Madeline had been married for 10 years when her marriage came to an end. She and her husband had two children together. Madeline had two children from her previous marriage. Madeline and her husband negotiated an out of court settlement.
Reaching the decision to divorce:
The breakdown of the marriage was a long and tortuous process. Over 2 years with my partner moving out, initially for a few weeks which turned into a year, returning for a year. Finally, realising that my partner was unable to break from his ‘secret’ life and that the marriage was over.
The crunch-point came when our marriage guidance counsellor challenged me and suggested that I would be better off out of the marriage. I had been so determined to work on making the marriage succeed. We’d both been married previously and I was convinced that having gone through the pain of divorce before, we had come to our marriage with the intention of it being a life-long commitment. But this was my narrative, not my husband’s.
What I wish I’d known:
Would this have helped? I’m not sure. But I was totally unprepared for the sense of grief I felt, for the life I had lost and more importantly my future life. It didn’t really hit me until after the raw emotion of the split up and associated practicalities of going through the divorce, and totally took me by surprise.
What I would do differently:
I was so focussed on dealing with the fallout of a failing marriage and most importantly trying to protect my children from this, that I lost sight of myself. I dealt with the aftermath of the divorce as an ‘ex-wife’, still defining myself as being part of a relationship – rather than seeing myself as a separate (if somewhat battered) individual.
Several years later I worked with a coach who helped me move forward with positivity and optimism. I wish I had found this sooner and would recommend that people going through relationship breakdowns find support which gives them space to reconnect and focus on themselves and what a new future might become.
The best advice I was given:
I’m not sure if I was given this advice, read it somewhere, or just picked it up through observing how others had dealt with divorce – but it is something I believe in passionately. Whatever pain and rancour you are going through in your marriage breakdown – if you have children, protecting them to the best of your ability is your JOINT responsibility as parents. Children are the innocents in these situations; they have a tendency to carry the weight of responsibility on their own shoulders as they struggle to interpret what is happening and they carry the guilt of being the child of both of you and therefore are always caught in the middle. Whenever there are difficult and tricky issues to resolve start by asking what would serve the children best. If you are both truly focussed on this, it can help identify common ground, create a more objective perspective from which to negotiate and, of course, give you a chance of finding the best future for the children.