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One year ago today, I drove away from my home for the final time with the last of my possessions loaded in the boot of my car.

“I’m off now” were my parting words to my ex; with those simple words, 32 years of marriage ended.

As I drove away, Al Green was playing on my CD, just like the theme song to a movie:

Don’t look so sad, I know it’s over
But life goes on and this old world will keep on turning

In the movies, the heroine would be driving off to new and better times, but life isn’t like the movies…

Or is it?

Since then, I’ve successfully bought, moved into, and done up my own home; I’ve expanded my business and increased my savings; I’ve had some lovely holidays; I’ve spent time with my daughters, my sister and my friends; and I’ve been having a wonderful time with a new partner.

Each time I return home, it’s not with a sense of overwhelming dread and crippling stress, but with feelings of contentment and pleasure.

Oh, how I am happy ‘for the good times’.

And for dancing with another.

Well, it’s been an interesting start to 2016.

Firstly, it all kicked off with yet another argument where I am blamed, the latest being I am trying to take the children away from him.  He seems to overlook the fact that we are talking about ‘children’ aged 19 and 22, who are more than able to make their own decisions.  He kept shouting that I should leave because everything is OK when I’m not there.  And I thought ‘you know, you’re right, I should leave – for my own peace of mind and well-being’ so I did.  I went to stay at my stepmother’s as she was away.

Then, I lost the house I was buying as the vendor decided he wasn’t going to sell.

Then, I got an email from my solicitor saying the Consent Order for the financial arrangement had been approved by the judge and she could now apply for my decree absolute.

Whilst at my stepmother’s, it gave me the time and space to think.  It was lovely returning there after work and being able to relax.  For the first time in ages, I looked forward to going home.  Annd I realised I couldn’t return to the marital home.

My sister works for the estate agents who are selling our house and so I asked them if they could find me a property to rent.  I have a problem going through the normal channels as I’m self employed and can’t provide the required work references.  Her boss has very, very kindly offered me a property he is refurbishing for rental, and at well below the market rental value.  He says he knows I will leave it looking as pristine as it is when I move in because my house is the most immaculate property he has ever taken on.  I move in next week and I am so excited.  It’s is Wimbledon, a very expensive and desirable area that I wouldn’t otherwise even have the slightest chance of living in so it’s going to be an interesting and enjoyable experience.

And because I feel so excited and positive, I know one hundred percent that it is the right thing to do.  I know the girls will visit me;  I am sure they will stay from time to time.  I’ll be able to forget the nonsense and focus on finding somewhere to buy and on becoming myself again.

In the meantime, I am staying with another.

And learning to be me.

 

 

I find it hard to believe that a whole year has passed and I am still in the same situation, perhaps a bit further down the road but nowhere near as far as I thought I’d be.

I met a friend this week.  In 2015, she managed to get divorced, sell her house, get remarried and buy a house.  And me?  I’m still trying to get divorced, still trying to sell my house, still trying to buy a house.  This time last year, when I looked forward to this time this year, I thought I would be in a different place.  I never dreamt I would be in the same position.

Some things have changed, however.  This time last year, I felt fearful of what the future would hold, how I would feel when my house finally went on the market, whether I would have regrets.  Everything was scary and uncertain.

Everything is still uncertain, but I’m no longer fearful.  I feel positive that I will be able to deal with whatever course the next few months take.  I’m trying not to let my anxieties dominate; I’m not dwelling on the what ifs.  I’m trusting that somehow I will be able to deal with situations as they arise.

My STBX and I are still living under the same roof.  He’s still trying to control me – this week alone, he has complained about me putting things in the bin, saying I’m not adhering to his rules; he’s perpetuating  some kind of ongoing battle about who cooks for our younger daughter (I can’t even be bothered to explain this one); he’s got angry that some of my friends have not included his name on their Christmas cards; he’s accused me of monopolising the children (aged 19 and 22, and adults who can make up their own minds) over Christmas and the New Year.  Whereas in the past I would have got worked up over this, I’m now just tired of dealing with it and let it wash over me.  I see it for what it is: his attempts to get me back under his control.  That’s not going to happen though: I’m done with that.  We should be living separately, then it would be easier, but living together still, I think, leads him to see us as still being together, to see me as his wife (which technically I am, although not for much longer).

The house sale is proceeding so I think it is only a matter of weeks before we go out separate ways.  My purchase is not proceeding so I don’t know where I will go, but I’ll go somewhere.  It will all work out one way or another.

Mentally, I’ve made the break and I’m moving on.  I don’t think he is as far down that road as me.  But that’s a journey he has to make for himself – I’ve spent years feeling responsibile for his happiness and well-being, but it really was never my responsibility.

So I’m sitting here thinking that I should be scared, fearful, anxious, and a whole host of other negative emotions.

Yet I feel calmly confident.

And that’s good.

After an aborted attempt at a house move in August (lost our buyer so I lost the house I was buying), I felt very low.  I was hanging on, believing that I only had a few more weeks to get through so when it all fell through, it hit me really hard and I felt both physically and emotionally exhausted.  I had trouble concentrating on anything, work was a struggle, and day-to-day living under the same roof with my STBEx became an even more stressful experience.

