It’s been 6 months since my marriage ended. People around me keep saying ‘hasn’t it gone quickly?’ Erm….. yes, if you’re living outside of my head and my life and just take a passing interest in what’s going on in my house then yes, it has gone quickly. If, on the other hand, you have been living in my house, in my head, then you’ll appreciate that other than pregnancy, the first 6 months of separation are the longest I have ever lived.
I’m glad to be half way through the year though. I always knew that once I made this decision, at the beginning of December 2016, that 2017 was going to be a frikken tough year and the only thing I could do was face it head on, hopefully calmly and with a shred of dignity.
There have been many, many moments where I’ve felt massively overwhelmed, not sure where to carry on etc and times where I’ve felt euphorically high. Here is a list of some of my observations from the last 6 months:
The first 6 months will be some of the worst of your life.
To begin with there was the euphoria of change. Having my life back, having my house back to myself and some much needed time alone after the relentlessness of the relationship and parenting from the previous 8 years. Once that wore off there was the reality of this being what life was like now, although everything is subject to change. Emotions were still running high, the kids were getting into new routines, at my house, with their Dad and those close to them.
I’m in no way saying that we are anywhere near the end of the transition. I was with a friend, who is 5 years further into divorce/separation than I am and she commented ‘the first 6 months are shit’ and there it was. It wasn’t just me, the first 6 months are about survival. After that emotions start to settle down and life becomes more ‘normal’.
Friends who you thought you could rely on to support you will barely make an appearance.
This was probably the most surprising part of the whole process. Friends who had supported me through various break ups and life events in the past, were still there but in no way did they particularly step up. I would see them as regularly as I used to see them and they’d enquire how things were going but didn’t really want to get involved more than that.
You will make new friends who you’ll wonder how you ever lived without knowing.
I thought I was set for friends then with the separation there was the inevitable losing of some friends and reshuffling of others. Into my life swooped 3 new friends who I don’t know how I’d get through the days without. They are amazing people.
You’ll wish they made badges to wear in public which say ‘don’t worry, divorce isn’t catching’.
Still on the friendship theme….. those who stay away. These people haven’t actually fallen out with me or know me well enough to have any opinion on my marriage or separation, they just keep their distance and are stand off-ish when I see them. Almost as if they’re afraid that my separation is ‘catching’. All of these people are the other school mums who I see at drop off and pick up times only.
You will become public property & everyone will think they have a right to an opinion on your life.
One of the most irritating things! I’m not a massively private person and I’m happy to be open and honest when people talk to me but my goodness the opinions I have to listen to. How they think I should parent, what they think my separation should look like, how much maintenance my ex should pay, who should have the kids etc……. The truth is that no-one knows what went on in my relationship or how my ex and I mapped things out when we separated and therefore they don’t have the information or right to an opinion on these things.
People will ask (and expect the answer to) really inappropriate questions.
5 days after my ex moved out his aunt came over, cornered me in the kitchen and demanded to know the exact reasons why we had separated….. my ex quickly put a stop to her behaving this way but sadly, couldn’t put a stop to everyone who wanted to know the ins and outs of our situation. Sometimes fielding the questions is exhausting but not quite as exhausting as having to explain mine and my ex’s decisions and reasoning behind things.
Amicability can be a lot harder than you ever expected.
I promised my ex that when we separated we didn’t have to go down the acrimonious path both our parents divorces went down. We could re-write the rules and create a situation that worked for us. This is idealistic at most and fine at best. Amicability can be hard. There are so many reasons that people separate and usually they don’t do so because they are getting on well and the relationship is working. My ex can still speak to me in a way that makes me cringe or send messages that has my eyes rolling in frustration but taking some time out before responding can work wonders and keep the relationship amicable.
It also has its rewards and is 100% right for our family.
The worst part of amicability is the boys not always understanding why we aren’t together anymore as we appear to get on well. If this is the worst then I’ll definitely take that. I firmly explain to them that we are all happier apart and weren’t very happy together but we’re friends and therefore can go to school events together or speak on the phone without wanting to kill each other. It seems to have worked, the kids have stopped mentioning it and now just see this as the way our lives work.
