Overcoming loneliness

I’ve really been doing some self examination lately (well, I am reading Eat Pray Love which has got to be the bible of self examination, albeit personal to the situation of the author herself at that moment in time).

I’ve admitted before that I have a tendency to bounce between relationships – 2 years consecutive is the longest I have been single for over the course of the past 23 years. Once again I find myself seeking out a partner, however it’s not quite so easy this time around. I am older, I have young children, I’m in the middle of a divorce, I have less money to throw at dating sites, I have a lot less time, the stakes are so much higher – it’s not really happening.

I guess it’s time to figure out why I feel the need to continue with this relentless pursuit.

Some things about me:

  • I have lived on my own with my children now for over 8 months (after a 5 month stint with my parents).
  • I pay all the bills including privately rented accommodation;
  • I do 90 per cent of the parenting and the kids are pretty happy, well fed, clean, on top of their homework and want for nothing;
  • besides the wobble with my eldest a couple of months ago, their behaviour is pretty good – standard for their ages at any rate;
  • my family have been super supportive and we have a summer holiday abroad to look forward to with my mum (and possibly some good friends), plus I am lucky enough to be able to fall back on my parents for babysitting and consequently have a fair few social events lined up this summer;
  • I have proved to myself that I can tackle practical tasks that in the past I might have assumed were ‘men’s work’ – I put together a double bed which came completely flat packed without so much as someone to pass me the screwdriver, I can fit a bike rack on my car and I now mow the lawn and unblock the drains and put the bins out;
  • I’m an introvert and I enjoy my own company whether I be cooking, writing, reading a good book, watching an unmissable box-set or movie, shopping or treating myself to a Costa latte;
  • I have never been able to sleep well sharing a bed – I am super conscious of another person in my space and I love having a room of my own, decorated to my taste – somewhere I see as my sanctuary;
  • I have a can-do attitude when it comes to meeting new people and joining groups so even if I am child-free and have a whole day to myself I know I have options even if my old friends and family are busy.
  • I have lots of friends, near far and online.

All of these things add up to me being self-sufficient – i.e. I don’t need a partner and in some ways a partner would complicate my life – I might get less sleep and have to learn to compromise again when it comes to all the little decisions that I have found I am quite capable of making on my own.

I find for the most part that I am happy, I’m certainly busy with the children a lot of my time and I don’t often find myself at a loss for something to do.

The times when I feel down tend to be days alone with the children or evenings at home alone after the children have gone to bed. A great sense of loneliness settles upon me and I feel hopeless then and depressed. I’m a practical person though and I know from experience that all it takes to overcome these negative feelings is what they call a ‘meaningful connection’ with another person. That person might be a good friend or family member – someone who I know has got my back emotionally, rather than someone who doesn’t really know me who is only available for small talk.

I’ve got a list of about ten people who know me inside out and hopefully at least one of them will always be there at the end of the phone or online for a chat.

Its also a matter of being super-organised when it comes to planning play dates and get-togethers in advance in order to reduce the amount of time I have to be alone with the kids. It sounds awful but some Saturdays I just dread.

I know that there is obviously more to this desire for a partner than just overcoming loneliness though. Sex of course. Lately though I wonder whether it’s that big a deal. It can be fun, it can be really enjoyable. On a chemical level it’s amazing – Oxytocin highs – what’s not to like? But does my life suffer without it? Not so sure.

One of the biggest things that you can only really get through a romantic relationship though is that feeling of being really special. When you are someone else’s ‘significant other and they only have eyes for you and they treat you to romantic gestures – that kind of love makes you feel so secure and confident in yourself and having experienced that and then having had it taken away again leaves you feeling, well, the opposite of special I guess.

I’m not sure if there is any way of substituting something else for the feeling of self-worth you get from being loved in that particular way but finding that love is starting to feel like one of the labours of Hercules.

I read this morning that Liz Gilbert, the author of Eat, Pray, Love got divorced from her husband of 12 years last summer (2016). This was the Brazilian guy she met in Indonesia at the end of the memoir, the love affair with whom kind of signifies something like a happy ever after for all us emotional gap-pluggers out here in the real world.

She’s now a lesbian and who could have predicted that? Which just goes to show, we cannot steam-roller a path for ourselves – what will be will be.

