Tag Archives: Healing from Divorce

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.

It Was A Wild and Windy Night

Sometimes, when it’s hard to look at your life straight on, it helps to consider moments in it as a story – or metaphor.

The week before my husband left me, we’d booked tickets for a ten-day music festival in Scotland. Six months later I went to that festival with a friend.

It was a wonderful, yet difficult, experience.  My ex and I had seen Dougie MacLean – the main performer – just a year earlier, and although I loved the company of my friend, I couldn’t help thinking about my ex, and how he should be here with me.  The fact that the festival happened during our first wedding anniversary apart made it all just a little more painful. But it was a great ten days – the music toe-tapping or soulful, but always inspiring.

The final concert was to be held in a large tent in the grounds of an upmarket hotel. As it was only a mile away, we decided to walk.

On the way it started to rain.  And rain.  And rain.  And rain.  Too late to turn back, we just kept plodding on, getting wetter and wetter. Loads of cars passed us, but none offered us a lift, and by the time we got to the hotel, we had to try and dry ourselves out under the hand dryers in the Ladies.

Not  a good start.

But the concert, with all the musicians who had participated in the festival that week, was amazing.  And in keeping with true Scots hospitality, tea and biscuits (or a ‘wee sensation’) was served at the interval.

The last night of the Perthshire Amber Festival 2015

When the concert ended, Dougie MacLean asked us not to head home, but to gather outside on the lawn. He wanted to record his song ‘Wild and Windy Night’ with the audience singing the chorus.

Fortunately the wind and rain had stopped by then.  The sky was littered with stars, the trees around the hotel lit up with fairy lights.

And then we sang.

Will you hear me if I’m calling on this wild and windy night? Will you catch me if I’m falling on this wild and windy night?

With all those voices around us – some on-key, some off – it was pure magic.  (And my friend and I can now say – legitimately – that we have sung with Dougie Maclean!)

But there was more magic to come.  We met up with some friends and decided to walk home together in the dark.  Plenty of people now stopped to offer us a lift, but now that the storm was over, the sky was so clear, the stars so bright, the constellations shimmering… none of us had ever seen anything like it, and we didn’t want to miss a moment by getting inside a car.

What about the story/metaphor?  Only six months since my husband had left me, I truly was in the middle of my own personal Wild and Windy night.  But, just for a moment, the skies cleared, the stars came out, my friends gathered around me to hear and catch me when I was calling and falling.  It was a night of peace and hope in the middle of what was, for me, a very dark emotional landscape.

As my friend said of that evening… we were truly blessed.

I am truly blessed.

Listen to Wild and Windy night on Dougie MacLean’s latest album (aptly named) New Tomorrow.

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.

Get up, Get Out, Get Going

My mum was sixty-three when my dad died.   She lived on an isolated island, my siblings and I between 3-24 hours travel distance away. Ever the mother, she didn’t want us to worry about her, so, despite her great grief, she did three things to keep herself healthy.

1) She tried to eat well even though she had no appetite.

2) Come rain or come shine, she went for a walk every day along the beach, sometimes barely able to see as her tears mixed with the rain soaking her face.

3) Instead of burying herself at home, she forced herself to accept invitations from friends to go for a coffee or a walk or visit her kids and grandkids. Mum hadn’t worked since she was 22, but she loved cooking, so a few years later, she ended up taking occasional jobs as a cook and housekeeper in well-to-do homes in London and the Home Counties. (But that’s another story!)

I sometimes think my own grieving process might have been easier if I’d had a job to occupy my brain and all those empty hours. One of the special challenges of a later-in-life divorce is that you may be retired and no longer have a structure to your day, so you will need to find one.

When my ex walked out on me, all I wanted to do was curl up in bed and cry. And for some people, that is the way they will heal. But I was scared that if I took to my bed, I might never come out.

Like my mum, I didn’t want my kids to worry about me, so I decided to try and follow her example.

1) I forced myself to eat well even though I had no appetite. (I lost 27 pounds in a year. They don’t call it the Divorce Diet for nothing!) I bought myself an electric wok so I could stir-fry meat and veggies every night. It took ten minutes (including chopping), it was nutritious and left me with little cleaning up to do.

2) I set my alarm for seven every morning and forced myself to get up even if I’d only managed to fall asleep two or three hours earlier. Before I had time for second thoughts, I pulled on my clothes, peed, brushed my teeth, made my bed, and went out for a walk along the river path. Like my mum, there were times I could barely see for tears, and once I came back from my walk, I didn’t want to disturb that freshly made bed. Later, I bought myself a Fitbit and challenged myself to walking 10,000 steps a day. At first it was hard…but in time it became second nature.

3) My friends were great and rallied around me. Like my mum, I accepted any and all invitations and made 2016 my year of saying ‘yes’. If someone invited me somewhere or to do something – and it wasn’t dangerous and I could afford it – I said ‘yes’, and through doing that, my world started to open up in ways I couldn’t imagine.

This routine got me through that first awful year. At the end of it, my emotional health was still pretty raw and patchy, but I was physically healthier (I have the blood work results to prove it!) and fitter than I had been in over a decade.