Close to You – Why Divorce is One Flesh ‘Rent Asunder’

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IMG_1226 1.JPGIt’s no secret that it has taken me longer to get over my marriage breakdown than it has for some other people.

This time, the season, is the first time in 30 years that I have not seen Ex regularly. We co-parented our dog for six or seven years after The Separation and she died at Christmas 2016.  Although we have been in touch a little bit by text and email we have not seen each other.  I think this is a good thing.  They say that no contact (NC) is the way forward.

I was talking to my mother about this the other day. I said, “Ex is the person that I have been closest to in the whole of my life.”  Now this may have been a little hurtful for my mother to hear but it is true.

We are meant to separate from our parents.  When we marry we expect to travel through the decades with our spouse.  Also, there is the sexual connection which binds us to our spouse; something that, hopefully, we do not share with our parents.

It seems strange but it was only this realisation that my ex is the person that I have been closest to in my whole life that made me realise why it has taken me such a long time to get over him and the marriage.  I don’t think I necessarily miss him as much as being married,  though I am not entirely sure that I would choose to remarry.  The thought of never being in love or being loved again in return, however, during my remaining life is pretty grim!

 

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A Lover’s Story: Crookes Valley Park, Sheffield, 1988.

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“Will you stay in our lover’s story?” Kooks, David Bowie.

Back in 1988 I saw our time in Sheffield as a sad and lonely period yet in retrospect I see it differently. We were young, not yet fully formed, and very much in love.

My job was hard, physically and mentally, and I felt pulled in many directions. At work, I was the ‘newbie’, before that word was invented, who had to make her mark, a graduate among school leavers, viewed with a little suspicion. I wasn’t part of any clique and was frequently homesick for my birth town and my parents. Gray was out-of-work and lonely too. As I had dragged him to this landlocked city I felt I had to make everything alright for him. Exhausted after my day at the office I felt obliged to go out at night, to pubs or to the cinema, when really I would have preferred to stay in and just talk or be.

Sundays became special though.

Mostly we walked in Weston Park, sometimes visiting the art gallery there, and often in Crookes Valley Park, which was often swathed in mist.  He would wear his Joe Orton-style leather jacket and I would be in my blue coat with its real fur collar, which I’d picked up in Oxfam in Broomhill. It looked like something straight out of a Tissot painting. I kept that coat for years.

Crookes Valley Park comprised sloping greens and a flat lake and was peaceful in a melancholic sort of way. Gray was often sad and we were frequently tired. What we talked about I can’t recall but conversation always flowed between us as the leaves came tumbling down around us. There was this utter sense of togetherness, of being with the right one. If I’d have known my Bible back then I would have identified with the verse from Song of Solomon:

“I have found the one whom my soul loves.”

Sometimes we would walk down to Hunter’s Bar and end up in Pizza Hut. Having been on the dole for a few months before I got this job this seemed to us quite decadent! I relished seeing the anticipation in his eyes and we’d laugh as the soft, doughy pizza would melt in our fingers – and then in our mouths. I loved to see him happy like that.

Sundays were doubly precious because I never looked forward to rejoining the world of office politics in a department that was sinking fast in an era of privatisation. Many people in the office were having affairs with each other as if it was the last few  days of pre-war Berlin. This was the very antithesis of my world of “pure love”, monogamous, hopeful and magical.

These memories can pierce my heart, as if they were happening right now. I wonder at this, bemused, that he, in his new life with new wife, doesn’t feel it too, at the very same moment as I do.

The subconscious mind, I read, doesn’t understand past and present, but sees everything as if it IS occurring right now. And it is happening.  I’m walking in Crookes Park, Sheffield, with the man I love.

I am loved, valued, wanted.

Lexit, Not Brexit. How My Ex Made Me Think Again

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My ex, who’s very, very left wing, was here earlier – explaining why he voted to leave the EU. Really made me think and threw open new doors in my mind. He might be my ex but he always did make me think a lot! He was talking for over an hour on this. It was absolutely fascinating.

He pointed me in the direction of the Left Leave movement. See link above. Such a shame that we couldn’t make it as a couple cos he is still, on occasion, one of the most stimulating people I’ve ever met. I think that’s partly why I find it hard to move on. Although, to be fair, I seek peaceful man rather than stimulating man now.

http://www.leftleave.org/lexit-statement-on-the-vote-to-leave-the-european-union/

The War Room, Lent, Day 15

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War-Room-Table

We had a film night at church tonight. We watched the Christian film, The War Room, which I had never seen. (Hence, it was NEW to me).

I did enjoy it but found its lack of subtlety difficult, and as my friend, JH, said, the ends were all very neatly tied up, rather unrealistically.