Somewhere over the rainbow, childcare works…

Another day, another stressful phone call with the husband. I’ve been asking him for a list of dates for child contact for the last 2 weeks since the old list ran out. In that time he’s seen them once – for one afternoon before depositing them with his parents for the night and not returning til the following morning.

The only date we had talked about and agreed upon a couple of weeks in advance was this coming Thursday – a school holiday day when I’m at work and out 9-5.

His attitude to me (which is never exactly good) appears to be on the down swing. He has no respect for me or understanding of what it’s like to be responsible for keeping the children fed, clothed, entertained, healthy, morally sound and well behaved, supported in their education, looked after when I’m not around, and just generally alive and safe and content.

I asked to confirm that he was still having them on Thursday and he just casually mentioned that he can’t any more because he’s got to work now. There was no apology, no sense of dismay for having forgotten to tell me as soon as he’d found out himself. Then to add insult to injury he implied that the there was something unfair about me asking him for a list of dates and told me that I am trying to use him for childcare. I tried to point out that as their parent, the childcare analogy is moot but he talked over me repeating the phrase “because you’re a little bit of a bitch” a few times before hanging up on me.

He had spoken of getting his mum and dad to have the kids on Thursday (his dad is 80) but I would be happy if I never had to see his father ever again after his rude and aggressive behaviour towards me each time (even after over a year of separation). I sent him a message telling him not to bother asking his parents, that I would make other arrangements.

I have sent a message to his ex wife asking if she would be able to have them for a half day as she lives in the town where I work, doesn’t work herself and has mentioned in the past that she could cover for me if I ever needed someone and she has willingly agreed which is a big relief as it is too late to book a holiday club now and I really couldn’t have afforded it anyway.

I’m trying to let it wash over me and take it in my stride. Having coped alone with this same kind of “help” (or lack of) and bad attitude from him for the past year at least I know I can juggle through, just about have enough leave from work and can just about afford to pay for childcare.

One thing is certain – I need more help from him financially, particularly if he is unable or just unwilling to care for the children himself when I can’t. If I can’t rely on him to make firm dates to have the children and stick to them then I need to make childcare decisions which leave him out of the loop for my own peace of mind and sanity.

I know from experience that he will get angry and belligerent if, closer to the time, he finds himself free and asks to have the kids last minute when I’ve already made prior arrangements, then of course I’m the bad mum who refuses to play the co-parenting game in the “best interests” of the children. Essentially I can’t win.

Also, I’m not sure if it’s simply a case that he hasn’t heard the children speaking about the (ex) boyfriend recently but he appears to have been pumping them for information.

He knew that the boyfriend was a smoker (although he’s given up now) and he’s been asking our eldest if the boyfriend has died. Today as my son was shutting the door of my car when I picked them up (they spent four hours with husband’s family) he actually shouted “find out about [boyfriend’s] funeral “. My son tells me “Daddy doesn’t like [boyfriend]” to which I reply “how does he know, he’s never even met him”. There’s bitter and resentful and then there’s selfish and hateful.

The people he calls friends don’t know this about him. They think of me as “Cruella” – as though I’ve not only wronged him by daring to walk away whatever the personal cost to me, but continue to wrong him by trying to control his relationship with his own children. I see myself more as Dorothy, caught up in the raging whirlwind, doing the best I can and trying to hold onto the belief that there’s a mystical portal of peace and tranquillity from all this insanity, somewhere over the rainbow.

One way flexibility

When I made the decision to leave my marriage I always knew that child contact was not going to be straightforward. My husband is a shift worker and his rota follows a ten week rolling pattern. I also had first hand experience of how he manages child contact due to the fact that he has a daughter from his previous relationship and his ex wife had gained a court order (I think) which required him to give her a list of dates for child contact a month at a time.

Despite this requirement I found him to be highly flaky when it came to getting organised and in the first couple of years of our relationship I acted as his personal secretary and compiled a list in triplicate – one for the ex, one for him and one for his mum who always wanted to know and be involved.

When I had my own children, I pretty much stepped down from that role and in subsequent years he has all but lost contact with his daughter – only seeing her on a very sporadic basis.

His ex wife has since told me that she wouldn’t have minded if he was out of her daughter’s life completely so she never really cared whether or not he wanted to see her – it doesn’t seem to have affected her – she took her daughter with her to the stables (where she spends half her life), but she also had a lot of family support on her doorstep.

