One of the very best things in my work is helping people to think and work through the ending of their relationship well. Ending well. Navigating an ending which is as much about a new beginning as it is about an ending.
Talking this through with people who I am coaching often takes me back to the years before I ended my marriage and the thoughts, conversations I had at the time, mostly internally, and how different they are from the reality 6 years on.
Firstly the kids are ok. Yes, they might not be in the position that they wanted to be, in one house, with two parents, but they are ok. In fact, I would go as far as to say that they are happy, and maybe even better off than they would have been had the situation remained as it was. Maybe I am bound to say that because it’s what I want to believe. But having two parents, happily settled in two houses, with new relationships bringing other caring adults into their lives has to be a better option than carrying on in a situation where no one is really happy.
Before we spilt up, it was the main thing, key thing, only thing that I really agonised about. Would they be ok, would they survive intact, would I be better staying in the relationship until the youngest was an adult, could the next 12 years be ok if I really put my mind to it.
Secondly, I am ok. Looking back it was a very strange time, unsettling, heartbreaking and a one foot in front of the other sort of time. Getting through the initial stage of splitting up, navigating family, friends, moving house, starting from scratch and when the dust settled, trying to work out how to sleep alone and cook for one on the nights that the children weren’t there and getting over the heart sinking reality that I couldn’t sneak in and sniff their heads every night when they were asleep, that I wouldn’t see them and hear all about their day, every day, that the choices we has made had a consequence and cost that would take some time to settle and feel like normal. A new kind of normal.
The first few months once the practicalities were done and dusted, were a weird time of all sorts of things, not least of which trying to work out, after 20 years, who I was as an individual. What did I like to do, where did I like to go, if I had a day to myself then how would I like to fill it.
The first couple of years were brilliant, after the initial shock and exhaustion had settled. Brilliant as in the liberation of making all those new choices was completely exhilarating. Sometimes that was little choices like buying rose scented toilet paper just because I could, right up to bigger choices like where to go on holiday or what car to drive and massive choices like eventually buying a new house and all the legal and other shizzle that goes with navigating that.
At some point the children and I had a conversation about new relationships and their advice was to try and find someone like David Beckham. Which was helpful. I did form a new relationship eventually with a friend that I had met at work some years earlier. It was a wonderful strange time forming a new relationship in my 40s, when I already had much about me that was fixed, happily so, and the biggest priority was and remains the children. It was also different because I was a whole person with a whole life, looking for another whole person. I was independent, happy and fulfilled and didn’t need to have a relationship, but wanted one. A very different place to where I had entered my previous relationship 20 something years earlier.
Meeting the children was the first stage, then spending time with them and us together and then navigating meeting family and friends. The situation was easier because there were no other children involved, so we weren’t trying to combine families, but that also made things more challenging as there wasn’t that shorthand which you often get with other parents. It was all new.
There were holidays to navigate, Christmas, birthdays, parents evenings and all that other life admin stuff that comes with a family. There was and is all the other day to day stuff like school runs, discipline, family meals and the constant, delightful navigation that comes from living with pre teens.
It’s a few years on now and things are happily settled, as well as settled happily. There are two houses, with two households, with two sets of memories being made, two ways of doing things and more than two lots of love. As I said, maybe that’s what I want to believe that in this case the two halves are now greater than the whole. The reality is that I don’t know and never will know whether the choices I made were for better or worse if I look at it through the family lens. I do know this though, living a lie, while trying to “teach” and parent about doing the right thing, behaving with integrity, trying to be your best self and grow into all that you could be is most definitely not compatible.
So what’s the purpose and the point of this ? I suppose its for my own story, my own unravelling and documentation and knowing that writing is very much a processing tool. As much as its for me, I also hope that in putting it out there, that it offers something to you if you are in that neither here nor there space. The here but knowing deep down that you don’t want to be and wondering if the here is better (the devil you know) than the there which you have no idea about. No one does, that’s the journey and in my case that’s been the joy.
If you are wondering how to navigate your way out of your relationship in 2021 then I’d love to talk to you. You can find me at www.wildflowerfire.co.uk.