Womans hand placing wedding ring on table divorce Photo by cotonbro pexels

Things I wished I’d known before I got divorced. Emily’s story.

Stories · 8 min read

10 years on Emily looks back and talks honestly and openly about her divorce, what it was like and the painful effects on everyone in the family, including herself, even though she was the one that instigated separation. 

What led up to your decision to separate?

Over a long period of time I was unhappy, probably 8 – 10 years. And then things got worse and worse between us. I didn’t feel loved. He said he loved me but I never felt that he loved me. I didn’t feel I was important to him. We talked about Love Languages’ and I wanted just some of them, they were all missing from our relationship. 

We had changed and had very different values, he was very wrapped up in his work and wanted to make money. He was taking risks and speculating with our money. I suggested moving and changing our lifestyles. I asked if we could have counselling and spend more time together but it never happened. We had separate lives, his life was work and my life was everything else.

Was there a pivotal moment?

One evening we had a conversation and I told him I wasn’t happy and didn’t want to be with him. Then he told me that he’d had an affair, but that it had finished 10 years previously. The affair had gone on for 4 years and was happening at a point in our marriage when I thought we were ok, we were happy. Looking back it was after that time that things started to go downhill, maybe the guilt did him in. 

The next few months were really difficult but we were trying to make things work. He completely fell apart and I realised in a conversation with a friend that for me it was over. But I still waited because my children were doing exams and I didn’t want to disrupt things for them. After the kids exams were over I said to him I think we should separate, and I think he was almost expecting it. He stayed in the home for a few weeks and then moved out. 

How did you cope with the divorce?

I thought I was coping really well, but afterwards I looked back and realised that I’d been living in a fog. I’d just kept going and trying to function. I’d meet my friend most days and burst into tears because it was so horrible. It was horrible fighting over money because it wasn’t in me to do that, but you have to. And the solicitors make you fight over it. 

One of the things that drives you towards the solicitors is that you feel really vulnerable. I couldn’t get a capital settlement because our money was tied up in his business. So I was paid maintenance, and that felt vulnerable because he could stop it at any time. And if he did that I’d have to go back to court to make him pay, which puts you back in that cycle with lawyers, judges and in that fight. And so I went back to work to get my own security and was very careful about money. It was a change of lifestyle and to some extent I was lucky because my kids were older. It must be awful with very young children who are dependent on you and you can’t afford a school trip. 

What I couldn’t cope with is what I was doing to the children. That was awful. They suffered watching one of their parents being hurt by the other, it was horrible. The worst thing was watching them watching him fall apart and not be able to cope. 

Is there anything you would have done differently?

I can remember sending him an email 5 years or so after we’d finished the divorce and apologising for a few of the things that had happened. At one point, on the advice of my solicitor I had to take an injunction out on him to stop him from selling some things that were jointly owned. I was scared and nearly physically sick. He had to be served with papers — like in the movies — and the whole thing was horrendous and that froze all his money. That meant he had to apply to the court for money to live on and it was horrible. I wished we could have worked it out between us. It would have been so much easier. 

We both did things we perhaps shouldn’t have done. We did get very wrapped up with the solicitors going backwards and forwards. Everything was unpleasant and went on and on and on! His solicitors were equally venomous but sadly he didn’t have the grace to apologise to me. 

Is there anything you wished you had known before?

We spent a fortune and it created such a bad atmosphere between the two of us. It took around two years and we were constantly arguing about money. It was horrible! I’d say to others: don’t let the solicitors eat up all your money. Friends of mine when they got divorced sat down together, talked and agreed on a plan without solicitors. 

I had waited a long time and the children understood why I was leaving the marriage, they could see what he was doing to me. I knew it would come but living through what the divorce was doing to the family was very painful, knowing that you’re hurting people. It goes against how you want to live your life to deliberately hurt somebody. And it doesn’t matter how much they’ve hurt you, you still don’t want to do it. I did think, could I have got on with my life and put up with him but the thought of being alone with him for the next 30 years and doing all the things you should love doing I just couldn’t do it.

How did it feel when your divorce came through?

It was like a weight lifted off me. When he left the house a weight lifted and when we settled another weight lifted. I just felt emotionally secure alone. He didn’t have a key. I didn’t have to put up with his behaviour any more. I didn’t have to watch what I would say to keep him on an even keel.

How have things been since your divorce? 

I expected to feel judged but I didn’t. I can remember feeling upset with some friends who never asked me how I was doing. But other people were caring and kind. I wasn’t outwardly struggling, I was ok. One divorced friend who’s very attractive noticed she wasn’t invited out and was told: people are worried you’ll run off with their husband’. That never happened to me. I wasn’t interested in other people’s husbands and they weren’t interested in me! 

Most of my friends were fine — I have good friends. You do gravitate towards people who are divorced because they get it’ and you need people to do things with at weekends. Some people say that when you’re on your own the weekend is a yawning cavern of loneliness. But for me it was quite nice because I didn’t have anyone bothering me. 

He really suffered. It’s taken him such a long time to come to terms with it. It’s only now, 10 years on, that we’re able to have a conversation on the rare occasions when we see each other.

Any last thoughts you’d like to share?

I feel very upset sometimes that I haven’t had a successful relationship in my life with a man, because I would love to have had that. It wasn’t good for such a long time. And of course there were times when I thought it was good and it wasn’t because he was with somebody else. 

When my father died I had a chat with the doctor, who said: you’ve got to talk about it until you bore yourself. Other people won’t be bored and eventually you will get to the point where you don’t need to talk about it anymore.’ It’s the same with divorce because it is a grieving thing, you’ve got to talk about it until you bore yourself. 


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How to fix relationship problems — 8 tips from experts

Our marriage survived a string of affairs

Red flags’ in relationships: what are some early warning signs of problems

How not to divorce — be an island with a jetty!’

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