If I want to take a weekly exercise class, join a book group, sign up for a local walk, cycle ride, talk or social event – well, I can’t because there is no family member who can drop in for an hour or so to do a bit of casual (cost-effective!) babysitting.

The other thing is that, much as I love my children, sometimes parenting them solo for a couple of weeks takes its toll. When I know that there is respite for a day or a night just around the corner, psychologically it takes the pressure off.

I appreciate that army wives have to live their lives like this but the difference is that I didn’t marry into the army – I think you have to be a certain kind of person or have a certain support network in place to thrive under those circumstances. Knowing your partner is out there, supporting you, a sounding board for parenting decisions or whatever, makes a difference.

Now, I’m not saying that I don’t get to make plans in advance with or without the husband’s cooperation. My parents have been great – taking the kids for a couple of days or the odd night when I’ve had a girl’s night out, a blog conference to attend or, this year, my big night hike in June and the pre-event curry and ‘practice run’ in May. They also take on childcare duties for a couple of days a week during school holidays which helps me out enormously.

But here’s the thing, the husband treats the child contact arrangement as a casual, last minute thing which he bases on his own convenience. Yes, he is often working – that’s not the issue – the issue is that he picks and chooses dates from his own spare time that are the best for him and he doesn’t want to commit in advance just in case a last minute social invite comes up that he doesn’t want to miss out on.

For example, at the beginning of this week he suddenly popped up asking to have the boys on Thursday. It had been 8 days since he last saw them and he had yet to give me a list of dates going forwards – he still hasn’t). I told him that I’d booked paid child care with my neighbour who needs the money (it’s school holidays). Later after talking to CiG, I decided I should be more flexible and I offered to cancel the arrangement so he could have them. He then suggested a compromise and now he is having them in the afternoon and overnight.

That’s all fine although I’m not thrilled that he left it to the last minute as it is a headache arranging child care and needs to be planned and booked and often paid in advance and I think when he already knows he has days off work during that time it would be so much more helpful, responsible and just plain courteous to let me know well in advance – particularly when I always make sure he knows school holiday dates in advance.

The arrangement was made on Monday, I asked him to let me know by the following day what time I would get the children back on Friday. It’s now Wednesday and today I asked again for a time (bear in mind that it’s Easter weekend and if I want to plan anything, either a child friendly day out or, if they’re not going to be around, an adult get together, I need to know what’s going on). He responded “I don’t know yet. Sorry. I may be invited out somewhere’.

Not only does he expect complete flexibility for himself, but he also deliberately holds back information from me knowing that it will prevent me from arranging anything myself – he continues to feel angry and aggrieved at the thought of me having a social life – he wants to punish me for leaving him.

I know this is not uncommon. In fact, I think this is probably more common than anyone would like to admit going by some of the single parent forums that I follow.

I read a lot of commentary that implies that wanting some kind of set pattern for yourself and your children (even if it is a changing pattern from week to week and only available a few weeks in advance) is just unrealistic and selfish and that trying to stand your ground and in some way ‘force’ your ex-partner’s hand in order to obtain a pre-agreed arrangement in a timely fashion would just be damaging to the children and their relationship with their dad. So essentially, put up and shut up.

I also appreciate that there are plenty of single mums out there who would point out that their children’s father is not on the scene at all, or that they have no family to baby-sit or help out or offer respite at all. In a way though, that situation at least comes with certainty – you know exactly where you stand, as hard as that life may be.

So what I’m left with is this constant questioning of my own decisions – am I being selfish wanting to have more certainty day to day? Or am I being a doormat when I let the husband get away with last minute requests or when he fails to tell me what time the kids will be returned? It’s not fair, but life is not fair so maybe I should suck it up? Worse things happen at sea? What do you think?

Support and the single mum

I read back over my last two posts this morning and sighed. Both of my readers must be beginning to wonder if I’m succumbing to schizophrenia. The thing is, it is just too easy to feel that things are on track during your happier, calmer, more organised, more harmonious moments, only to realise that, yes indeed, sh*t happens and it’s not going to just stop happening because you had the afternoon off and read a good book.

Since last Wednesday (the evening of my last documented crash and burn parenting moment) things have calmed back down considerably. I have had the kids with me for the last six nights (and the whole weekend) and they haven’t seen their dad at all in that time. Notably my seven year old’s bad behaviour was at it’s height those first two nights.

