I don’t really understand what happened with their marriage – David has been quoted as recently saying about Courtney: “She’s incredible. I love her too, and she’s an amazing person, a beautiful person.” and Courtney said of David “He’s my best friend in the world. I love him. “I appreciate […]
Posted by Family Affairs on 03-12-2012 in BLOG tagged with Christmas / DIVORCE / food / KIDS / presents / single parent
Sigh. Christmas and the single parent. It is very very hard and ridiculously complicated. Thankfully my children will wake up on Christmas morning at my house. But then, after our pressie-fest, they have to leave. It is still painful. I have a friend that will be doing the single/kids/who is […]
Posted by Family Affairs on 19-09-2012 in BLOG / DIVORCE tagged with DIVORCE / mothers / Nigella Lawson / parenting Posted by Family Affairs on 11-08-2012 in BLOG tagged with adapting / Children / DIVORCE / Holidays / single parent Posted by Family Affairs on 19-07-2012 in BLOG / DIVORCE tagged with chaos / DIVORCE / Having it all / parenting / single parent Posted by Family Affairs on 08-04-2012 in BLOG / DIVORCE tagged with chocolate / DIVORCE / easter eggs / Happy Easter / Sunday Posted by Family Affairs on 29-02-2012 in BLOG / DIVORCE tagged with Children / DIVORCE / issues / single
I have woken up on this leap year day feeling miserable. I can’t think of one spectacular thing to do today that isn’t inappropriate (a tattoo is very tempting for some bizarre reason but ridiculous) and have nobody to propose to, so instead I have been fretting, since 5am, about where my life is going and what I’m going to do about it all and worrying about everything.
Five years ago, almost to the day my Decree Absolute came through. When I had counselling pre my divorce the counsellor used to ask me where I wanted to be in five years time. I think I must have been visualising clear azure waters and pale sand and warm sun so hard that my wish has actually come true – it’s just that the bloody genie got the wrong person and it’s my son that is the lucky recipient of my mental powers because he is the one who is currently floating around the Great Barrier Reef and off to Airlie Beach and thinking he’s in heaven. NOT ME.
Which is FINE. OBVIOUSLY. I AM VERY HAPPY FOR HIM. I can’t be there, I have other children to look after. Responsibilities. Work to do. Bills to pay. Daily life to lead. Issues to deal with.
Things don’t feel at all right at the moment. I have mucho worries. My mother, whilst being supportive isn’t helping the situation. When my father was alive I’d ring him to discuss my latest drama or concern and he’d talk me through it step by step. He’d come up with a practical plan. Give me some solid advice. For the last few months, because of the issues I am dealing with the moment (that cannot be openly discussed for various reasons) she mostly sighs a lot and says “What a mess” in lots of different ways. Like, “WHAT. A. MESS” or “what a meeeesssssssssss”. It makes things feel worse somehow. Time is going by and I appear to be making no progress.
I have a number of friends teetering on the verge of separating from their partners at the moment. I don’t feel like I am able to give them any positive advice about the future. Yes, we all know people who have found their soulmate later in life and couldn’t be happier, but it’s not particularly common or realistic. It’s a big scary world out there and it is changing rapidly. There are many more younger single women around – those who took it for granted that they would spend their 20’s and 30’s finding themselves and building their career and having fun are suddenly finding that there are not too many men left waiting for them as they reach the stage of wanting to settle down. Kate Bollick wrote a very popular article in The Atlantic Magazine recently all about the sea change afoot that is “every bit as wrenching and irreversible as the Industrial Revolution”. “Immensely liberating and immensely scary – when it comes to what people actually want and expect from marriage and relationships and how they organise their sexual and romantic lives, all the old ways have broken down”. 43% of Generation Xers think that marriage is becoming obsolete and many haven’t dealt with the matter “in a timely fashion”. This new scarcity of suitable men she says “disrupts what economists call the ‘marriage market’ in a way that in fact narrow the available choices. This shrinking pool of traditionally ‘marriageable’ men is dramatically changing our social landscape and producing startling dynamics in the marriage market”. She also says that when confronted with “a surplus of women, men become promiscuous and unwilling to commit to a monogamous relationship”. Her opinion is that the “the more successful a man is (or thinks he is) the less interested he is in commitment”. She as a gorgeous, clever, nearly 40 year old woman who has had to accept that she might always be single and is learning to accept that prospect and thrive on her own. But. Where does that leave the single ageing divorcee parents? In a very messy world with few choices and all sorts of added complications to consider I suspect.