No-one other than your very best friends will particularly care how the kids are coping with it.
When we separated we had the boys at the forefront of our minds. We knew that we’d be ok, we could look after ourselves but the boys needed everyone’s support. Therefore before my ex moved out, I went and spoke to the boys’ teachers and our family and friends, one by one. I explained that we were separating, what we were going to tell the boys and when and how we would like the boys to be supported through the period.
As time has gone on, only our very closest friends have kept checking in to see how the boys are, what they can do to help and if my ex and I need any support helping the boys to understand everything.
People will gossip about you.
This hasn’t really bothered me. I guess because my sister and I have an enormously close relationship she’s always told me what the family are saying when I’m not there. As I said earlier, I’m an open and honest person so if anyone wants to know about me/what happened then they should just ask me. I think the gossip factor probably bothered my ex more as he hates people knowing anything about his life and not being able to control his public image once we were apart must have been really hard.
Being the first of your group to experience this will leave you feeling incredibly lonely.
I had never really considered that I would be the first out of my friends to go through this experience. Not that I thought others would before me, just that I didn’t necessarily think I’d go through it. Then when I did make the decision to end the marriage it felt like the most natural thing for us and our relationship. I’ve never doubted the decision or the life we’d all have the other side of it but being the first of us to go through it can make for long periods of loneliness and feeling (slightly) misunderstood.
When the next person in the group goes through it, you’ll know what to do/say.
My friend going through this experience may say differently but I hope I’ve been helpful! No separation is easy and even when you’re through the worst of it yourself (God willing!) you know that it’s not about what you say or do, it’s about having empathy and a true understanding of what your friend is going through.
You’ll find the parenting side of things relentless.
Being the main parent whilst in a relationship is tough. Being a solo parent day in day out is a whole load of different. The autonomy of being with the kids and not being criticised for every thing you do or say is fab. Dealing with the kids when you’re all knackered and they’re playing up is relentless.
If your ex has plans you will be left holding the baby.
See above for the relentlessness. Because the kids live with you, if your ex decides they have plans that night, without any guilt or shame they will dump the kids with you and there is nothing you can do about it. Likewise, they will choose times to pick up/drop off the kids with scant regard for any plans you may have. This is frustrating at the very least but it’s also worth remembering that what’s important is not your plans for a night out, but how wanted/loved/accepted the kids feel. Cancel the plans and have a night in with the kids. Chances are your bestie (see 3 new friendships) will rock up with a bottle of wine and while away the evening with you and the kids = everybody wins.
This time next year you will have a completely different life.
This has kept me going on so many occasions. I always think of everything as temporary anyway, that nothing last forever and most things in life are just stages or phases. It’s great to know though, that on the really crappy days, in a month or 6 month or a year’s time, whatever it is I’m having a dilemma over won’t matter anymore.
It’s a marathon, not a sprint.
Once the outside world recovers from the shock of you separating, they start to leave you alone and you can all get on with life, with the new normal. As tempting as it is to want everything to have moved on, I want to do things properly for the kids, for them to look back on this part of their lives and not remember it as some sort of horror show. This means taking time for stuff to adjust. Not kicking our heels up and having too good a time leaving little space to process the emotions we are all having. We have years and years of our new lives ahead of us, we don’t have to live every minute of it now.
It was the right decision and it is worth it.
When I first thought of separating I didn’t tell anyone about it, I wanted to spend time really thinking if this was the right thing, not just for me and the boys, but for my ex too. Whilst it wasn’t the happiest news he’d ever been given, he has grown massively since we split. He appears to have shaken the depression, smartened himself up and got a proper job for the first time in years. He’s definitely more present with the kids and they all seem to enjoy each other a lot more. Watching this transformation and the boys come out of their shells means that I have never questioned the decision to separate and believe it was the right one for all of us.