We spent the weekend with my parents and it was Mother’s Day (UK) on Sunday so my Mum helped my eldest choose and buy me a lovely present (a new handbag – something which he’d heard me say I needed as my old one is falling apart).

They brought me a cup of tea in bed and later on my mum and I took them out for a little visit to a local attraction and in the afternoon we had a roast dinner and I went down to the recreation ground with them and we played football together as it was a sunny day.

I went along to their school this morning to see my eldest perform in his little ‘school of rock’ style concert and he was so happy to see me and came over and gave me a hug on his way back to class.

Their dad is picking them up this afternoon and giving them tea before bringing them back at 5.30 in time to wind the day up before bed. Hopefully that won’t be long enough for the poison to seep back in.

I’ve also got my appointment with the headmistress tomorrow afternoon and it’s going to feel strange opening up to her when things feel like they are back on track but I definitely think it can’t hurt to just sound her out about the problems I’ve had with behaviour lately and particularly because it does seem to be tied in with extended periods of contact with their father. (Worryingly he has them next overnight Thursday and overnight Friday after school too but fortunately my mum will be over on Saturday afternoon so I won’t be alone).

Having the support of my parents makes me realise how lucky I am. It’s nice to know that they will always be there for me unconditionally, no matter what (as long as they are fit and able to do so obviously). And I have been reflecting on the nature of ‘support’ – what I need and who from.

It would be nice to be able to support and in turn be supported by the husband when it comes to parenting but clearly that isn’t going to happen. When I talk about my ex-boyfriend/another boyfriend/potential partner I use the term ‘support’ only in terms of emotional support for me – to boost my confidence when it comes to handling my own FML moments. Because that’s what partners do isn’t it? Regardless of what your FML moments may be, it’s nice to know that your ‘significant other’ has got your back and has some empathy; that they are there to give you a hug when you feel like you might break.

Thinking about this subject in these terms makes me realise that I’m just not ready to be in another relationship right now. Don’t get me wrong, I would love to have a partner – someone with whom to give and take that amazing gift of love and laughter and company and fun, share physical intimacy, touch, kiss, plan together for an even better future.

But I need for this divorce to be over. I need to feel more in control at home with the support of family and the school. And I need to give myself time to recover from loss and heartbreak and time to revel in the little pleasures of single life – everything from suiting myself when it comes to choosing and planning social activities, to living in my own home, decorating as I please and entertaining who I like, when I like.

I am slowly coming to complete acceptance of and peace with the recent break up (just three weeks ago). Time moves so fast that soon I will be looking back and four months will be a drop in the ocean. Plus with time comes some more sense to see that relationship for what it was – just a lovely chapter in my life, full of all those little things I talk about above, but ultimately with someone who wasn’t right for me – if he had been right for me then he would still be here.

Which of course doesn’t mean that I don’t still have pangs and find myself scrolling his FB page, or looking back at our shared photos or checking to see whether he’s still checking out our WhatsApp thread (he is, several times a day). And it doesn’t stop me from having weak moments where I wonder whether to offer myself to him completely no strings as a friend ‘with benefits’ (which I’m not going to do – how messy would that get?). However much you tell yourself you could switch it off emotionally and disengage should he suddenly get into a relationship with someone new, I know that would feel like an absolute kick in the heart and I’m not going to do that. Plus I’m pretty sure he wouldn’t agree whatever I said – he wouldn’t trust me to keep it light-hearted and casual. And anyway I deserve better than that.

At the end of the day a relationship – be it friendship, romance or family – is all about give and take – love, support, patience, care and attention. A hand to hold, a heart to trust. Someone to reassure you that you are doing your best and give you the confidence to trust in your own strength – not someone to do your job for you or give you some kind of a free ride.

Right now my family and friends are the best a girl could get and their support is genuine and cannot be stolen away in the night.

Who you gonna call?…

In two week’s time it will be a whole year since I told the husband that I was leaving him and one week later I made my physical departure with the children. I remember the trauma at the time – those first horrific phone calls which I took on speaker phone and my dad filmed on his phone for evidence of the abuse and the twisted facts.

I remember my mum saying to me, this time a year from now imagine where you’ll be; imagine how much happier you’ll be. And it’s true, I’ve come a long way – me and the boys have been in our own (rented) home for five months now and I’m just about managing the money that’s coming in. I’ve been in a new relationship for 14 weeks and it’s been wonderful – I’ve been able to appreciate what it is to love and be loved by someone who thinks and acts like a normal, sensitive, open, understanding person – someone who is looking for the same things out of life that I am, who has the same values and thought processes as me. Someone who, whilst past that stage of life, has told me it makes him sad that him and I won’t ever have a baby together and experience that journey side by side.