I DON’T HAVE A PLAN and I feel I’ve lost my way a bit of late. Time is rushing by and I am not in control. I don’t want to take up sailing or Karate to find a partner. In fact I don’t really think I want a partner at all but the danger is that the more I get used to my own company the more difficult it will be to let someone else in….and that is just in my fantasy world of assuming there is anyone out there suitable enough (i.e. single, own hair, teeth, friends, not too much baggage, doesn’t snore, have horrid feet or an STD, that I can trust).
I think I might just go back to bed. Perhaps I just got out of the wrong side of the bed. You can do that when you sleep in a double bed on your own.
I’ll try the other side tomorrow.
Posted by Family Affairs on 17-01-2012 in BLOG / DIVORCE tagged with DIVORCE / Family / finances / Friends / how to / humour / survive
I wrote this post some time ago, but I’ve been asked to provide an update. As per usual, I am so definitely not in a position to write a post on “How To Survive Divorce” because I am certainly no expert on the matter. Sometimes, even quite far down the line you wonder how you could have got to this position and why certain things still seem so huge. Dividing the sum of your marriage, kids and all is spectacularly painful. Children will always make things seem a million times worse. There are times when you feel you want to climb back into your nuclear family marriage just to make your children’s life feel easier. Of course it helps if you get on. If the financial situation is sorted out so that you are both happy (which is very rare) it helps hugely but the usual default setting is that both the finances and the children are used as weapons of mass destruction and therefore just when you think all is calm something else gets hurled your way. It’s an ongoing battle in our case. Lets hope that doesn’t apply in yours.
ANYWAY. BACK TO THE POINT.
I have my annual advice for those of you considering this daunting prospect. It’s Blue Monday week – the most depressing time of the year so here are some pointers to help you on your way:-
HOW TO SURVIVE DIVORCE (hopefully)
1. Your friends (and family if you’re lucky) will get you through it more than you will ever know. Don’t ever take them for granted but make sure you surround yourself with them wherever possible. They will be there with you on your long journey back out of the black hole.
2. Be prepared. You are in for a long hard slog. Get a good lawyer. Rumour has it that it takes half the time you were married to begin to get over your marriage. If that is too awful a prospect then bank on it taking AT LEAST four years. The first year is almost better than the next one because you will no doubt be a little unhinged and angry in the first year – so try not to behave too irrationally. The second year can be your reality check and it’s all highly depressing because not only are things just as hard but you’re exhausted from Year One. If you’re lucky, by Year Three the drama has died down a bit and hopefully by year 4 you are able to see the wood for the trees and can finally start reassessing your life.
3. In the early days make sure you get out of bed every day. Sometimes your body feels so heavy it won’t move. It would have been so much easier to curl up into a ball, ignore the kids and have a quiet nervous breakdown in a corner somewhere. But it doesn’t work like that. You have to “face the dragon”. Deal with the shit. Go to the meetings. Brush your hair. Remember to eat. Remember to breathe. Pick your kids up from school. Put your make-up on. Fill out that complicated form. Go to that party on your own. Do the stuff you dread. You have to. It will make you stronger and consequently it will all get easier. You will do most of it on automatic pilot and then be amazed with yourself that you got through it. I managed to learn how to be a fitness instructor on autopilot, during my most traumatised time. It saved me from myself.
4. Be kind to yourself. My old school friend wrote to me at the beginning of the whole process. She told me to do just that. To treat myself as if I was going on a date with myself (which frankly had no appeal whatsoever – I hated my own company – thankfully she invited herself along on most occasions which helped hugely). Have a massage, or go to an exhibition or a film on your own. Put yourself higher up your list of priorities. Sometimes it pays to be selfish. Try not to feel sad that you have no one to do things with or to buy you presents, buy yourself some stuff. Treat yourself to things. It’s important. Do the things that give you pleasure and forget the rest. Go on a cooking course, a knitting course, ride wolves, sail, play poker, write a book. Whatever. It. Takes. Buy a big comfortable bed and spread out in it by yourself. Learn to enjoy the solitude for a minute.
5. Cut the crap. Don’t go to everything. Do some sifting. Do the stuff that makes you happy for whatever reason. Let go of the social events that no longer work for you and of the friends that take more than they give. Drop the stuff that’s taking up too much time and getting you nowhere.
6. Most importantly keep your sense of humour. You will find that different friends are there at different times and for different reasons. Some can take you out and make you laugh and push you in at the deep end of your new scary life. Others are there for when you find your feet again and want some semblance of normality. It won’t always be funny, but there is always a funny side to be found. A different perspective to look at.
Sometimes, when you look at what is going on in the rest of the world and what other people are going through, having the time and space to mourn for your marriage is almost an indulgence. I am still a very lucky person who has three lovely children and a roof over my head and lots of fantastic friends and lots of lovely stuff to do and, and, and, and another year has gone by in a flash. It’s cold in London at the moment but maybe just try to remember that “in the kingdom of hope there is no winter”.
