Divorce, family and the future

‘He never hit me.’ I said that a lot the first few months after I left my husband. I had counselling with a domestic abuse charity; the CMS labelled our marriage breakdown as being due to emotional abuse. It had honestly never occurred to me until the day I left him that I was suffering from emotional abuse. I knew my marriage wasn’t ‘normal’. I knew I wasn’t happy, but I did not realise I was being abused.

In the early hours of that morning, I sent a text to my friend in desperation: ‘These are things that he does, and says, and thinks about me. He admits all of them but refuses to change, I don’t know what to do.’ The reply was almost immediate: I made the decision to go, our marriage was irretrievable at that point, but the words were a shock. I simply did not realise what had been happening to me for almost eight years.We met on a dating site when I was twenty-six years old, back in the distant past when you had to log on to a laptop to message potential partners. I had moved to a town in the South, far away from my friends and family. I felt I was being proactive, meeting people rather than staying in on my own. He was charismatic, reckless and a bit of a risk-taker; everything I had always shied away from in the past when looking for a boyfriend; but I was breathless with the attention and his impetuous nature.

We met on a dating site when I was twenty-six years old, back in the distant past when you had to log on to a laptop to message potential partners. I had moved to a town in the South, far away from my friends and family. I felt I was being proactive, meeting people rather than staying in on my own. He was charismatic, reckless and a bit of a risk-taker; everything I had always shied away from in the past when looking for a boyfriend; but I was breathless with the attention and his impetuous nature.

DivorceWithin two months we had rented a flat; within three we had bought a house. Within six I was pregnant. I had noticed he was a big drinker, we had already had many an argument over it, but I was always told that the problem with his drinking was my issue and not the drinking itself. Think about it: if you’re told something often enough you eventually start to believe it. When I was close to my due date, I asked him to stop drinking so that he could drive me to the hospital if I went into labour at night. He said he was drinking for two and we would call a taxi.There were much more issues over the years. He called me names,

There were many more issues over the years. He called me names, ‘Sexless Being’ was a particular favourite of his. He created false Facebook accounts so he could chat with other women, he ran up debts for online porn. He took out a loan in my name without my consent that years later, I still don’t know what it paid for. He once emailed me a list of ‘32 acts’ he wanted me to perform for him. He refused to make any effort, it was all down to me to please him.

I used to look at other marriages with envy. I’m not naïve enough to think that all other marriages are perfect, but I realised mine was definitely lacking. I was once at a friend’s house having cuddles with her newborn. It was a Friday and her husband came home early from work. He came in, kissed his family, made us all a cuppa and held the baby whilst he had his coffee. Then he went outside, washed both their cars – and mine too as it was there – and then washed the windows too. I was almost speechless. If my husband had finished work early on a Friday, he would head to the pub. He’d drive home drunk hours after we’d had tea, and I’d dealt with homework and bedtime stories.

We bought our own house, stupidly I thought it might bring us together. It didn’t. If I wasn’t back from the school run in time to get him up for work and present him with a cup of coffee, I was in trouble. If I sat downstairs reading on my day off rather than doing housework, I was in trouble. If I chopped the peppers or the bacon incorrectly, I was in trouble. I remember walking back from the school run one morning. I’d been chatting to a friend and was late, I knew he’d be angry with me, especially if work had already tried putting through calls and I’d not got him up in time. So, I daydreamed that he would die young, maybe in his fifties, and I could hopefully have a nice life after that. I was 34 and he was 35 at the time.

I know what people will be thinking as they read this: why on earth didn’t I leave him? I look back now and I ask myself the same thing. The answer is that quite often he was nice. Things would be fine for months. He’d be the model husband and Dad. We’d have fun and go on dates and go on camping holidays and I’d think: ‘Yes. This is it. We’ve sorted it. He’s realised what’s important’. But before long, I would sense a change in atmosphere, and I knew the storm was coming, I just didn’t know when. I’d live in fear until it happened. The drunkenness, the intimidation, the blame.

Since the separation I’ve created this handy image, to try and explain what being married to my then-husband was like. Picture a wide river. The current is choppy, and hard to swim in. I’m at one side and he’s at the other. The river is the disagreement, the gulf to cross. I immediately jump in. I want to get to the other side and sort it, put the issue to bed. He doesn’t, he wants to make things worse and make me suffer. So instead of jumping in the river to help me, or at least helping me out the other side, he starts throwing things at me to make it harder to make it across; old tyres, shopping trolleys and sacks of rubbish. These are labelled: Lazy, Bad Mother, Doesn’t earn enough, Doesn’t try to be sexy. I’d always strive to solve the argument, but he delighted in muddying the waters. You can’t mend a marriage like that, not on your own. It just took me eight years to see it.

So one day, five days before Christmas 2014, I took the leap. I put my clothes and our daughter’s into two suitcases, and I moved back to my parent’s house, and within a month, we moved into our own small house. I went for a promotion and got it. Bits of the last two and a half years have been fantastic, bits of it, worse than I ever could have imagined.

Last week the courts signed off on our financial agreement, meaning we are no longer connected financially and can have no claim in the future. The divorce had been finalised in 2015, but I needed the divorce to be done, as I knew how long and complicated financial arrangements can be. I also reclaimed my maiden name. My Dad says, one by one we have disentangled every tentacle he had around me – my family clearly love a good metaphor. It’s been hard, harder than I ever could have considered it would be. There were times I felt broken, that he’d beaten me; there were also times that I thought I’d never stop crying. There have been times that I had to fight, and fight really hard. Those times mainly concerned issues with our daughter, who more than anything else I have done my best to protect. I’ve had help from mediators, family support workers, social workers, school mentors, counsellors and the CMS on how to best support my daughter. I’m now fluent in a language that previously I didn’t know existed, let alone knew how to speak.