But despite all of that the divorce is nowhere near done. We are waiting for an expert to give us a proper valuation of the husband’s work pension. We are still up in the air about house valuations. I don’t know how much (if any) of his financial information the husband has or hasn’t submitted to his solicitor.

Not only that but he is still behaving in an abusive, unacceptable way. This weekend he had the children and, surprisingly, his 12 year old daughter decided to stay with them as well for the first time since long before Christmas. (He’s now Father of the Year according to his Facebook status but that’s another story).

When he brought them back last night it was dark and pouring with rain and he came to the door of our house calling me a liar, saying I am rude. He then proceeded to throw open my recycling bin and then demand to know if I had started drinking beer as there were two empty cans in there. Now he knows that I know that he knows about my boyfriend so this was all very childish and done in such an aggressive, accusatory way. I had to point out to him that not only have we been separated for nearly a year but that he has been in another relationship for some time – a fact which he totally dismissed.

It’s by the by that his not so new relationship is badly floundering – he’s keeping the poor woman in a perpetual cycle the same as he did with me, the difference being she has no children with him, no ties – doesn’t even live nearby which just goes to show how powerful that Borderline manipulation can be – anyone on the outside looking in would have been long gone with a complete social media block on by now.

I had tentatively mentioned to him the fact that I’m supposed to be taking the children away to a holiday park with my family for a weekend in a couple of weeks time when I dropped the kids off on Saturday. The only problem with this situation is that, when my sister made the booking at the end of last summer we hadn’t realised that her kids February school holiday and mine were two different weeks.

I had forgotten all about it when the husband submitted his contact dates and had accepted his request for the Friday overnight and all day Saturday of that weekend. As a compromise I had decided, albeit tentatively, to take the children out of school on the Monday so we would be able to still go down for two days without impacting on the husband’s contact arrangement. When I told him this he surprised me by suggesting that I keep them for the weekend and take them down Saturday/Sunday instead of pulling them out of school on the provision that we work out an alternative date for him to see them.

I have to admit I was very relieved at that point, however, come Sunday evening’s unpleasantness on my doorstep he withdrew his suggestion and said he would still have the children thereby effectively blocking our weekend away.

I felt so conflicted – on the one hand I just wanted to forget about the weekend away – it was all just too stressful to try and work it out without his cooperation. On the other hand I felt bad about letting my sister down – she had deliberately booked this mini-break with me and the kids in mind and knowing that we haven’t been away as a family for the last 18 months.

Today at work I sent him a text telling him that either he was willing to be flexible or I would have to cancel the weekend away which would be very disappointing for the children. He proceeded, over the next couple of hours, to demand that I speak to him on the phone to ‘discuss’ it to which I repeatedly declined telling him to simply provide an alternative date if he was willing to do so.

It transpired that his real reason for wanting to speak to me was to try and convince me to drop the entire legal side of our divorce and instead go back to mediation because he was finding it all very expensive. Well, to coin a phrase, no shit Sherlock! It’s hardly a drop in the ocean for me either but I would come out of mediation with bugger all – there is no negotiating with someone who’s idea of what’s ‘fair’ is very far from your own. I am happy to let the courts decide.

All of these interactions are so stressful and hurtful and make me feel really helpless at times. At times I just hate him for being this way, at times I feel like I’m in control and then he ups the ante and I’m left spinning again. At these times all I want to do is run to the nearest phone and call… someone. It used to be my mum and dad but I began to feel that they are simply too emotionally involved. My mum gets very upset and even angry at me for, in her eyes, letting him bully and manipulate me. My dad wants me to take action that I feel would exacerbate a bad situation.

I do talk to my sister from time to time and she is less stressed but she also wants me to take action that I’m not comfortable with. I began talking to my boyfriend about it all which was a huge relief to begin with because he was a lot more neutral than my family, but as the weeks have gone by he is now beginning to feel wound up and angry by the husband’s bullying and his bitter rants.

It’s reached the point where I just don’t want to tell anyone even whilst needing so badly to share the facts of what is happening to me. I seem to be more able to put the super stressful moments behind me relatively quickly knowing as I do how the husband’s moods ebb and flow and how his threats and manipulations seem to fade when his triggers die down.

