Category Archives: Relationships

On Being a Single Grandparent

My husband’s job took him away from home, so I spent a lot of time as a single-parent. Particularly when our kids were really young, he was often gone for weeks, months, and one time for over a year, with only two short visits home.

I loved my husband.  I love my kids and grandkids.  As immigrants, with extended family living thousands of miles away, I cherished our tiny family unit. When our kids got married and the first grandchild came along, it was wonderful seeing that family expand.

I loved it when my husband and I spent time with our little granddaughter, babysitting her for a few hours, or having her for a sleepover.  We took her to our local park, out for dinner or breakfast, and once – unsuccessfully – to the movies. Spending time with her, it was like we were getting a chance to make up for all the time we’d spent apart and unable to enjoy our own kids together when they were little.

So when my husband walked out on me, he didn’t just destroy our marriage.  Our family – us, our kids and grandkids – was shattered.

Three years later, I’m starting to find a new normal. But what our first granddaughter got to experience with her grandparents as a unit, no longer exists. And after years of being, at times, a single parent, I now find myself a single grandparent.

That was brought home to me the other day. My daughter and I were walking her son home from day home.  He was a bit fractious, so we played the One, two, three… wheeeeh, game with him.  I’m sure you know it.  The one where you each take one of the child’s hands, count to three, then swing him up for a big jump.  His mood quickly changed and within seconds he was giggling instead of grumpy.  I remember my ex and I doing that with our eldest granddaughter and her loving it, but we’ve never had that chance with our second granddaughter, grandson, or the grandchild on its way. And they’ve never had that chance with us.

And that makes me sad.

For us.

But mostly for them.

Our eldest granddaughter still remembers those days, and our separation both confuses and saddens her.

Needless to say, they do much better for presents nowadays than when my husband and I were together.

But does ‘stuff’ really make up for what they’ve lost?

What we’ve lost?

The Other Woman

One sad fall-out from my husband’s affair – and subsequent remarriage – was having my eyes opened to the truth about women. As a nurse, my working life was spent mostly in the company of other women.  Nurses are amazing. They are compassionate and there to assist both patients and fellow staff members in good times and bad. Of course you find the occasional unpleasant one here and there, but on the whole they are brilliant.

I could never understand when female friends talked about the bitchiness they experienced working in offices, or not trusting other women. And I felt very fortunate in comparison to the back-biting my husband described in his mostly male work environment.

And when it came to the subject of affairs, I knew of only one woman amongst my friends who’d cheated on her husband.  Husbands who’d cheated on their wives…? Now that was a different story.  

I guess, over the years, I’d developed a Pollyanna-ish belief that, at heart, women are somehow better human beings than men.   We are the ones who give life.  We are the ones who nurture and protect.  We are the peacemakers. We are the ones who usually sacrifice our futures for the good of our loved ones.

And then, after months of secrets, lies and deceit, I learned that my marriage had broken down because ‘the other woman’ – his office wife, who I didn’t even know existed! – had given my husband an ultimatum.  He could have me or her – but not both of us.  

That revelation devastated two of my core belief systems.  First, that my husband loved me.  He’d told me so every single day or our marriage until shortly before he walked out.  Secondly, that women are more honourable than men. For every man out there cheating on his wife, there’s a woman knowingly – and deliberately – participating in that deceit.

That really struck home when I met with my husband’s mistress face-to-face.  I asked how, as a devout Christian, she could deliberately break four of the Ten Commandments – Thou shalt not steal, covet, bear false witness, commit adultery.  She shrugged, then smirked and said, “I don’t pretend to be a perfect Christian.”

Her response shocked and saddened me, and left me with a sense that everything I had believed to be true about my life and marriage for the past 37 years was a lie. Who could I trust if I couldn’t even trust my own judgement or memories?

As it turned out, there were plenty of people I discovered I could trust – the ones who rallied round and supported me through the pain. 

Perhaps it’s a good thing that my rose-coloured glasses have shattered.  I’ve learned that women can be just as deceitful and manipulative as men. 

But the opposite also holds true. 

Whether they are men or women, there are many honourable, trustworthy people out there too. 

Baby steps…

Not a quote today, but a cartoon I saw on Sarah’s Scribbles Facebook page.

It captures so well the reality of taking this journey of healing and recovery one day at a time – but it can apply to any challenge facing you.

For further inspiration, please check out Sarah’s website.  http://sarahcandersen.com/about

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!!!!