Is it better to have loved and lost than to have never loved at all?
- UK divorce rate is estimated at 42%.
- 27 per cent of women ended up living in poverty because of divorce – three times the rate of men.
- 28% of people experience depression following their divorce.
- One in three married people reports being lonely,
- 51% of people have increased feelings of loneliness after divorce.
(AARP national survey 2018)
These statistics reflect how common difficulties are within marriage.
I am sharing my story today to show how easy it is to become isolated within a relationship, and how challenging it can be to mentally recover after the breakdown of a marriage. I hope that those reading my blog may recognise these signs, avoid some of the mistakes I made, and it might just help them to feel not so alone.
My husband and I separated nine years ago and completed my divorce two years ago. The breakdown of the relationship has and still is having an enormous impact on my mental wellbeing.
I do not recognise the person I am anymore. Once upon a time I was confident and happy with a job I enjoyed, a plethora of friends and dreams. Yes, I had experienced challenges before I met my partner, but I had managed to overcome obstacles. I always believed there was hope for the future.
How it began
I met my partner in January 1998, he was very charming and charismatic. We spent the evening getting to know each other and found that we shared a lot in common. We began dating and after eight months he moved in with me and my three-year-old child.
At first things were good, we were very much in love, and he quickly grew a strong bond as a father figure to my son.
Publicly we were the perfect couple, he was always very in control and captivating around our family and friends; but in all honesty from very early on there were red flags. Things were difficult, money always was inexplicably short. Alcohol was a big part of both of our lives and my husband struggled to hold down a job. He often had outbursts of anger, putting me down or blaming me when things went wrong. He became increasingly possessive and agitated when I spent time with other people. In time I found myself spending less time with friends to avoid upsetting him.
A fresh start?
In May 2000 we discovered I was pregnant. After the baby was born my partner asked me to marry him and suggested we should move away together and start a new life as a pub management couple. This seemed like an opportunity for a fresh start.
Sadly, things deteriorated, we moved within the pub trade from job to job, things never quite working out, but someone else was always to blame, often me. Each time we lost a job we also lost our home. The lack of stability in our lives and not having a network of support took its toll on my confidence and wellbeing, I felt very alone.
By 2006 we were constantly arguing and sometimes there were physical outbursts, by this point it was not only affecting me but impacting my children too, I knew something had to change.
An unexpected turn
I was at the point of leaving when something happened which altered everything. One Saturday morning my husband woke up complaining of a severe headache, I presumed it was a hangover and went out, leaving him to recover. When I returned a few hours later I realised there was something not right and called an ambulance. He had suffered a brain aneurysm, the doctor said he may not survive, and they needed to take him to another hospital to operate. The next few days were terrifying, I was wrecked with guilt for accusing him of having a hangover and wondering if it would be different if I had acted sooner. I was distraught at the thought that he might die and frightened of what the future would be if he survived.
The surgery was successful, initially he had lost all feeling down his left side and was having memory lapses. At first, he could not remember who our sons or I was. He came home and I looked after him until he physically made a rapid recovery.
Another fresh start?
Once he recovered, we moved to Dorset and had the opportunity to run our own bar/restaurant. This seemed like a positive move, with no bosses to answer to, I felt this time it might be easier for my husband to cope and for us to sustain and build something for our future.
Unfortunately, although physically, he had completely recovered, there was still something amiss mentally, he didn’t seem to have any emotional regulation anymore. His behaviour became more and more erratic with regular outbursts. I discovered he was running poker nights, dabbling with cocaine and sleeping with other women.
It came to a head, when I discovered that he had run up tens of thousands of pounds worth of debt in my name. He told me he wanted a divorce, and then disappeared for two days. When he returned, he went straight up to bed, I followed, saying we needed to talk. We argued, resulting in him screaming he was going to kill me, while having his hands around my throat, with pressure on my windpipe severely restricting my breathing, I remembered thinking this is the end. My youngest son appeared at the door shouting stop it daddy and tried to pull him off me. The next thing I remember was waking up the following morning on the sofa, covered in bruises, with my son looking after me.
The loneliest time
After a few days I eventually pulled myself together and went to our bar, only to be met with new business owners, who called the police to escort me off the premises. I was told it was no longer our business and my husband had signed it over to new owners due to being unable to work with “his irrational wife”.
A few days later I received a letter from a solicitor stating that my husband was filing for divorce and custody of the children as he felt I was an unfit mother.
I took my own legal advice and was strongly advised that my husband was behaving irrationally, and to safeguard myself and my children we should stay somewhere else. I organised alternative accommodation and we moved within 48 hours.
Shortly after my Husband posted in a Facebook group that he was relocating to Inverness.
Within weeks I had lost my business, my marriage had broken down and I had lost my home. I was ashamed, frightened and incredibly alone. I felt no-one could understand what had happened, as I didn’t fully understand.
Our separation was far from acrimonious, I tried on several occasions to discuss the possibility of access to his children, but the conversations always broke down, with him being verbally nasty towards me. I also tried to confront the large amounts of debt acuminated, attached to the business in my name but he was not prepared to discuss this, leaving me no choice but to file for bankruptcy. It took us seven years to finally get divorced as he refused repeatedly to share his financial information and to agree on custody of the children.
Loneliness and my mental health
For a long time, I didn’t reach out for help as I felt too ashamed of what it felt like I had let happen, furthermore I was terrified of people thinking I was unable to cope as a parent.
I did gradually begin to build a new life, prioritising looking after my children. My eldest was going into his final year at school, and my youngest was unable to attend school due to autism, and behavioural difficulties.
There is an expectation that after a period, you should eventually pick yourself up and move on, people tried to suggest dating or relationships but for a long time I couldn’t even process emotionally what had happened. In the end people often seemingly get fed up with the self-pity party and sometimes I feel I don’t blame them. After all many people go through the breakdown of a marriage and come out the other side fine. Or do they?
All I know is the person I once was, has gone, I no longer have any confidence in myself and don’t trust my own judgement. I feel very isolated and alone but at the same time, find myself pushing people away. I find it difficult to trust people and look constantly for signs that they are going to hurt me. This has led to isolation, resulting in struggles with my own mental health. I suffer with anxiety and depression and at times feel like I have nothing left to live for. In all honesty most of the time I just feel exhausted and finding the energy to make it through each day is challenging enough.
Amongst the feelings of anger and hurt, I still often feel guilty, wondering what I did that was so wrong, for me to deserve this pain. I still miss the man I fell in love with and feel the loss every day. I am now starting to realise that he wasn’t real, just a persona, the reality was someone who was very different.
A new story
I am now receiving professional mental health support. I am hopeful in time this will help me to emotionally process things and enable me to fully live my life again. But for now, I live one day at a time.
My advice to anyone else who is struggling, with relationship difficulties and marriage breakdowns, is reach out for support as soon as you can. If your partner becomes abusive leave at the first opportunity. I know this easier said than done, but there are organisations out there who can help you. Importantly, do not let anyone take away your friends and support network as no one should have to cope on their own.
Our guest blogger:
Our guest blogger this week wishes to remain anonymous- Nevertheless, huge thanks to this blogger for their very candid piece about their experience of marriage, marriage breakdown, divorce and the loneliness felt throughout.
Dorset Mind offers group support that can also help with your wellbeing. The group offers peer support and helps to reduce stigma by normalizing conversations about mental health.
If you are victim of domestic violence and need help or want to know more about it see here for more information and resources.
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Dorset Mind is a self-funded local charity that helps people in Dorset experiencing mental health problems access the vital support they need. The charity is at the very heart of our communities shaping futures, changing and in some cases literally saving lives.