I am learning how to handle him – I am learning that turning off my voicemail and choosing when and if I take his calls will not lead to anything other than a frustrated rant on his part. I am learning that I can’t win with him so there is no point in entering a ‘debate’. I am learning that minimal contact works best.

Maybe I am truly in this alone emotionally and there is no-one to call.

 

 

 

Under attack

Last Thursday was my four year old’s first day at school. It was also the beginning of an emotional and verbal attack from the husband which would continue over the course of the following two days, leaving me feeling stressed, distressed and tearful.

It began with a screaming child – the four year old did not want to go in to big school and he had to be grappled kicking and screaming into the teacher’s arms. The husband had asked to come with us and as we were walking away he told me that our son’s behaviour was ‘getting worse’ and that this was clearly all because ‘children of broken homes are well known to suffer from behavioural issues’ and of course it was all my fault.

I was very clearly upset even before he said those words and they were designed to provoke and punish me. I was crying and running away back to my car, across the playground, pushing past grannies and buggies, desperate to put as much distance between myself and him as possible. When I got back to my car I jumped in and as I was driving away I saw him in the rearview mirror waving his arms around to call me back but I carried on.

About an hour later as I was packing up my shopping into my car at the supermarket he suddenly appeared, pulling his car into the space next to mine with a face like thunder – demanding that I stand and wait while he phoned up the local council to talk to them about his council tax bill.

I should explain that myself and the children have now moved into our new rental home – back in the same town as the husband and the school. It is a good and bad thing. I no longer have the motorway commute from hell just to do the school run, but at the same time I no longer have the distance and the cocoon of safety my family provided.

The husband and I also had our second mediation session mid-way through my house move and it seems to have created even more of a monster in him. He has been phoning, texting, harassing and haranguing me over the course of those three days. He also took matters into his own hands, driving round to my new home, when we argued on the phone and I hung up on him.  Fortunately I got his voicemail stating that he was on his way round and hot-footed it with the kids over to my sister’s house for the night.

He constantly accuses me of lying and poor communications. He told me that he would have the children over the weekend but only from 3pm on Saturday when I’d asked him to take them at 2. When I took issue with him he changed his offer to 4pm and told me he was doing that to spite me because it was the only way he could ‘get back’ at me and then he said, “make it 5pm”. He agreed that this strategy of his was ‘at the children’s expense’ and that he didn’t care because he just wanted to punish me.

When he did have the children he made our seven year old cry, accusing him of being a liar as he assumed that we had been making up a story about being at home the previous night (he didn’t know that we had literally jumped in the car and driven away probably about three minutes before he appeared on the scene). He told me that I should stop lying because it was rubbing off on our son.

He expects immediate answers to his texts and doesn’t ever appreciate that I have a choice whether or not to answer my phone or may not have heard it ring or may have been in the bathroom or the kitchen or putting one of our children to bed. He says I am ‘playing games’. He says I am coercive and controlling. He tries to insist that we must communicate first and foremost by phone. He knows that I will have no record of what is said that way and it is his fastest route into my head.

He tells me that I am ‘exaggerating’ when I say I find his behaviour and words intimidating. He is very dismissive but I told him that he cannot label or control how I think or feel.

I think he’s panicking about our up-coming financial settlement. I think he is lacking a serious amount of sleep given his shift work – he told me he had just come off a 19 hour shift on Thursday.

It is hard to describe just how distressing all of this has been in words. It has been like the verbal equivalent of being shot at – being an untrained civilian who is simply ducking behind parked cars with stress and adrenaline levels off the scale just hoping to get out of this situation alive.

But as quickly as the storm came on, calmer waters have returned. I have thought long and hard about my role in escalating madness. On the one hand I refuse to just lie down and let him walk all over me. He wants me to continue acting as his personal assistant, asking me, for example, to print off a year’s worth of his upcoming Duty rosters from my work station (we work for the same organisation). The implication is that if I don’t do it then how can I expect him to provide me with contact dates for the children in advance.

On the other hand I know I have to treat him like a child in some ways and pick my battles wisely, letting him feel like I am still in his control in certain ways whilst attempting to negotiate and pro-actively drip feed positive responses to some of his less radical suggestions.