I found this review from The New Yorker interesting: http://www.newyorker.com/culture/richard-brody/the-sanitized-christianity-of-war-room

Liars, Beggars and Hangers On

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One bonus of having an anonymous blog is that I have a little rant:
While I can’t really fault mine and ex’s estate agent for their sales talent and verve their ‘sales progression team’, is, in my view a heap of rubbish
It seems clear to me now that they use some sort of centralised sales progression agency. I don’t think the woman who is our ‘contact’ even knows where my town is!
She’s rude, rushed, offhand, keeps asking the same questions over and over (Who’s your solicitor? Who’s your contact at wesellyoursoulformoney.com?).
Estate agents – many – lie through their teeth; solicitors are just weird – a law unto themselves, forgive the pun, and, while I liked my surveyor a lot, it seems that as a whole surveyors are just afeared of getting their butts sued and they state the blatantly obvious… (“there is a bay window to the front of the house”).
Just had to get that off my chest.

‘Celebrate Recovery’ is Not Just for Addicts

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Speaking of things that don't quite deliver on their promises...

I went to my first ever session of Celebrate Recovery this week. It’s a Christ-centred 12 step programme for anyone with ‘hurts, hang-ups or habits’ that are holding them back in life.

I’d been thinking about going for a while and a guy from my divorce group suggested that I give it a go. A lot of people think it’s just for addicts and alcoholics but that’s not the case. Anyone who’s battling with various issues (and who isn’t?) is welcome. Some examples would be: perfectionism, debt, guilt, divorce, anger, abuse, insecurity, gambling, anxiety, emotional abuse and other abuses, overspending, coming form a dysfunctional family, grief – plus lots of other things.

I realised that I do suffer from some low self-esteem issues emanating from childhood, my long-term illness and the divorce. Also, I think I have a tendency to co-dependency. Not like I used to but it could still be an issue. I know I am not experiencing as much joy in my life as I used to and these things are barriers to joy or freedom.

Not sure how much I can commit to the course (it runs for a year and some people go for many years) but I’ve at least made a start.

 

New Play Tells Story of the Left-Behind Spouse

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republic of you

Went to see a play this week about a young woman whose husband leaves her. Sounds grim but it wasn’t at all.

The actress received a standing ovation. I think people, and much of the audience comprised women, were relieved to see this subject tackled honestly.  With 1 in 2 or 1 in 3 marriages (the statistics seem to shift, according to the source you read) doomed to end before death it’s all too easy for society to treat it as no big deal. It’s not. It wrecks lives – of the leaver and the leavee, of children, of parents and in-laws. The knock-on effects of divorce are enormous. There are financial, emotional, mental, physical, spiritual consequences. Few people outside of the church are really prepared to stand up and say this. even some of my friends won’t admit that divorce can be destructive (Marriage can  be too, of course.)

Even if a marriage is deeply, deeply flawed I believe that all efforts – and a joint effort at that, supported by a community that cares, as specified by Bill Doherty PhD – should be made to save it before calling it a day. If all efforts are made and still there’s no resolution then okay, divorce is the only sensible option.

Divorce may turn out to be a positive thing for me – eventually. (I still think it’s too early to say) but I do believe that divorce/relationship breakdown is a ticking time bomb.

If we are going to be living longer we need to rethink how we tackle marriage and the potential for marital breakdown. Marriage is still hugely popular.

How do we ‘marry’ our hopes for lifelong love with the reality of probable breakdown?

http://dohertyrelationshipinstitute.com/

Divorce Support Group Comes Through For Me

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Divorce Busting

Divorce Busting (Photo credit: Wikipedia). This book didn’t save my marriage but it did help us to part more amicably than we could have done. 

I popped back to my divorce support group last night after a long absence – as something has come up in my ‘journey’ that made that feel necessary. After 28 years of us being in each others’ lives my Ex is moving several hundred miles away.

This has brought up a confusing mix of feelings, memories and thoughts. The group really did help though. One of my church friends just said a few sentences that made such a lot of sense and I also got to see how far I have come in relation to the ‘newbies’ – the ones who are in the early stages of separation.

Chicken Soup for the Soul: Divorce and Recovery – 101 Divorce Stories

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A Wedding Ring

A Wedding Ring (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I recently bought this book – the first Chicken Soup book I’ve ever read. And I have very mixed feelings about this book. It did help me to some extent. I jotted down some great quotes that may help me to keep moving forward. I particularly liked the words of Kiera Peltz, who was just a child when she wrote them, and of Catherine Graham. Some of the stories were moving and inspiring.

But…the book seemed to be a celebration of divorce, and this was reflected in the cartoons. It’s pro-divorce and that doesn’t sit right with me and the things I have learned over the past five years, through my own experience and from encounters with others whose lives have been touched or shattered by separation and divorce. Children aren’t necessarily resilient and we need to stop pretending that they are. Even adult children of divorce can still suffer dreadfully – long after the actual divorce. Divorce isn’t necessarily freeing to both parties. Free to do what exactly? Be more selfish? Have “control of the remote”? Come on! We need tools to make marriages work not stories to say that the 50 per cent divorce rate is cool.

As another reviewer alluded to, the book is full of stories by women who imply that it was just great to get rid of their ghastly husbands and how they’d never looked back since dumping them. Mmm. That’s not much comfort to those who have been left behind.