Now we have another buyer and I have made an offer on another house, which has been accepted.  Our buyers want to move quickly so I’ve said we’ll vacate even if my purchase hasn’t gone through but I’m just hoping that somehow it all comes together at the same time.  The whole situation is giving me sleepless nights – made worse by the fact that it’s been two years since I’ve had a bed to sleep in and I’m on the sofa or in my daughter’s bed.  In the middle of the night, my thoughts run wild with all sorts of problems and scenarios racing through my mind.  Then the next day, I’m exhausted and feel down, negative, anxious, all of which is made worse by extreme tiredness.  Then because I’m a fighter, and an optimist, my mood lifts and I feel positive and happy – it’s a rollercoaster.

Living in the same house as the person you’re divorcing is a surreal experience, made difficult by the fact that he blames me for everything. Sometimes he speaks to me as if everything is normal, then there’s a hugh blow up, then there’s the silent treatment, and so the cycle continues.  Somehow I manage to detach from this – most of the time anyway.  I much stronger than I used to be.  But I don’t have a home I can relax in.  I spend my days outside the house, but then I can’t get on with my life properly.  It’s not easy to say the least.  I feel as if I’m a ghost in my own life.

But despite this I’m relatively happy.  There are lots of positives in my life.  Although I have my dark days, and although they are becoming more frequent, I hold on to the hope that sometime next year, and sooner rather than later, I will be in my own place and my daughters and I (and our new addition, my daughter’s dog) will be living the life that we want: a life that is not controlled by someone else’s anger and abuse, in a happy home where there is fun and laughter, and family and friends are welcome.

In the meantime, to keep myself sane, I enjoy socialising, reading, writing, walking in the park, yoga and pilates, holidays and…

Dancing with another.

 

I am having a great week. My STBEx has gone on holiday and the girls and I have the house to ourselves.  We are enjoying the freedom: the freedom to use the washing machine when we want to, the freedom to put rubbish in the bin, the freedom to sit in the living room and chat in the evenings. I am enjoying having my own room and bed (the one that was ours but then became his as he pushed me out of it – both metaphorically and physically); I am enjoying have constant access to my possessions; I am enjoying not being on edge, waiting for him and his angry moods to descend like a black cloud on our lives.  I am lighting candles, watching TV, reading my book, chatting with my daughters. They are making plans to have friends round.

We are being NORMAL.

Only for us, this isn’t normal.  This freedom is exciting, intoxicating, relaxing.

We haven’t asked for much from our family life. We only want simple things, simple things like candles, books, TV, friends, a bed to sleep in.

This week really brings it home to me how absurd my situation is. How what the girls and I want is not unreasonable like he makes it seem. It’s NORMAL.

I’m not sure I’m making sense.

I am so looking forward to my future.

A future without him.

Freedom.

My youngest daughter was unhappy the other day.  I asked her why and she told me that dad had been acting aggressively and she’d been scared.  I still don’t know the exact details but he had been drinking and apparently locked her in the back garden for 45 minutes because she spilt some sugar.  When my eldest daughter got in from work, he had face cream smeared on his face like tribal paint.

We we need to be out of this situation as soon as possible. The house sale and my new purchase are moving far too slowly, in fact no progress seems to be being made.  He has made offers on five properties and withdrawn all of them.  He’s on various medication and is drinking on top of that. Yesterday his drinking started at 10 o’clock in the morning.  It is evident to me that he is depressed.

I can’t have my daughter scared when he is with her but I need to go out to work. So I had no choice but to confront him. I asked him what had happened the day before. He got angry and warned me not to start. I pointed out that I wasn’t ‘starting’ but had simply asked him a question. I was calm. He wouldn’t tell me. I said that she had been scared and that was unacceptable and that he should consider the effect of his actions on and the feelings of his children.  He told me I was ‘high and mighty’ and that I had ‘put the events in motion’, that I was ‘to blame’ by filing for divorce.  At one time, I would have been enraged by this and fought back, but I no longer care. I know the truth. I’d made my point and I hoped that a little part of it would sink in and cause him to reconsider his behaviour.

Our elder daughter says she never wants to see him again. If he’s not careful, our younger daughter will take the same line.  And I think that’s sad because I might not want him as my husband but he is still their father.

Our younger daughter has said she would like me to meet someone else. She realises that this has not been a proper relationship, she says she thinks of me as single, feels I deserve more and, as she put it, she doesn’t want me ‘to die alone’!  I’m glad she recognises that the relationship is not ‘normal’.

Yesterday my my daughters went shopping together. They bought me a dress and a card with a lovely message of encouragement and support in it because they recognise that I have been feeling down. And they’re right: the days when I’m feeling low are becoming more and more frequent. But when I stayed at a friend’s place while they were on holiday, I quickly bounced back to my normal self so I know that this is only temporary. But I’m fed up with feeling tired and stressed when I’m in my own home.  It wasn’t until I was away that I realised how my body is in a permanent state of fight or flight and this can’t be any good for me.

The situation is driving me crazy.

But hopefully it won’t be long.