He has suggested that he has the children for the first two weeks of October as he is on annual leave. My initial reaction was sadness – the thought of being away from the children for that long is hard, but I know they would be nearby and it would be a break from the relentless day to day of parenting so I have given a tentative yes.

Because I have been sending placatory messages and pieces of information that I didn’t have to, he is now back in ‘family man’ mode, desperately trying to make excuses to come round to our house (I have managed to put him off so far) and pushing for a date to meet up at the bank to remove my name from our joint account.

I feel so vulnerable here – I’m not sure how long I can put him off coming to our house. I’m not sure what the implications are but I told him in mediation that I didn’t want him to come inside – not until I’m ready. However I can almost guarantee that he will come round one day for some spurious and innocuous reason and, if refused entry (let’s face it, it would be hard to block someone’s entry into your home when they are, on the surface, being reasonable, and their children are inside) he will become very angry and once again begin accusing me of unnecessary provocation.

I feel so alone. I feel as though I will never be rid of his influence in my life and over my emotions. But I know that this must surely be the worst of times and things will improve once the dust has settled…

 

Escaping the madness

So much has happened – I don’t really know where to start. My husband refused to leave the family home. I’ve read a lot of accounts about this happening to other people – it’s not uncommon. My own solicitor expressed concern over me leaving our home with the children, however three days into what he termed “a trial separation” I was brought to the brink of despair and had to make that most difficult decision.

When you tell your husband that there is no hope of a reconciliation, that that door has closed, if he is not ready to hear or accept that then you can’t always predict how he will react. After making every promise under the sun to change, to address his issues, to cut right down on the drinking, to set to work immediately on improving our home, to book us some sort of luxury holiday for 2017 – you get the picture – then telling me that his brain was “completely re-wired” after two days, all the while making his very best efforts not to point the finger back my way, I just shut down.

It was all too much and at the same time that old cliché, too little too late. Maybe that sounds unreasonable but remember, I have been through cycle after cycle of this and yes, this time was different in that I handed him a letter from a solicitor to draw a line in the sand, this time I knew that I didn’t love him any more and told him so and this made his reaction and his responses that much more dramatic but I know who he is, what our life has been like together and how promises quickly wane and become obsolete.

By Wednesday evening I girded my loins, told him enough now, I still wanted a divorce, there was nothing he could do or say to change my mind. I can only describe what happened next as some kind of meltdown where at least two alternate personalities suddenly materialised – a tearful child curled crying in the foetal position and within a heartbeat a brutal manipulator who’s sole purpose in life was to prevent me from taking matters into my own hands.

I was going to explain what happened next in detail but, despite this being an anonymous blog, I can’t say for sure that anonymity is guaranteed and I don’t want to risk over-sharing. Suffice it to say that he chose to use our 6 year old son as a pawn and said a lot of very destructive things to him at that point (this was after our son had gone to bed) and he wouldn’t stop or back down until I told him what he wanted to hear (that I would put the idea of divorce out of my mind and continue to consider working on the relationship).

Explaining it in this way really doesn’t give any idea of how traumatic the whole incident was. I was in contact with my parents and my sister during and in the immediate aftermath and they were so concerned by the turn of events that my mum and dad immediately told me to pack our bags and come to live with them.  I had to put on a façade for two days then in the run up to the weekend when I planned for us to make the move.

To cut a long story short, my husband went off like a wonky firework when he discovered that we weren’t coming home. It has been a month now. A month of commuting 30 miles to infant school on weekdays, and my six year old missing out on his Beaver Scouts as we are just too far away to hang around that late.

But – despite the 60 mile round trip (80 miles if you factor in the extra 20 miles to and from my workplace and 120 miles on the day I don’t work and have to drive two 60 mile round trips in one day) – I realise how lucky we are to have been offered this safe haven.

One of my biggest worries about telling my husband that I want a divorce was what would happen if he refused to leave and we were forced to live together. I’m sure this is the case for many women. Of course you worry about how you will cope financially but you figure you’ll muddle through somehow – that the courts will step in and force unreasonable partners to make fair settlements.

The very first obstacle to moving forwards is a partner in denial – someone who will do everything in their power to cancel out the words you have spoken, the decision you have made. The courage you have slowly built up over the course of weeks and months in order to finally say “enough is enough”.

Without a real separation of our lives I’m not sure I would have been able to instigate the divorce process.

*Picture credit: Escaping Madness by Andrew Paranavitana