Quentin and his wife met at university. They had three teenage children at the time of their divorce and had been married for over twenty years.
Reaching the decision to divorce:
Looking back it is easy to say that we should not have married – and, in hindsight, I think that is probably true – but that is very easy to say afterwards. To the outside world, we looked like a successful professional couple – successful financially with happy, high achieving children. It would be quite false to say that I was consistently unhappy – it would not be true, but I was aware for a long time that my expectations of marriage were different – very different from reality. I tended to blame myself for this – and of course, that was right. I was not the sort of person who got divorced – and I never expected to get divorced. It was, in many ways, the struggle between expectation and reality which I found most difficult. I first seriously contemplated divorce when I had met someone else. At that point, I felt a sense of release. I was worried, very worried about the children – but when I knew that divorce was something I had to do, I felt an enormous sense of release.
The low point:
I am really not certain that I can describe a low point. I would rather describe an emotional roller-coaster. In many ways the low point for me was the position before I contemplated divorce as a serious option. I felt trapped and guilty – guilty because I had a caring wife with whom I had much in common – including, of course, three lovely children – but I wanted more. I spent a long time trying to convince myself that I ought to be happy – and therefore was. I counted my blessings – and there were many. I tried to believe in a God. I wished for easy solutions – my wife walking out of my life – it shows how unwilling I was to contemplate divorce.
I suppose the real problem came some 2 years after the divorce when my eldest son became seriously ill with depression. Of course, there was no necessary link with the divorce – but that does not make you feel any better. My ex-wife and I communicated well in this period – but there is no point trying to deny all responsibility for something as serious as this.
What I wish I’d known:
There were ups and downs during the process of divorce. My wife was (justifiably) angry – very angry. At the time the only way that I could deal with that was to deal as decently as I could with her and with arrangements – financial and in relation to the children. My only advice would be that generosity will be repaid at such a time.
The certainty I did the right thing:
I have absolutely no doubt I did the right thing. I wrestled for so long with the alternatives that I have that certainty. I needed to do it. I simply had to. If that had not been how I felt, I would not have divorced. I still feel guilty about leaving my ex-wife – but that guilt is not actually about the leaving – it is guilt about not being honest earlier. So far as the children are concerned, the divorce was obviously horrific at the time – but now they are part of one complicated, muddled family and I think that is part of what makes each of them.
What I would do differently:
I still feel guilty about a lack of honesty with my ex-wife. I think that guilt is justified. Honesty earlier would have been very difficult – and possibly destructive. We would probably have divorced earlier – but dishonesty always has a price.