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You often hear people say that a new baby puts a strain on a marriage, so I guess you won’t be surprised to hear that approximately 20% of relationships end following the arrival of a baby*. But why do some survive and others not?
I used to put it down to attitude. Do you really, truly believe that you are together forever? Do your vows mean to the other what they mean to you? I used to think that I was the stronger one for keeping those promises and supporting my husband through thick and thin. But what if the person you’re keeping your vows for is breaking them? Are you in the wrong for trying to do right?
I thought that I could make it work for both of us, I just needed to forgive and move on (and repeat ad infinitum). After all, we were married, and marriage is all about sticking together, right? I had faith in him. Faith in us. It was unwarranted, unscientific faith, like all the best kinds are.
Every time he hurt me I still believed he would return to the man he once was. But he didn’t. Did he change? Or was he good at hiding his true colours? Perhaps it was a mixture of the two. There were signs there, I’m sure, but no one is perfect.
When you’re so busy working at it, day by day, you don’t ask why, anymore. It just becomes what you do, who you are. You don’t realise that slowly, but surely, you’re building a structure with no foundations. And you certainly don’t notice that slowly, but surely, the weight of that effort is killing you.
Just a few months before we split we’d been really working at our relationship (or maybe it was just me). Then I found out (again) that he’d been lying. Lies that endangered me and my son. This time I felt different. Relief poured out of me.
Relief that I no longer had to put up with him.
Relief that this nightmare was over.
Suddenly it wasn’t my fault anymore, it wasn’t a problem I could fix. I could walk away.
But I never walked away. The next day arrived – he remained. Somehow we made it through to the next week. Soon, it felt too late to take that final step. I’d given him another chance without even meaning to. I’d followed the path that so many of these stories seem to go down. But this wasn’t just a story. This was my story. Not my real story. It was a dream like existence. The chaos within my home couldn’t be real. Sometimes it almost made me laugh. Surely reality would return and we could all have a chuckle at this interlude of madness.
I’ve learnt the hard way that inaction’s force is greater than gravity. Fighting against the status quo, no matter how soul destroying that is, or more accurately, because of how soul destroying that is, is near on impossible. It was like being paralysed, unable to grab that feeling of relief and get the hell out of there. The chaos that had become my life had to crash down around me before I could do that.
In those early days of separation I felt a glimmer of hope in amongst the pain, anger and sorrow. Not the longing, praying for him to sort his shit out, kind of hope (I was used to that). But the kind of hope I hadn’t felt for a long time. Joyful, hopeful hope. Like springs’ first unexpected sunshine.
Now, with the benefit of distance between me and those first days and the difficult months that followed, I realise I was asking the wrong question. It shouldn’t be, ‘why us?’, but, ‘why did I hold that faith?’ It was misplaced, misguided faith, like all the best kinds are. It took away so much of me, parts of me I am still struggling to rebuild and parts that will be forever broken. I could utter some bull shit mantra used in the face of adversity, like everything happens for a reason, but I can’t quite bring myself to think that way. These are the kind of experiences that must be carried, and they make a heavy load. Separation/ divorce, the whole thing is a bitch. But slowly I’m starting to feel the load lighten.
* That’s pretty approximate as there are different statistics for married and cohabiting couples, but you get the picture, it’s not exactly unheard of.
If you too have gone through a difficult divorce the Children’s Legal Centre can provide free advice on family law. Gingerbread can help with advice and local groups if you’re a single parent. Divorced Moms is a supportive online community where you can hear about others stories and access resources.