I always imagine that everyone thinks that men walk away from marriages with a skip in their step and their hat at a jaunty angle
Separating from my wife wasn’t any less traumatic just because I am an man. People believe that men are looking forward to that new life with a new partner or even freedom; that they have exciting opportunities open to them with online dating, going out with the lads and nobody nagging them about something or nothing?
Well I guarantee in most cases that simply is not true. I can only relate to my own experience but if you speak to another guy openly (over a few beers obviously) the same story often emerges. Separating is not easy for men either.
I had 3 children still at primary school, a mortgage free detached house in a nice village in Cheshire, a great job which I still enjoyed, life was good – wasn’t it?
No – I had completely fallen out of love with my wife, no need for details, it happens, it was “our” fault, but I just had to get out.
My marriage wasn’t going to mend
I just couldn’t bear to wake up every morning not being excited about life and a future, so the decision was made. My wife was fully aware we were unhappy but maybe not so prepared for me to actually do something about it. I think she was shocked. I found a small apartment to rent and although not ideal, it was a starting point. It was just about big enough to cram the children in so I could still be part of their lives.
I announced this one night and that was that, some tears, but we knew it was the right thing to do. Obviously there were lots of financial things to sort out including the divorce.
The next and worst part was telling my gorgeous children, I couldn’t hold it together, they were all screaming it was bloody horrible. I felt guilty, a word I’ll use often. I hadn’t done anything wrong, I wasn’t having an affair, I didn’t have another person lined up to climb into bed with, but I felt awful.
Questions overwhelmed by head. Should I stay for them, will they be better off with me in another place without the arguments and frosty atmosphere? Anyway the decision was made and I packed my clothes and left.
We agreed, as they were in the family home and my wife was better placed workwise and for schools and friends and family, that the children would stay with my now, ex-wife. I would have them every other weekend Friday to Sunday night and holidays. Nothing was cast in stone and I could have them anytime really.
“Great, get the legal’s and finances sorted and I can move on.”
So I thought… but “fall apart” was the next stage. I struggled to do my job efficiently, cried all the time and drank myself into a stupor most nights. This was and especially true at weekends.
I made appalling investment decisions once we had sold the house and generally acted like the world might end tomorrow. It may well have done as I was quite clearly, “off the rails”.
The end of divorce is the beginning of your new life and seeking advice at this time to make the most of your settlement is of utmost importance. A good adviser will create a simple plan to help you achieve financial security for the rest of your life and ensure your financial settlement is organised in line with your future objectives.Lottie Kent – True Financial Design Ltd – The Hug Directory
The thing is, when you are in that cycle, you have no friends and they mostly enjoy your company because they are single. They don’t get what’s happening, they enjoy the beers, no responsibilities, and to be honest they really don’t give a shit about you.
Old mutual friends seemed to fall onto my ex-wife’s side, even though they were my friends originally but who cares, “I don’t need them”, I thought.
This cycle went on for a few years, I gave up my job, I had some money from the house, I sold a newish car and bought a banger. As I was claiming housing and unemployment benefit, I started wondering who the hell I was. I’d truly lost my identity.
Several times I took my children away on nice holidays, cried a lot and drank too much, hoping they wouldn’t notice. They must have seen me though, which is even worse. I did everything I thought was right to make sure they saw normality and some form of happiness with no malice to their mother, but I was still a bloody guilt-wracked mess.
Life was pretty shit!
Bad dates, awful relationships, crap crap crap. Takeaways, where luckily they knew what I wanted, as dribbling was never a good form of communication; a table for 1 in the Indian restaurant; first name terms with the owner; first name terms with the landlords and bar staff of many pubs; best mates with every drinker in town.
There were a few really amazing people who helped me, who saw what others didn’t. Sadly the best have passed on. They only saw because they had their own insurmountable problems. Some are still around and I am forever grateful for the help they gave me.
Eventually, as it was more obvious the children were actually OK, and a lot of their friends were in similar places with divorced and separated parents, I started to feel maybe a little bit better. I allowed myself to start being and feeling a bit more “normal”.
Action was required, the alternative was a cliff top on the South Coast or a fast drive into a brick wall.
Time for a change
The first thing I had to do was “break the cycle” so I started running, long walks with jogs is probably more of an honest description. However, I had the time, and in Cheshire I was surrounded by stunning countryside, open fields, woodland and rivers so it was perfect.
My savings, which were by this point limited, (you can only have something like £16k in the bank and get housing benefit and jobseekers), were running low, so the second thing was to get a bloody job again and restart my career.
I decided to stop the over-drinking, which helped with the emotional side of things (we all know the drunk that sits in the corner and cries all the time, well not me anymore), and I avoided the pubs where the lunchtime drinkers stayed all afternoon and into the evening.
I scoured recruitment agency websites for a few months but there really was nothing I wanted to do, or that I was suited to, (I have to like what I do or my head just says no).
Then one day a job jumped out, it seemed to relate to the industry I had worked in previously. My preparation was done with lots of walking around a small flat talking to myself, then I made the call.
I had a telephone interview shortly after that, then a series of real life interviews which included me doing a presentation on the role, and then bingo! I bounced back into corporate life.
Onwards and upwards
None of this is easy, it still isn’t easy, my children are grown up now and I still ask myself if I did the right thing, well who knows, but I have a life. The main thing is that when I wake up I smile. I have a gorgeous partner now who has also had a really tough time. We muddle through with a purpose, an aim in life which we share.
Never stay if it’s wrong but be prepared for a tough time out of it and eventually. With some soul searching and tough-talk to yourself to get over the hurdles, you will find a better place.
So there you have it, separating from my wife, as a man, wasn’t a walk in the park. It was a dark place for some time and my hat was far from jaunty.
Anonymous – Cheshire – age 56
This is such a “from the heart” piece. We have asked experts from The Hug Directory to give their thoughts and advice to anyone who may be starting their journey or who are in the midst of difficult times.
Patrick Hill – Thinking Beyond Now – Grief, Loss & Life Coach – The Hug Directory
Choosing yourself, your life’s happiness, your health and well-being is always a hard choice when leaving a relationship. This is made even harder when children are involved. But what’s worse for children, and the adults, is living in toxic, painful and unhealthy relationships.
Children are sponges. Kids pick up on energy, anxiety and stress. We now know, these things are almost contagious for children. Is that what you want for your children? Of course not.
As a primary teacher for over 20 years, I saw hundreds of kids from ‘together’ parents that were sadder because of parents fighting but more ‘together’ than the ones whose parents split up.
This is what I know from coaching dozens of males and females through this process:
- Choose you first, save everyone’s lives.
- The emotional processing of events is your life’s work and it takes time and energy. But you are not alone and don’t have to do that alone.
- Short term pain or long term gain for you and ALL?
I’ll never forget the agony of breaking up with my fiancé but thank god I did. I’ve now been married, almost always happily, for 14 years. I’m still grateful today I chose me.
Research shows that men are typically in need of more support when working with emotions than women. Generally men rush to resolve and conclude which doesn’t work or create healthy relationships or wellbeing. Women generally process and feel things and express things more freely.
There’s always hope, and coaches like me help people rebuild and recreate, for themselves, a new or different and healthier life and hopefully a permanently healthier way of being and living. But it takes time, repeated new or different behaviours.
There are NO shortcuts. Go slowly and deeply.
- Live bravely and courageously: take action.
- Get support – you will need it.
- Choose you. Choose loving and living fully again.