And in the meantime I can continue…

Dancing with another.

Like I said in my last post, I’ve learnt a lot about myself over the last few weeks.

I’ve realised how the impact of the controlling relationship I’ve been in filters into other interactions.  I’ve been ‘trained’ not to make others angry. I don’t even spend my time trying to please people; instead I spend my time trying to take actions that will not make them angry.

For example, I’m staying with a friend at the moment and while they were at work I decided to fry myself some steak.  In the past, they’ve told me not to wash the pan, but I was frying steak and I wanted to wash the pan. And I couldn’t decide whether they would be angry if I washed the pan or angry if didn’t wash the pan and I agonised over what to do.  Eventually I decided to wash it because I’d fried meat and I didn’t want the smell to linger.  When they came in, I explained what I’d done and went into great detail to justify my actions.  They just looked at me, smiling like I was crazy, and said that it was ok that I’d washed the pan but it would have been ok if I hadn’t washed the pan and that it really wasn’t important.

And I realised that, had it been my husband, both actions wouldn’t have been right. Whatever I did would have been wrong.  But I would have thought I’d chosen the wrong action and kicked myself for my poor decision, and the ensuing bad atmosphere and spoiled day/evening would have been my fault.

But when I think about it, how could I have made the wrong decision 100% of the time. The law of probability says that I should have chosen the right action 50% of the time at least.  And however much agonising I did would never had led me to the “right” decision because in the eyes of my husband whatever I did was automatically the wrong decision.

And it really didn’t matter.

My friend has given me a key.  When I came back from work and I knew they were in, I didn’t know whether I should let myself in or not.  If I buzzed the door entry and they had to get up to let me in when I had a key, would they be angry?  But if I let myself in, would it look like I was treating it as my own home and not showing them respect, and would that make them angry?  Decisions, decisions.  So I compromised.  I let myself in through the external door; then rang the doorbell before letting myself in through the internal door.

And I realise that all this sounds crazy, and that all this IS crazy.

What kind of life have I been living when simple, unimportant decisions are fraught with anxiety, anger and blame?

But at least I’m aware of it.

Now.

I had a trigger event yesterday. Here’s what happened.

I bought a cutlery holder for the drainer, the reason being we get through a lot of teaspoons and if I put them in the dishwasher we run out so I rinse them and put them on the drainer, but felt a cutlery holder would be better.  Hardly revolutionary stuff!

I was sitting in my daughter’s room when husband stormed in, waving the aforementioned cutlery holder and shouting “What the f*** is this?  You’re an f****** eejit”.

After he’d gone to bed, I went down to the kitchen and the holder had gone. I looked it the cupboards – no sign.

I found it in the bin.  And I kicked myself for buying it and making him angry.

And then I stopped.  That was what my life WAS like: weighing up my actions and trying to gauge his response and beating myself up when I made the wrong decision.  Over something as insignificant as a cutlery holder. And now I can clearly see the craziness of the situation and wonder why on earth I ever went along with it.  But then I admire myself; I admire myself for my dedication to trying to make the marriage work. However, I can see that no matter what I’d done, it would have been wrong and I was right to call it a day and file for divorce.

Needless to say, he blames me for everything. “I can’t believe what you’ve done to me” is what I frequently hear.  He’s trying to make me feel guilty but I know how hard I tried and I don’t care what his reality is because I know the truth.

Soon I will be shot of him and I’ll have my own house and as many cutlery holders as I want.

And I can’t wait.

I haven’t posted in a long time because I’ve been working hard on getting myself into a better place emotionally.

And it’s been successful.

The counselling has been a tremendous help. I’ve learnt a lot about myself and I’m changing my perspective, becoming stronger and braver, discovering things that I never knew about myself, and using that knowledge to make my world a better place.

My mind, body and spirit are coming together in unity and harmony.

It might be cold outside but inside myself I feel warm.

We must never give up on our fight to be ourselves.  It’s the only way to happiness.

And it’s worth the struggle because it will come eventually.

And it’s great.

I love the play ‘Shirley Valentine‘.  It’s about a bored housewife who serves her husband and spoilt daughter whilst dreaming of going to Greece.  In a revolutionary act which shocks her family, she does just that.  It’s a one woman show – a constant monologue that always makes me wonder how the actress has managed to remember all those lines – and it’s incredibly funny.

One summer, three or four years ago (I forget exactly), it was on in London and I was desperate to see it.  I asked husband if he wanted to come.  “No.”  This was becoming his default response to my suggestions and I usually thought “Oh well” and abandoned my plans.  But, like I said, I was desperate to see it – one of my favourite actresses was taking the role, so there was a double attraction.

I returned to the computer and bought a single ticket.  I told husband.  “How many tickets did you get?”  “One.”

I think this event marked the start of my doing things without husband.  I always asked him (often now I still do: a couple of nights ago I asked him whether he wanted to come to the ballroom social event) but when he said no, it didn’t stop me from doing it as it had done in the past.  I need to live my life.  It’s a bit sad going alone and having no-one to share it with, but it’s better than not going at all.

I can see the irony of this particular play being a turning point.

But can I blame Shirley Valentine for my current situation?