The greatest learning curve I ever experienced was my first separation, and ultimately the end of my first marriage. Coming hot on the heels of a period of self-doubt, I wasn’t coping with life very well, my then husband who permanently needed his ego massaged, didn’t cope with that I was racked with insecurities and worry about life in general. Let alone how we were doing.
Ours was a whirlwind relationship, it burned very brightly, but when it came down to the nitty-gritty of life, he simply wasn’t able to function. I would make budgets, for him to blow them out the water with a shopping spree in Games Workshop. I borrowed money from family, friends, the bank, anywhere I could to keep us afloat. I would come home to find letters on the doormat with extensions to our overdrafts, (yes, plural), credit cards were maxed out, just finding money to buy food became hard work. The more I tried to reign it in, the worse he got, because he thought I was nagging. Pleading would be more accurate. He closed up like a clam, shutting me out of his life. A new posting was mooted, and he took it, both of us hoping that the change of house, change of camp, change of jobs would help shake up the marriage and we could sort it out into some semblance of order. However, along with the move would come nearly £1000 that would go some way to paying something off. Except, he spent it.
Also, after we moved, we dragged all the problems along with us. You can’t expect anything less. We were hardly talking, my friends were worried about me, my family came to visit and picking up on the tension between the two of us we had an almighty row. I can remember him navigating my father around a roundabout, Dad complained about the camber of it, Ex apologised, but this was the most direct route to where we were heading, Dad then retorted that he knew the route. Ex wanted to know why the eff did he want directions then. Mum and I were sat in the back of the car with fixed grins on our faces thinking ‘Oh God’. The weekend was not a success.
About a week later, Ex announced he was moving out, he needed space. I’ve written a post about the end of this relationship, and how I knew it was over; but still I asked him not to go, knowing full well if he left, we would never sort it out. He left anyway. My world ended. And I don’t write that sentence easily. Married to a soldier, I had taken a job in the Civil Service to follow him from posting to posting, I had just started working on the same camp as him, RMA Sandhurst, in a building that looked out onto his office building. I wouldn’t be able to live in the house, I was given 90 days notice to leave. So sympathetic are the MoD to spouses of husbands who can’t keep their willy in their trousers. Because that week I also found out what I had suspected for ages, and what was contributing to my paranoia in doubting myself, he had been having an affaire with a friend of mine. I’d asked him about it, for him to say don’t be silly. I was going on my gut instinct you should always use, and he kept telling me not to trust it.
In a week I lost my marriage, my house, my job. The time of the actual break up is blurry, the hormones released during periods of immense stress means that your brain switches into survival mode, so I physically can’t remember much of it. However, I was picked up, carried and somehow fought through the anxiety, insomnia, loss of appetite, although at a wake for a family member six months after the break up I got very drunk. My best friend slept at my feet in a sleeping bag from where I had collapsed on the couch, worried stiff about me as I asked her to ‘Please let me die. Just let me go.’
Why I am writing about this now? Well, it is exactly five years ago it was all happening. It is a funny anniversary to acknowledge. But for me, it is an important one. Five years ago through the next couple of months, particularly on Hallowe’en week, is my other birthday. I was sat in my soon to be ex-house, hiding in the dark, listening to happy families trick or treating, crying and crying and crying. My cat was soon to be collected to go and live with my parents, I was moving in with friends who had opened their home to me. And I didn’t know what to do. So I sat there and let life take over. I surrendered completely to the pain and emotion I was feeling. Facing it head on, I looked at it and recognised that yes, this was awful, but I would get through it. There was something better for me on the other side. It was a long time before I recognised that I was happy, but Hallowe’en was a start.
This post was also prompted by me reading this article today. It rang a loud bell inside my head, counselling can work for some people and I don’t doubt that there are couples who will work through problems with the assistance of an external person to mediate and offer advice. But not every relationship should be saved. My first marriage was one of them, I never should have married him.
While the pain of separation may not have been any less had we not been married, legally it would have been a damn site easier to extricate myself from it. It is too easy to get married, you can just whizz off and make it happen. Women are taught from an early age they need to plan their wedding, bullshit. You need to plan your marriage. The wedding is just one day, the start of a change in your relationship, the start of the rest of your lives together. Don’t get caught up in rose petals, lace and confetti. Get caught up in how you work together as a team. If the groom just has to turn up and say ‘I do’ in the right place while the bride works herself into a frenzy worrying about the cake, that doesn’t bode well for the rest of your lives. Marriage is about team work, walking beside your partner to achieve the best outcome for both of you.
Five years ago, I was in a bit of a mess. Where I am now is a reason to celebrate. It is a reason to be grateful. Hard work and sheer bloodymindeness have dragged me through at times. But I am still here. Still laughing.