Amongst all of this I’ve done my best to be a good Mum and to give my daughter a more calm and stable home life than she had before. She remembers the arguments and accepts that we are happier apart. Naturally, I’ve shielded her from most of the reasons why we split up. However, she is almost nine now and has a very mature and sensible head on her shoulders – she loves her Dad and visits him, but I’m pretty sure she knows more than I have told her. My family and I have a strong sense of togetherness; she is not short of love and support and is such a happy and balanced young girl, and I’m so proud of her. When she first started to visit her Dad, after the separation, I told her that her heart and mine lay next to each other for nine months, and that hasn’t changed. I told her, my heart will always be next to hers – she likes that a lot, and I’m making the most of the affection between us before the teenage years arrive!

I love my job; I’m lucky that I have a passion and I’m able to get paid for it and I strive to do it well. I want my daughter to know that I worked hard and I stood on my own two feet. I feel proud that I got promoted only 3 months after the separation – I wondered at the time if I’d gone a little mad to even consider going for it, and once I’d got it, I wondered how the hell I was going to make it work! Fortunately, as always, my amazing parents were there for support, both practically and emotionally.

My Mum had a stroke last June. That was, without a doubt, the worst time of all our lives. We nearly lost her, but she fought with all her strength and is doing well now and continuing to make improvements in both her speech and mobility. When she was in the hospital my brother and I would talk about my ex-husband in order to encourage her to swear – our argument was that it was part of her speech therapy and therefore helpful. My Dad continues to be my rock too, in spite of the changes that have taken place in his life too; he cares for Mum full time.

I’ve also carved a new life for myself. I have a lovely, caring, kind and considerate boyfriend who has taught me what it is to be partners and he is the kind of man that my daughter stands at the window for, to watch for his arrival. I could not feel more loved and respected; he is endlessly patient with me and my constant need to apologise. I’m getting there; when he reminds me not to say ‘sorry’. I have learned not to immediately say it again – one day at a time! He’s also helped me to see that there may be a day in the future when I might walk down the aisle once more.

Counselling helped me immensely, I didn’t know how much I needed it until I’d had it, but I know that I couldn’t have started a new relationship until I’d exorcised the demons of my marriage.

I’m currently off sick. The completion of our financial agreement was the final thing I’d been fighting him for, and my body sort of crumpled into a heap after it’s conclusion; I am one very snotty Emma right now! I’m having a rest from all that ‘strong’, but I know something that I didn’t before; how much of it I have inside me when it’s required. I’m looking forward to the next chapter, hopefully without any choppy rivers in it.

Emma xxx

"what is this here to teach me?"

What is this here to teach me?

"what is this here to teach me?"

“What is this here to teach me?”

This girl gave me a fright yesterday. She fell down the stairs in our house as we were getting ready to leave for school in the morning. She did not hit her head or anything like that but she did complain of a pain in her back. Not wanting to be late for school, I checked she was okay and went to grab my shoes. However, my mama instinct kicked in and  asked me to check her again. As I went back to check her, she passed out in my arms for a few seconds.

Surprisingly, I was calm. And if you know me, you’ll know that I am not a calm person. I guess I had to stay calm because her older sister was freaking out.  To be honest with you, I was more worried about her older sister who thought her younger sister was dying right in front of her.  To cut a long story short, she is fine. The doctors said the shock of the fall was what made her faint.

When things like this happen to me, I have learned to ask myself, “what is this here to teach me?” My lesson? Not to take my daughters for granted. Life is freaking fragile.


Friends like these

Identity Crisis (1 of 1)

Some days are heaven sent; some days are not. For me, today was heaven sent – I’ve had a marvellous day and I’d like to tell you about it. I started my day with three amazing women. I have said it before and I’ll say again, we need amazing women in our lives – women we are not afraid to be ourselves with!

But first, I need to let you into a little secret… I’m turning into my parents. Like them, I have what some might describe as unusual viewpoints and sayings about life. My parents had African proverbs about all kinds of life issues, and I do too. When I was growing up they constantly told me to watch who I hung out with. In particular, they said be careful about the people you hang out with on the first day of the week as they can determine how your week goes. So, if you start your week with people who have good vibes, goodness will follow you throughout the week and, vice versa.

My morning started at a local café with three friends who are also great mums. Just to chip this in, if you are a mum, you need mum friends. My mum friends and I brought the roof down in the café – we chatted loudly about our lives, children, hopes and dreams. We plotted, planned and encouraged one another on the issues that mums and women face. Just what you’d expect from good friends!

Sitting down and having one coffee after another with these women, I realised how blessed I am. The point of writing this blog is not really to tell you about my morning or my great friends, but to remind you that life is too short to spend another minute with the people who do not edify you – people who make you feel bad about who you are.

Like my parents, I have four quotes to share with you.

“Stay away from lazy parasites, who perch on you just to satisfy their needs, they do not come to alleviate your burdens, hence, their mission is to distract, detract and extract, and make you live in abject poverty.”
― Michael Bassey Johnson

“Friendship improves happiness, and abates misery, by doubling our joys, and dividing our grief.”
― Marcus Tullius Cicero

One friend with whom you have a lot in common is better than three with whom you struggle to find things to talk about.”
― Mindy Kaling,

“If you are not going to be a comfort, have the decency to be an empty space.”
― Jennifer Crusie

Yvonne xxx