying, that when the night is the darkest, the stars sparkle the brightest? Well you have been my stars.

I know I’m not totally through it yet. In fact, the counsel from those of you who have already walked this path is that the sense of loss never – completely – goes away. Not 100%. My heart has been scarred emotionally, in the same way that the heart muscle of someone who has experienced a heart attack is physically scarred. You can’t love someone for 20, 30, 40 years and turn it off, just like that, when they do. There will still be days when it hits me hard, but I am stronger now because you were there when I needed you.

THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU!!!!

 

Runaway Husbands

RUNAWAY HUSBANDS: The Abandoned Wife’s Guide to Recovery and Renewal by Vikki Stark.

Website: http://runawayhusbands.com

I love this book. It was my ‘bible’ in those first few months after my husband walked out on me, assuring me I was not alone, and talking me through the healing process. Even now, two years later, I’ll pick it up, and read through a few pages. There’s always something in there that helps me see how far I’ve come, in both practical and emotional ways, but still acknowledges the hurt and loss that will probably – to some extent – always be with me.

Written by a therapist, who was blindsided when she found herself in the same situation as so many of us, she gathered together the stories and thoughts of over 400 women who had also been abandoned. Patterns emerge thoughout the book, both of pain and healing. You – and we – are not alone. Other women have walked this path before us. Their stories are painfully recognizable… and their healing and transformation inspiring.

Close to the beginning of the book, Vikki Stark gives the 10 Hallmarks of what she calls Wife Abandonment Syndrome. Working my way through the list, I ticked off nine-and-a half of them. (I was fortunate – my husband didn’t leave me destitute.) I found the list extremely helpful as it left me feeling less stupid. I wasn’t the only person who had been manipulated by a man I loved.

Here is Vikki Stark’s list. I hope it helps you the way it helped me.

1) Prior to the separation, the husband had seemed to be an attentive, emotionally engaged spouse, looked upon by his wife as honest and trustworthy.

2) The husband had never said that he was unhappy or thinking of leaving the marriage, and the wife believed herself to be in a secure relationship.

3) The husband typically blurts out the news that the marriage is over out-of-the-blue in the middle of a mundane domestic conversation.

4) Reasons given for his decision are nonsensical, exaggerated, trivial or fraudulent.

5) By the time the husband reveals his intentions to his wife, the end of the marriage is already a fait accompli and he often moves out quickly.

6) The husband’s behavior changes radically, so much so that it seems to his wife that he has become a cruel and vindictive stranger.

7) The husband shows no remorse; rather, he blames his wife and may describe himself as the victim.

8) In almost all cases, the husband had been having an affair. He typically moves in with his girlfriend.

9) The husband makes no attempt to help his wife, either financially or emotionally, as if all positive regard for her has been suddenly extinguished.

10) Systematically devaluing his wife and the marriage, the husband denies what he had previously described as positive aspects of the couple’s joint history.

Friendship is a Lifeboat

Now that the “battle” is over (I have been officially divorced ten months), I have my future in my own hands: I have a life to live, a future to embrace. Right? Well, maybe not exactly quite there yet.

I had thought I was coming to grips with the rejection and grief that official court-signed document had delivered when I first read the words: Certificate of Divorce. Yet more and more I realize I have been withdrawing into myself. Was I depressed? Yes. Was I anxious about this wide-open future? Absolutely terrified, to be honest and still am. I’ve been taking a mild anti-depressant for over a year now and that helped me to stop bursting into tears at little or even no provocation, but the grief over the death of my marriage, the fact that money is a constant worry. No little pill can make any of that go away.

I was drifting further and further into the hinterland of aloneness, staying home, not answering letters, turning down coffee meets with friends, even family. I’d say I was busy, but the truth was I just couldn’t get out of my misery and into the world. I didn’t want to hear one more person tell me that I’m better off without him. I know that but why can’t I get over the stupid, senseless grief?

About one month ago, I caught a shining sliver of light at the end of the dark tunnel.

I sit on the Board of a local writing group and one morning I found myself obligated to attend a Saturday meeting. I guilt-talked myself into going to do my duty as Secretary but in reward, I would leave right afterwards before the monthly workshop began. And worst of all, it was to be some sort of “touchy feely” workshop in which we were all going to–God forbid–discuss and record our writing goals and dreams. Write them down and put them in a homemade “Dream Box.”

I had once wanted to be a writer, but all I’d written for the past four years were lists, emails to lawyers and endless, fruitless job applications. My writing goals and dreams? Vanished into the mist of the past, just like my marriage.

Oh, I was really on a sorry-for-myself roll. I dragged myself around the house to shower, got dressed, drove to the meeting and sat down.

But…just before the meeting began, one of my writing friends commented that I looked tired. “Yes,” I answered, “I am tired today.” (Setting up my exit for after the meeting, you see.) And oh sure, there came the ever-present tears. I WAS so very very tired–all the time tired. This gentle person standing in front of me said something, I’m not really sure exactly what: a simple comment (not pity) about depression, about how the miracle was that one day, unexpected, the heavy cloud will be gone. She understood, didn’t try to “jolly” me out of it, but in a few words let me know that I was not alone, that we are all together in this soup of life.

Suddenly I didn’t feel so lonely. Some of the weight in my heart did miraculously lift.

I stayed after the meeting and I made the flipping dream box complete with someday writing goals that I dredged out of myself. I talked for a long time with a writing friend I have known for more than 20 years. Divorce, loneliness, none of these topics were mentioned directly, but my friends were there, offering their presence to me like a warm soft blanket. Not a cure, but such a comfort to be around people who care…about me, of all people! I think I needed to know that I wasn’t completely rejected, not hopeless, not unloved.

That day my friends picked me up, dusted me off and sent me back out into my new world without seeming to do anything. I want to remember this: how simple words can mean so much, how it isn’t a weakness to reach out but rather just part of being human. And maybe most important of all, not to be afraid to accept love.