Category Archives: Relationships

The Cruellest Month

T.S Eliot’s poem claims that ‘April is the cruellest month’, but when it comes to marital break-ups, that title belongs to January.  In fact, Family Lawyers refer to January as ‘Divorce Month’ as it’s the busiest month of the year for divorce filings.

Why?  Because many spouses hold off for Xmas to be over before they drop the bombshell.  And although my husband didn’t leave me until – ironically enough – April, I can now look back and say with certainty that December 27th, 2014 was the day he checked out of our marriage both mentally and emotionally.

With the divorce rate now being 40% in Canada, it’s possible you have found yourself in this situation over what is supposed to be the happiest season of the year.

They say only fools give or accept advice, so what I’m going to offer here is an observation from someone who is almost 5 years down the path in which you might have suddenly found yourself.

Bear with me.

I went out for a New Year’s walk along the river path this afternoon, and what I saw was a perfect metaphor for where you might have unwillingly found yourself.  Along with several other spectators, I stood on a bridge and watched as some chunks of ice  floated along the river, before smashing into an ice jam.  There they lay, stuck, for some time, until one or two broke free and slid under an ice bridge.

We watched.  Would they reappear… or would they be trapped under the ice until spring came along to release them?

But no… first one, then another emerged from the ice and continued on their journey.

It still wasn’t smooth sailing.  There were more ice jams, more ice bridges to navigate. Sometimes they got caught once more… but they finally broke free and continued down the river.

And that’s what the journey through divorce feels like.  Especially in the early stages.  You get battered from place to place until there are times when you feel like you are drowning.  But then you re-emerge and continue down your path.  It’s still not going to be plain sailing, and there’ll be another ice jam.  Once again you may get stuck… but once again you WILL break free.

As I headed towards the second bridge which would bring me back across the river, I found it closed off to the public. Structural problems, apparently! So I had to make a detour to a smaller bridge about 100 yards away.  This one was decorated in roses, the flowers of summer.  And as I made my way across it, I spied 2 pieces of ice floating quite happily down the river.  But what they didn’t know, was they were approaching some small rapids.  They were in for a bumpy time.

And that made me think about this post-divorce  journey. In the beginning, it’s rough, so rough that you feel like you’re drowning in the pain and anger and loss and grief.  But, over time, it starts to ease. You go through a smooth patch… and then it gets rocky again.  Smooth for longer this time… then you hit some rapids… but then it eases and you float along.

And so it goes.

If you’re on this painful journey, trust me, you’ve got it, girl.  You can do it.

This year, you will discover that you are stronger than you ever believed possible.

The Ghosts of Christmases Past

There are times when I find it hard to believe this will be my fifth Christmas since my husband left me.

Christmas is a special time for every family. As an immigrant family, far from home, parents, siblings and cousins, we created our own traditions over more than thirty years  – everything from the number of trees we put up, to their decorations, to food and presents.

It’s a common belief that the ‘first’ of anything after a divorce (or death) is the hardest, but I’m not sure that’s true.  That first year I remained in total shock as the ‘firsts’ rolled around.  My daughter gave birth to her first child – a wee boy –  two days before that ‘first’ Christmas, so mixed in with all that grief, there was a huge amount of joy.

For me the ‘seconds’ were the hardest, because that’s when it became real.  This was what it was going to be like for the rest of my life.  Also, by two years in, my friends and family felt I should be ‘over’ it so it wasn’t something anyone except friends who had been through similar experiences really understood..

Navigating these past few years, as Christmas has taken on a whole new shape, has been tricky.  While life generally bumps along, it’s at times like this, when society suggests that families should be at their happiest and closest, when those family fractures feel deeper than ever.

But while many of those Christmases over my 37 years of married life have blurred into one, I’ve had a couple of experiences over the past few years that have made these Christmases amongst the most special of my life.

The first came about in November 2015, about 8 months after my husband left me.  I’d gone back to Scotland and was visiting an old friend.  She’s known me (and my ex) forever, and tears were streaming down my face as I told her what had happened. A little while later, she handed me a small parcel.  When I opened it, I discovered it was a handmade cross stitch Merry Christmas Banner. “I want you to have something new, something special this Christmas,” she said.  “Something that has nothing to do with him or your past.”  She’d started making it for me not long after she found out the news of my separation. The work- and thought – that went into each stitch, made me feel so loved and protected.

The second…? Last year my daughter invited me to stay over at her place on Christmas Eve so that I could be there on Christmas morning to see my grandson’s reaction to his presents under the tree.  It was an experience I will never forget and one I would never have had if I’d still been married.  Forget the pile of presents,  his eyes went as wide as saucers when he saw that Santa had ‘drinked the drink’ he had left out for him the night before.

Drinked the drink.

A beautiful innocent phrase born out of pain and one that I will treasure for the rest of my life.

