Unreasonable behaviour

I have to draft a list of unacceptable behaviours that occurred within my marriage in order to be ‘allowed’ to get divorced. As our mediator explained, this is kind of an archaic part of UK law whereby you can only get divorced for one of five reasons: unreasonable behaviour, adultery, desertion,2 years separation with consent or five years separation without consent.

I believe that ‘unreasonable behaviour’ is given as a reason for almost half of all divorces now.

In a keenly ironic twist the mediator suggested that I be very diplomatic with my wording so that my husband will have no reason to flare up and decide to contest or draw matters out. I had a list of bullet points all ready to go but now I’m going to have to rethink and start dreaming up vague notions of his shift work ‘getting in the way’ of family life; him not helping round the house more, etc.

Those things are true but they don’t demonstrate what an emotionally abusive, selfish, manipulative person he actually is. They don’t give a real insight into what it was really like to put up with a life spent walking on eggshells.

I’m lead to believe that it doesn’t really matter what I say though, because ‘unreasonable behavious’ is so subjective.

How’s this for unreasonable: this weekend he has finally had the children for almost two days and one whole night!! (That’s not the unreasonable bit). I offered to drop them off adding another forty mile round trip onto my weekly schlep. He had them overnight and then today, at about 2.45pm I discovered that he was taking them about 25 miles in the opposite direction to our current home so that they could meet up with one of his friends in another town.

This seemed a bit crazy but I assumed he would still have the kids back to me by 6pm (it’s a Sunday – a school night). It later transpired that the ‘friend’ they were meeting up with was a woman who I believe to be his new girlfriend. He has point blank denied to there being another woman (the mediator asked, not me), but I have lots of evidence to the contrary.

Anyhow, it got to about 6.10pm and we wondered where they were so I phoned only to be told that they were still in this place, an hour away from home and it would take them ten minutes to walk back to the car. And, oh yes, the kids had been playing on some stepping stones across a stream and the six year old had fallen in and was wet up to the ankle.

It had started to get cold and later, when they finally got dropped off at 7.20pm it transpired that they hadn’t been offered anything to eat except an ice lolly since lunchtime. He had left all the six year old’s most treasured possessions behind at his (our) house – his Amazon tablet and his muzzy collection (a bit like leaving another child’s most beloved cuddly toy behind) and he had also forgotten to pack the list of dates he had promised to give me for his upcoming child contact for the next ten weeks (something he had agreed in mediation to provide me with two days ago).

He then phoned me at about 8.15pm when I was in the throes of trying to sing a restless three year old to sleep. I said I would phone him back. I finally got the three year old to sleep by 8.50pm. I decided to call him to get the dates but he immediately tried to start wrangling over possible cancellations and the wheres and whens of the first handover out of ten week’s worth of dates. Meanwhile our poor six year old who should have been in bed an hour ago needed to be settled.

I told him I would stop by the house on the way to school in the morning to pick up the six year old’s belongings and his list of dates and he told me I couldn’t because he needed a lie in and didn’t want to be disturbed. He suggested I come after school in the afternoon and suggested he would pick our son up. I said no – I finish work at 1.30pm on a Monday and I already have to spend over an hour hanging around waiting for the school pick up as I can’t go back into my own house when he’s there.

I asked him to have the children one specific weekend in June when I know he is off work – I was honest and told him that I have a wedding to go to. He said he didn’t think he would be able to do that for me.

I became heated as he was playing mind games and I had a very tired child on my hands. I told him it was very late and I had to settle the six year old. He seemed to think that 9pm was not late at all.

The more heated I became the more cold and calm he became. He actually said ‘you’re getting angry aren’t you?’ in a very patronising way.

I have to try and stop myself from rising to his general nastiness and game playing. I have to take a leaf out of the book of his previous ex-wife. She never compromised and she didn’t have to. If he can’t put the needs of our children first and stop treating me as an adversary now then he never will and one of us has to protect their interests.


Stuck in the middle alone

In between birth and death
youth and old age,
darkness and light,
the words on the page

A former home
and a place to lay your head
the office, the playground
the road and your bed

Winter’s ice and summer’s heat
a decision made and a fait accompli

The first and the last
chained and free
Laughter, tears and a final decree.



