Image: Illuminated Dandelion
Perhaps unsurprisingly, since writing about my divorce I’ve had a few people confide in me that they are unhappy in their marriage. This, and hearing the wonderful ‘Leaving’ by Suede this morning, has prompted reflection on the ‘other side’ of the story: that of the person that leaves.
Technically I guess I left my marriage, or at least it was me that left home once it was apparent that my wife had left the marriage. Since then, as my readers will be very well aware, a huge amount of my time and energy has been spent adjusting to the unfamiliar shape of a life that was never wished for and never anticipated.
Two years on I finally feel able to say that this is my life and I am happy with it; I feel able to accept life fully as it is without rationalising my present situation as a single dad as some sort of transitional period between my married past-life and whatever life the future may throw at / hand to me.
Now I realise – no, I know – that there is no past-life and future life, there is just life, just now; and now is all about doing the best I can right now: what is best for my children, what is best for me.
However much it might have hurt, however much it ripped apart my life, I can acknowledge and accept that in taking the decision to end our marriage my ex-wife was doing exactly the same thing – what she felt was right, for her and for our children.
When I speak with people that are considering leaving their marriage, or at least are beginning to question the future of it, I can feel torn. Torn by knowing the pain and heartbreak of being left, of knowing the damage that would be done in the aftermath of their taking the decision to leave and naturally empathising with the person that will have to face the challenges that I have faced. I wouldn’t wish divorce on anybody.
But knowing that there is a happy life on the other side of divorce, a life rich in lessons and new opportunities, in spontaneity and freedom; a life in which the rubble of what was, is gradually cleared away to expose clear space on which to build something new, something better, something lasting… Don’t we all deserve that?
I can’t advise people not to leave; to forsake the pursuit of a happiness that they feel is missing and that isn’t coming back. I wouldn’t wish that for myself, I wouldn’t wish that for my children; we need to make the most of the time we have here to become the best that we can be, not just for ourselves but for the influence we can have on the lives of others. Only we can forge our path and decide which is the better direction for us to take, and however good we are, however caring we are, inevitably that will at some stage involve hurting someone else.
There is no pain quite like the pain of your marriage ending, especially when that involves breaking up a family with children. However much it hurts to be the one that has no say in the matter I don’t discount the pain and difficulty that must be faced by the one that leaves. Guilt, doubt, questioning, fear, sadness, self-reproach – I expect that all of these feelings would have to be dealt with and that can’t be easy; I don’t believe that divorce is a decision that anybody takes lightly. In facing the emotions, pain and potential backlash of making that final decision it can be a very brave thing to do to leave a marriage.
I understand why my marriage ended and I understand the decision that my ex-wife took in calling time on our life together. If I’m honest I don’t doubt that I will have a better relationship in the future and that’s not meant to disparage my marriage in any way, nor the love I had for my ex-wife or the special times that we shared. It helped to make me who I am.
So far so saintly – aren’t I mature and wise and philosophical about it all? The reality of the situation is that, well, I’m not.
However objectively I can view the situation from the perspective of an outsider there are things that will never sit easily or happily with me. Half of my children’s lives are spent away from me; half of their lives are spent living with another man. That hurts. It strikes right at the core of what is most precious to me.
My children are happy, they are good kids. I do hope and believe that divorce doesn’t have to have a long-term damaging effect on their lives despite the obvious challenges that it has brought. Life can be happy for all parties following divorce once the dust has settled. I expect it usually is for the most part, we humans are a very adaptable bunch.
But I feel that for me there is a scar. Don’t get me wrong, I do believe that my life will be happier and that I will meet somebody that I can’t imagine living without. No, it will never be the life I wanted as far as my children and my commitment as a father are concerned. Yes, life is more complicated. My feelings can still be conflicted and the voice of my better-self can sometimes be shouted down by the sudden appearance of an emotional self that doesn’t forget.
And yet, I have no regrets. Of course, there are things I could have done differently, maybe should have done differently, but I did the best I could at the time.
And I know that in taking the decision to end our marriage, so did she.
Leaving – Suede