Second Wives

Did you notice the curtains across the picture of the woman on the left?  When I saw them –   in real life – I assumed they had been placed there to protect a valuable picture from the sun.

But I was wrong.

The woman in the picture was the first wife of the man in the picture on the right. After she died, and he remarried, he insisted his first wife’s painting remain on the wall. Turns out his second wife wasn’t at all happy about that, and had a curtain rail placed above the first wife’s painting so she could draw the curtains across her predecessor’s image when her husband was out.

Which got me thinking…

I imagine being the second wife of a man whose wife died is quite different to being the second wife of a man who left his first wife for you. It must be very heady stuff to have a man abandon his marriage and family because he is so in love with you.

But, if a man has done it once, does the second wife ever – in a secret, vulnerable moment – experience a feeling of insecurity that if he’s done it once, he might do it again?

I like to think so… but I don’t know.

What do you think?

Here we go again…

I’m just back from visiting an elderly aunt – my mum’s youngest sister.  Out of six children born to my grandparents, she is the only sibling left, so she’s become a bit of a surrogate mother to all of her orphaned nieces and nephews.

During our visit, we discussed one of my cousins – let’s call him Andrew.  He had his sixtieth birthday at the beginning of this year, and a few months ago walked out on his wife of thirty-five years for – you’ve guessed it – a younger woman.

Blindsided, Andrew’s wife has been left distraught, bereft and bewildered.  What did she do wrong?  (Of course she did nothing wrong.)

Stunned by their father’s behaviour, Andrew’s sons are no longer speaking to him.

His family is broken.

But that doesn’t matter, because (yes, I’m being ironic) Andrew has found true love. Continue reading

Trigger dates

For the last ten years of my marriage, August 5th, was a date that brought me joy. On  August 5th, 2005, after enduring four years of kidney dialysis, my husband was given the generous gift of a cadaver donor kidney.

I remember that day clearly; the lunchtime phone call from the hospital and their inability to contact my husband.  (Although he had a cell phone, he refused to carry it.)  Even though I was his wife, for reasons of patient confidentiality they couldn’t tell me the reason for their call, but they did answer my question.  “Is it time sensitive?” I asked.

The voice on the other line replied, “Yes’.

“How long does he have?” ”

“Thirty minutes.”

Thirty minutes and they’d give the kidney to someone else.

My son and I swung into action.  I phoned every person and place I could possibly think of where my husband might be. My son jumped into my car and literally cruised the streets downtown, close to his office, looking for him.

Long story short, they got to the hospital in time and he got the kidney.

I remember that night, seeing him post op, unconscious, his body swollen with all the fluid he’d received.  Honestly… he looked so white and awful I was terrified he might die.  But he survived and our lives changed. No longer were any of us – but particularly him – tied to the relentless demands of the dialysis machine.

Ten years later, on August 5th, my daughter discovered that the story my husband had fed all of us – that there was no-one else involved in his decision to break up our marriage – was an outright, and deliberate, lie.

Until that moment, I think I’d carried the illusion that our marriage might still be saved.  After that moment… after almost 40 years of loving him, I felt irrelevant and worthless. I wasn’t worth being told the truth.  What purpose did I have?  What meaning did my life have?  What meaning or purpose had I ever had?

Over the past few years, the sense of worthlessness has eased.  It’s a cliche but true – how someone treats you says nothing about you and everything about them. My meaning and purpose have started to crawl back, but August 5th is never an easy day.

And then, driving to pick up a friend from the airport today, I saw a sign by the side of the road that said, “You matter’.

It turns out it’s one of many signs displayed around our city by the woman depicted in this article. She states, “I believe that someone out there read that sign and it made their day better.”

I don’t know about anyone else, but Ann made my day better. Tomorrow – August 5th – will be much easier.

Thank you, Ann.

 

Should You Meet The Other Woman?

When my husband left me, he insisted there was no-one else… but hoped there might be someone in the future.  And he promised, out of respect for me and our kids, that he wouldn’t even attempt to date for six months.

In my gut I knew there was someone else but I was accused of being paranoid. Hadn’t he promised me there was no one?? But then the truth came out. Yes, there had been another woman all along. Continue reading

What do you need more of in your life?

Photo by Ju Carvalho.

Gumption: the ability to decide what is the best thing to do in a given situation, and to do it with energy and determination.

After a six-month break, I’ve started writing Julia Cameron’s Morning Pages again.  I’ve struggled for a few days getting even two pages written, far less three, so, to make things a bit easier for myself, this morning I used a journalling prompt I found on Pinterest last night.

“What do you need more of in your life?”

The three pages came quick and fast – oh yes, I need a lot more self-discipline, a good dose of self-belief, and a little male company wouldn’t go wrong – but it wasn’t until about halfway down the last page that I finally figured it out.  What I need – what I really need more of – in my life is ‘gumption’.  Find that, and perhaps the rest will fall into place. Continue reading