Posted by Family Affairs on 03-01-2012 in BLOG tagged with Children / DIVORCE / judge / legal system / Sir Paul Coleridge
Today is the busiest day of the year in the divorce calendar. Post Christmas stress and guilt about announcing intentions before the holiday means that there are double the amount of petitions for divorce in January and particularly today – the first working day of the month. How depressing. Not […]
Posted by Family Affairs on 03-01-2012 in BLOG / DIVORCE tagged with Christmas / DIVORCE / sexism
Normally I like to consider myself a feminist. Somebody who is quite capable of doing most things by myself. I try and engender that sentiment into my children at all times and presumably something must be going in. I live with my three children on my own for goodness sake. They know what goes on. I’m not massively good at the tidying up thing or the homework thing. If I had to spend too long doing their homework there wouldn’t be time for anything else. Oh, and I’m pretty crap at the cooking too. I recently discovered that my daughter had sent Builder Bloke a text some time ago saying “please come back, the food is shit!”.
In many ways, life really isn’t too bad without a man. There is no arguing – apart from directly with the children. There is mostly a lot of laughter. My children have had to grow up quickly in lots of ways. They are pretty mature on the whole and very good company. I am definitely closer to them because of my divorce – I guess that’s inevitable when there isn’t a partner you feel you should stand by during an issue with the children.
Anyway, Christmas turned me into a little bit of a sexist I hate to admit and it made me feel a little grumpy here and there. There was no division of girly/blokey labour to be had. It started with the refusing to go and chop myself down a big old tree, carry it home, hack it about and hurl it into a stand and then decorate it. This year I simply put my foot down and went for the black Emo tree (as my kids described it) which my children turned their nose up on every passing I’m afraid to say. My daughter has subsequently provided me with a list of people who have told her they don’t like it. BUT I DON’T CARE. It was easy and I can bring it out next year and have the same argument all over again.
Then the next issue was simply cooking the Christmas meal on my own with no one to carve the turkey or the ham or make the gravy or do the washing up. Or get pissed and fall asleep on the sofa. Or drive us to different venues to see friends later in the day. Or buy all the booze. Or talk to my mother after too many whiskeys. Or wrap all the presents or (most importantly) buy me a present. I had to do it all on my own.
I DON’T WANT TO DO IT ALL ON MY OWN.
Is your Christmas divided along male/female lines or am I being ridiculous here?
Posted by Family Affairs on 24-11-2011 in BLOG / DIVORCE tagged with 40 somethings / Children / DIVORCE / Love / marriage / mid life / midlife crisis
I am concerned about a number of my friends at the moment. There appears to be a huge tidal wave of misery coming from all different directions, for lots of different reasons and it’s made me begin to wonder about this stage of our lives.
We are nearly all in our forties. With children growing up. Suddenly things are going a little bit wrong. Our parents are getting sick, our children are less needy and more willful thus generously bestowing on us a vague feeling that we are losing control of our lives and what is more we haven’t really given much thought to how to deal with this stage – the bit in the middle before retirement, old age, slippers and death (hopefully in that order). It is at this crucial stage that many previously happy marriages go a little awry and from my personal experience everything can be blown out of the water and your life can dramatically change…or…..you somehow get through it and come out the other side pretty much intact if a little bruised and a little wiser.
Is this what is known as the classic mid-life crisis? Most of us got married a long time ago now. We met somebody we loved and wanted to spend the rest of our life with and merged and accepted our differences even if we had to compromise massively for the sake of that love. Then we had our children, got on with our jobs and now that we have (mostly) stopped making babies we have more time to look at the bigger picture. Generally speaking we have much to be thankful for – our health, our children’s health, more money, more confidence, less anxiety and so on, but we also have fewer choices because we are tied into marriage and children and responsibility and mortgages and all things grown up and consequently decisions to change our life at this stage may cause pain to many people. Many of us are looking now at what we’ve got and what we’ve achieved with a more critical eye. Is this what we really wanted? Is this really it? Was my ladder of life actually leaning up against the wrong wall? Or have we got to the top and realised we don’t like the view after all or discovered that it is a little lonely and empty up there.