Why I won’t be internet dating again

Ten years ago, after breaking up from the rebound relationship I had after my first marriage failed, I became increasingly concerned that I would never be in a situation to meet a potential partner just by living my life the way it was it then. To be fair I was working a temp role as a public library assistant before embarking on a full time Masters degree so the average age of the men in my life was about 65.

I took an extended holiday trekking up the East coast of Australia thinking I might meet the man of my dreams whilst snorkelling the Great Barrier Reef but it wasn’t to be. On my return I decided to take the plunge and register for a paid dating site – it seemed like my only chance to dive back into the dating pool (I was 34) and Internet dating was just beginning to take off and becoming a socially acceptable thing back then.

I was quite quickly hooked on the amount of immediate attention (it wasn’t actually that much but compared to my previous barren 18 months of singledom it was a huge ego boost initially). I tentatively set off on a few dates not really having any idea what I was expecting.

The first guy I met was an advertising exec. He was not a suit – he was the scruffy ‘creative’ type who prided himself on being trendy with his North London flat and his Converse All-Stars. I ended up dating him for six weeks – it was incredibly intoxicating but I knew after those few weeks that it would never be anything more than superficial – even then I could see that he was a damaged individual and would never introduce me to a friend (I began to believe that he didn’t actually have any friends or family, such was the bubble he kept me in).

The second guy I dated – again for just a few weeks – was very different. He was a tennis coach – he also lived in his own flat and seemed to have very little common sense but he was physically attractive and I was again flattered to be desired so intensely within such a short space of time. This was the one ‘relationship’ I had which threw me a complete curveball – he strung me along really pretending to want a long term relationship, suggesting we book a holiday together – he even came to a dinner party with me at my sister’s house. Then one day (the day we were going to be booking the holiday) he told me he was just popping out to get some cash and essentially he never came back – just dropped me a text to say ‘sorry, I changed my mind’.

In hindsight it is pretty hilarious but not so much at the time. Dick.

The next guy was even worse. He was clearly loaded and used his money to impress the women he dated and give them a little taster of a lifestyle which maybe they’d never dreamed of before. He had a bit of fun and then disappeared, using his ‘mother’s health’ as an excuse for why his head was not in the dating game any more (all the while blatently keeping an active dating profile going online).

But I soldiered on – literally. My next (very) short term relationship was with a Royal Marine Commando. To be fair that was only ever going to be about one thing. Men in uniform hey? To give him credit, he was very honest with me and he was a genuinely nice guy but we had bugger all in common on an intellectual level.

By this point, I was pretty worn down by the game-playing, the disappointment and in fact, the ever-decreasing pool of ‘eligible’ men who were desperately winking away in cyberspace. That’s when I decided to give the man who I would eventually go on to procreate with and marry (and now divorce) a chance.

I guess I’d kind of reached a level of desperation and I just wanted someone who I could trust – someone who didn’t seem to be hiding anything or playing some kind of strategic dating game. His world seemed fairly recognisable to me – middle class suburbia. He had a university education, a sense of humour. But in hindsight he fell a long way short of being my perfect match – and to be honest I don’t believe that there is a ‘perfect match’ waiting for anyone on a dating website.

My situation skews the statistics. Yes internet dating can lead to marriage. It can also lead to divorce. I guess that’s true of the offline dating environment too – so many ways to get it wrong. I’ve experienced both and in each relationship I can now look back and pinpoint the exact moment when I had my first (very real) doubt. In some cases that initial feeling happened prior to the first date but when you’re in the thick of it and you’ve been feeling a bit lonely for a while you tend to be more willing to give the benefit of the doubt.

I don’t know if you’ve ever watched the UK TV show Location, Location, Location where a couple are shown a number of potential houses, some of them (in my eyes), dream houses – but one person always finds something to criticise which frustrates Phil and Kirsty and makes them say “[this person] needs to begin to make some compromises otherwise they will end up homeless”. Well that’s a bit how I felt about dating and the opportunities that presented themselves – if I was too uncompromising would I end up (emotionally) homeless?

