I read. A lot. True to type one of the first things that I did when my wife and I split up was to buy myself some books on dealing with separation and divorce. When reading about the turbulent emotions and feelings that I could expect to feel – after the numbness would wear off – something that was said struck me as curious…
Don’t be surprised if you find the break-up of your first post-marriage relationship to be more difficult than the ending of your marriage.
At that time the thought of a future relationship seemed a distant prospect and I continued reading in the hope of finding words that could offer solace in the immediate post-marriage void that I found myself in. But that statement stuck, staying somewhere in the back of my mind.
And it’s true.
As I came through the painful early days of separation, wishing that I was a year further down the line when life would be a new kind of normal, I was able to accept that my marriage was over. And as I adjusted to my new post-marriage life and was able to start to feel optimistic about the future I began to feel hopeful about the prospect of dating again.
And, bloody hell, did I strike lucky.
Within a few hours of becoming a fully paid-up member of a well-known dating website I found myself talking to a very beautiful, very funny woman. Within a week, and after many messages, we met and soon were in a relationship. After a 19 year relationship everything was new and exciting – the last time I started seeing someone there wasn’t even such thing as text messaging! We were together for 10 months and from that short time I have so many happy memories.
Divorce turns your whole world upside down and with it there are almost constant adjustments that you have to make; finding somewhere to live (3 places in less than a year), adapting to becoming a part-time parent, adapting to being a single parent, managing money, dealing with solicitors (and paying for them), balancing your responsibilities, dealing with the first post-split Christmas, first anniversary, first new relationships – on both sides.
Perhaps it’s not surprising that most first post-marriage relationships fail. In the midst of dealing with all of the above can you really be the partner that another deserves?
When my new relationship ended I told myself that I would be fine, after all nothing could be worse than your marriage ending and the break-up of your family, surely? But it seems that all of the practical adjustments that you make as your marriage fails can create a sort of scab over the emotional wounds of your marriage split. And in the thrill of a new relationship there is a salve for those wounds and you can forget that they are there. But when the realisation dawns that the new relationship is over that scab is ripped away and the wounds are opened, wider than before, with twice the loss to grieve.
Post marriage relationships have been called a number of things – ‘rebounds’, ‘inbetweeners’ – denoted as mere footnotes in the stories of our lives. I can’t speak for anybody else, but I don’t feel that way. Truth is, I would get back together tomorrow. But I need to accept the reality of the situation now, for it’s only when we accept our situation that we can truly move on from it. Doing so is painful, but like all pain it will pass.
In the overall story of my life this chapter may be a short one. But it will never be a footnote. It is a chapter that will always have a very special place in my heart.
When reading a much-loved book we don’t always want to turn that final page, wishing that we could spend more time with the characters that we have grown to love. But I guess that all good stories end sometime.
Soundtrack: Into My Arms – Nick Cave