I think what generally happens at this stage is that men and women return to type in middle age. I have two sons and one daughter. They have vastly different interests. My oldest son has a girlfriend and they get on very well but their interests are vastly different – they put up with that of course for lots of reasons. We’ve all been there, done that and it’s perfectly fine until we have stopped feeling the need to procreate the species. Once that period of time is over we can start enjoying the things we enjoyed before we united as a team and it can divide us. We say things like “we aren’t getting any younger”, “you’ve only got one life”, “this isn’t a dress rehearsal” and all those cliches that I hear almost daily these days that are only cliches because they were once “truths”. We are getting closer to death. Becoming more aware of the time we have left. Our hair is falling out or growing in all the wrong places. We don’t have the opportunities we had before. We are more cynical. Less romantic. Grumpy. Middle age is something we come to unwillingly – it’s not a place any of us would necessarily choose to be – it’s not like being 18 or 21 or at university and it is perceived more than slightly negatively. I think it creeps up on us. Then many of us fight against it. Buy inappropriate cars, clothes, some people choose to suddenly live inappropriate deceitful lives.
I have been analysing this stage for some time. This new “phase”. It seems to me that most people look at it with gloom rather than excitement. They feel trapped and consequently start examining the reasons for suddenly losing their way. My husband and I did that and examined and analysed each other and our marriage to death. Initially he said he was depressed about his life – but I question whether it was more to do with the horror of accepting he wanted to change his life. Stir it up a little. The feelings of misery are surely massively tied up with feelings of guilt about not being sure about wanting everything you’ve spent years working towards and building together.
Why do so many of us want to behave like teenagers again? Almost as if we have been cryogenically frozen for the last two decades and then allowed to re-emerge with serious arrested development problems. It was therefore with huge interest that I read an article about David Bainbridge yesterday, who is a clinical veterinary anatomist at Cambridge University and the author of “Middle Age – A Natural History”. He says “men’s interests do not change fundamentally between the ages of eight and 60 – with the exceptions of romance and sex. Instead, all that happens in middle age is that we become once again free to indulge ourselves. We have more money, some time and less fear of ridicule by others”.
He also says “all I know is that when I play Lego with my son I am not enjoying it in some ironic, post-modern way, I am enjoying it in exactly the same way I did when I was 10. So, these pastimes and preferences of middle age are not new found, they are our same old pastimes and preferences” and that to be honest is why I bloody hated playing Lego with my children. I thought it was a rubbish, boring waste of time as a child and I still do.
He believes in middle age as a definite stage of our lives, but he does not believe in the mid-life crisis – “middle age – those two healthy decades after the babies stop – is very real. Only humans have it, we evolved it, and we have enjoyed it for much of our species’ history. And why? We evolved middle age because we have always lived more complex lives than other animals – in the ways we acquire resources, socially and technologically. Unlike most animal parents, we don’t just give our children genes and calories, we give them our culture. That takes time, and quality time, too, which we cannot dilute by churning out yet more babies. We humans are an “information economy” and middle age is the time when we pass on most of that information – this is why middle-aged people like being listened to. So middle age is a very real and distinctive phenomenon, one central to the success of our species – which places it in stark contrast to the mid-life crisis, which turns out not to exist at all”.
I’m not sure I agree with that. The mid-life crisis may not be “a very real and distinctive phemonenon” but there are very real and distinctive triggers that set off a relatively stereotypical crisis amongst both men and women at this time of our lives:- mortality, desire for love, passion, kids leaving home, fear of change, fear of stagnation, money issues, elderly parents issues, boredom and so on and so on…..
It’s just all so sad and predictable. It happened to me. It’s happening to others. Everybody deals with it in different ways and of course because you have to consider your partner – it doesn’t always work out like you want it to. I don’t have any answers or any advice. Maybe if we were all more aware of the stage and better equipped to deal with it then perhaps the ripple effects wouldn’t be so great. Or perhaps we’d learn how to avoid the pitfalls. My life as a single parent is as a direct result of my husband’s actions and the consequences as I saw them. We could have both done things differently. I could have clung onto the sides of our little tin boat in the storm we had created for ourselves, instead of trying to tip it over and drown him whilst throwing lifejackets to my children. Or could I? At the time, I don’t remember his hand being there for me to hold on to. He was too busy holding on to someone else the other side. So. I. Let. Go.
Right or wrong?
I guess we will never really know.
But there is no point in mulling over the “what if’s??”. “It is what it is” (I hate that phrase) as we say and “it isn’t what it isn’t” for a lot of friends of mine at the moment. They have to work it all out. Slowly and painfully. Believe me, I don’t envy them. I wish I could help. But I can’t. I’m here though. For them and for anyone else who wants to drop in and leave a comment. Let me know what you think…..maybe we can make a better plan.
BTW – any of you out there who think I’m talking about you…..I’m not…..it’s somebody else….honest.
Posted by Family Affairs on 17-11-2011 in BLOG / DIVORCE tagged with death / DIVORCE / peace / Rilke / stress
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