As a result of feeling that way (and to extend the metaphor), I ended up living in a series of sh**ty houses.

I’m now a decade older. I’ve had two children and I’ve hit middle age. I’ve read a fair few bloggers describe their internet dating experiences (particularly Kate of Witwitwoo who is a similar age to me) and it doesn’t make for particularly uplifting reading.

I have come to the conclusion that where I’ve gone wrong in my choices of men, it’s essentially been down to the fact that I’ve nearly always dated men who, prior to my first date, I barely knew at all. In fact my rebound relationship is the only one I’ve had with someone who I knew as a friend beforehand and that was the closest I’ve come to being with the right person.

Unfortunately Internet dating is always going to be with men you’ve never met before prior to the first date and their dating ‘profile’ isn’t worth jack shit and will tell you nothing real. My husband and I actually used to jibe each other with the line “you didn’t put that in your profile” which used to be funny.

Actually, what I realise now is that you can never rest on your laurels, assuming that now, finally, you have the key to unlock a successful relationship. I have bounced from “always trust your instinct if you sense that there is an underlying addiction” to, “never get into a rebound relationship” to “listen to the early warning alarm bells” and then I have a whole bunch of non-negotiable criteria which the ‘right’ man would have to meet.

And then I look at myself and I think, blimey, I’m not exactly catch of the century so what makes me think I can demand such high standards in a partner? Pft.

So. There you go, I guess it’s the single life for me!






Yesterday we had our first session of Family Mediation. It was the first time in over two months that I have spent more than five minutes in the husband’s presence and I was nervous. I have pushed for this mediation and had to cancel and re-arrange it twice because of his work so it was long awaited.

The way Mediation works (or did in this instance) was that each of us had half an hour alone with the mediator to explain our point of view and be given all the information we should need on the process before spending an hour and a half hashing it out together with the mediator as a ‘guide’. I had written and typed up a list of points – first and foremost to discuss our current living situation (me and the kids with my parents in their three bedroom house 30 miles from the kids’ school), and try and find some way to get back into our home, at least until financial matters are finalised.

Unfortunately the husband point blank refused to move out and the mediator didn’t dwell on the subject as nobody has the power to force someone out of a home which they own either fully or jointly. He pointed out that I was at liberty to move back in with the kids any time I saw fit but there’s not a snowball’s chance in hell of me walking back into the lion’s den.

That makes the situation at ‘home’ sound.. well, almost dangerous. It’s not, at least not physically. As I’ve mentioned before my husband is not a narcissist. The way he has used our children as pawns in a power struggle between us proves, however, that he doesn’t think the way a normal, caring, invested father should and he sees no harm in demonising me if he thinks it will win him sympathy from our six year old.

He offered to buy me out of the house and came up with a figure which was only £10,000 short of the figure I’d had in mind myself. Weirdly, I wasn’t as thrilled with this outcome as I’d thought I would be. It was my intention to ask for the house to be sold and the proceeds split anyway and I had it in my mind that the lump sum would allow me to put down a deposit on a share of a ‘part buy, part rent’ property.

In theory, I could take the money and run with it but now I’ve tentatively started looking into the possibility of being eligible for a mortgage in my sole name based on my lowly part time salary and a minimal child maintenance sum the picture’s not looking so rosy. I’ve still got a lot of research to do and I tend to be optimistic about these things, but it kind of occurred to me earlier today that me and the kids are, effectively, homeless right now. We are in limbo.

I broke down in tears earlier, like proper heart-wrenching sobbing, and this was whilst I was lying in bed with the three year old supposedly singing him to sleep! Try explaining that to a pre-schooler.

I just suddenly thought, that’s it, my own home, the place I researched and fought for and furnished and lived in for the last 8 years (the longest I’ve ever lived anywhere other than my childhood home) is a place I will never go back into in the same way again.

I know it was my decision to end the marriage, my decision to leave the house, and believe me I don’t have any huge attachment to that place – it’s a nice enough three bed Victorian semi with a pleasant garden but it’s not really my idea of a ‘forever’ home (the parking and some of the neighbours leave a lot to be desired). So why do I feel so bad?