Peter, an ambulance driver, and his wife, a nurse, married after having known each other for a year. They had two boys close in age. Their marriage lasted for almost twenty years and by the time they divorced the boys were in their mid teens.

Reaching the decision to divorce:

When I married I thought “This is it, life with this woman til I die”. We had two boys, 10 months apart. It was like having twins! All was good. My wife found having children stressful. I look back now and realise that she found things difficult and we regularly had differing opinions on how to handle the kids. I thought I was relaxed about it and she was stressed and overly protective. Over time this difference of opinion led from one cross word to another. I was always putting her moodiness down to woman problems, work, kids, me. Essentially ignoring reality. I was always in the wrong no matter what I did. I was always supportive (so I thought). I would try to cuddle her when I saw she was down, I’d be pushed away. I tried talking to her, asking “What’s wrong?” and I get the obligatory “Nothing!”

As time went on, I felt battered, weary, abused, put down, manipulated and scared. Scared because I didn’t know how to make things better, because I was worried how the kids would be affected. How would I cope, mentally, physically and financially? I felt trapped. Fortunately I loved my job and this was a way for me to deal with my personal life. Things were difficult for around ten years and I stuck at it but we all have our limits and around 2011 I began to think that I didn’t want to be married anymore. Work began to stress me out with substantial changes being brought in. Late 2011 I left home. This was the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do. It’s since become a joke, but I now use the phrase “I left and all I had was a bag of clothes”. Sadly this was the truth. I was lucky, I had a friend who took me in and helped support me mentally and didn’t take rent from me to help me get sorted financially. I was still paying my wife half of my wages, this clearly wasn’t sustainable. I wasn’t able to deal with things for several months during this period; it was easy to bury my head.

Around eight months later, a female family friend was also going through a divorce. We had known each other for around six years and always got on well. I think our circumstances had given us both extra commonality. Three years later we married and I/we are very happy!!

What I wish I had known:

I stayed in an mentally abusive marriage way longer than I should have. Largely due to fear and partly due to my easy going personality. Financial worry was at the top of my list. There is always another option. You don’t have to be unhappy.

The low point:

The time leading up to leaving was hugely stressful. The action itself, unbelievably so. My children knew something was wrong the night before (definitely a long time before, even though you try to hide it from them) and seeing them so upset was heart breaking. Immediately after leaving I was very down. Luckily the friend I temporarily stayed with was very supportive and was a good listener with no axe to grind. It took a long time (well over a year) before I felt strong enough to start dealing with my estranged wife. This was largely due to her previous manipulation and bullying behaviour towards me over the later years of our marriage. She was unreasonable and bitter. She started contacting my family, who showed her compassion and support. It didn’t take long for her to start sending them horrid texts that they didn’t deserve. Why, I don’t know.

Have I done the right thing?

Definitely. My previous marriage was not authentic. There was no communication, no love, no respect. I was lucky that my children were older (15 and 16 yrs) when I left. I don’t think I could have left if they were younger. I was worried how the kids would be affected. No time is the right time, but I think there was a strong possibility that I would have been denied access if they had been younger. I am now in a communicative, very loving relationship.

One thing I would do differently:

I wish I could have been stronger earlier and able to stick up for myself more.