Wendy had met her husband at university. Eventually ceasing work, she had been increasingly isolated in a large suburban home, raising the four children as her husband pursued a successful city career and then formed a relationship with a much younger work colleague.
What I know now:
I guess what I know now is that there is a positive side to this horrible process and for me it is a feeling of liberation which as time moves on (almost) counterbalances the negative sense of loss and indeed failure that prevail at the time of the ‘uncoupling’. I do lots of things now that I would not have done so readily whilst married to my husband and I have been able to nurture many friendships that were somewhat neglected through the period of my marriage – mainly through lack of time.
The low point:
I guess for me this was the all parties meeting with my husband and his solicitor and feeling that I was a kind of spectator to a process in which a large chunk of my life’s work was being effectively dismembered – and mainly in financial terms. Still painful to remember.
Did I do the right thing?
A bit harder to assess because I do still have regrets, so I think ‘resignation‘ is a more accurate description for me. But – I do feel certain that my solicitor and I managed this process in the best way for my wellbeing. I think we established some key principles for how I wanted things to be conducted (with dignity; mindful of the children’s emotional and financial wellbeing) and I think this did make a difference. It was really important for me to have clarity about what was acceptable and what tone I wanted to achieve in any encounters with ‘the other side’ as this provided some kind of compass at a time when essentially I felt quite adrift.
What I would do differently:
With hindsight – and greater self-confidence (because, of course that hits rock bottom, especially for women in a long marriage) – I might feel that I should have stood my ground a bit more to demonstrate how big a contribution I think I really made to my husband’s career – but I would have been doing that purely as a statement of the reality as I saw it – whereas I know it would have been interpreted (and therefore challenged) – as an attempt to change the terms of the settlement – so it would not have been consistent with what I have said in the previous paragraph. We tried to get my husband to agree to some kind of joint settlement for the children’s future and he refused – (I believe on spurious grounds) – and I think that was a mistake on his part, so I suppose I can say that I wish that had gone differently – but I don’t think we could have made it go differently, as his mind was made up.
I do however wish I had had more opportunity to talk through the impact on the children. I think teenage and adult children occupy a very particular position within a divorce – they are after all involved in their own relationships and seeing their parents’ marriage fail is something they grapple with to understand. The impact of divorce on young children is well documented but I felt at the time that the more complex reactions and feelings of older children was an area rather neglected. I think I could have used more support there and I perhaps would have been less anguished by my awareness of family breakdown if I had had some counselling over this.