Only one writer, a man, looked back and said that in his opinion the majority of divorces are unnecessary. His first wife had developed MS (long after they parted). Maybe it was guilt that formed his opinion but he was a least voicing an opinion based on moral issues and the long-term effects of divorce. Read Bill Doherty’s ‘Take Back Your Marriage’ (available on Amazon) for a great examination of how to build a great marriage, avoid a divorce and how whole communities need to support marriages. This is the best relationship book I have ever read, even though, sadly, it was too late for me.

Will I keep the Chicken Soul book? Probably. There were enough little gems in there for me to use. But would I recommend it to others? Probably not. If there’s any chance you can avoid a divorce read Doherty’s book. If divorce is inevitable read something else. Or join a forum. I’ll keep searching.

Head for the Hills for Divorce Support

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Goodbye blue sky

Goodbye blue sky (Photo credit: [xinita])

Last Saturday was our inter-church divorce group Away Day to a remote, ancient village. The weather was amazing – hot with one of those magical clear blue skies. I could go only for the afternoon session but it was great to reconnect with some of the people I had not seen for a while and talk to some I had never got to know because I was doing Chained No More when they were on the divorce course.

I stayed over in a hotel in the village. That was good but challenging at times as I was the only single person, it seemed, in a village crammed with tourists in couples or families. However, I managed. I sat in the churchyard and just enjoyed being somewhere remote with no access to the internet or phone! I also prayed. Then I watched The Hunger Games on TV in my room, which I loved.

I woke up at 3am and looked out onto the silent cobbled streets, half expecting to see ghosts. But all was quiet.

Lies and Statistics

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Read some disquieting statistics about the chances of finding love again as a 40+ divorcee.  I may as well check into the Carmelite monastery. It’s even worse for Christian women. 

I have tried to counter these statistics with examples from real life: women I know who have found love again at a certain age. 

Also reports say that most women initiate divorce. However, this does not mean that divorce is THEIR choice. Often it is because the women have always done the admin work in the family or the husband has simply jumped ship and, in the case of a few friends of mine, is living in la la land. If the woman did not initiate divorce then nothing would get resolved, 

Signs from Above!

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Message in a bottle

Message in a bottle (Photo credit: Moyan_Brenn (back soon, sorry for not commenting))

I posted the final divorce papers today at the little post office near to my house (our house, actually). Seconds later – literally – I drove passed STBX’s partner! I hardly ever see her even though they live round the corner. This is cos they both work out of town and I am always driving anyway…

Talk about a God-incidence. It was like a message: the past in the post, the present is right in front of you (i.e, the new partner) and the future is straight ahead!

 

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Null and Void

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Rock and tree

Rock and tree (Photo credit: NeilsPhotography)

 

What a time it has been. Just over a week ago we had a tree planting ceremony in my home town for my step-dad. My STBX came and we got on very well. Very hard to be with him and my family but know it is all over and he has moved on with his partner. The next day I put the divorce into motion. I think I should have waited a week; two emotional things in two days was not a good idea. But it needed to be done. We have been separated a long time now and waiting any longer would have been damaging to me emotionally too.

 

My Life Group has been very supportive, esp a woman I shall call Ajana.

 

Faced a Dilemma

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I did not enjoy Life Group last week. Yes, it was a shock to me too! The reason is simple: the church I am in is more fundamental in its beliefs than I am. I don’t mind people’s differing beliefs but sometimes it seems like some church members are not living in the real world.

Because I have not grown up as a Christian I have seen and experienced things that they may not have done. I am not saying that makes me better than them – no, but maybe I have a more rounded view of life in some ways.

It made me rethink moving to the town where my church is based. I am still keen – it’s a neat little town surrounded by beautiful countryside – but I need to keep an open mind and continue to get to know the other places on my list and keep my options open.

I did think about going to St Egremont’s (not its real name, of course.) This is a more liberal church, with around 600 members, and one of the divorce group ladies has been going there for 22 years, She is a bit of a hippy type like me and I like her a lot.

I also talked it over with two of my church friends, who are UK-based missionaries. They were helpful. They agreed that they were fundamental but are sympathetic to my concerns. They suggested I talk to one of the pastors so Pastor 2, the youngest pastor, has willingly agreed to be there for me.

I have decided to stick with my church as my ‘base’. The people are great, it is a thriving church, I like going to this other town, and I do broadly agree with much of what they believe – but not all

Steeple

Steeple (Photo credit: dmushrush)

of it. Meanwhile, I will check out St Egremont’s at some point, and possibly the branch of ‘my church’ that is in my city too.

My ex suggested the Quakers. I said, “no.” Nothing against them but I think they are quite a middle class bunch in my city. I want a church that is thriving, with Life Groups and all sorts of projects. My life is quite a secluded one as it is so more of that would be counterproductive.

Time to Study and Reflect After Divorce Group Day in the Country

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Divorce Ring

Divorce Ring (Photo credit: Jewellery Monthly)

Going to try and calm it down somewhat on the blogging (can I do that? I am a blogging addict!) I  should stop writing and start reading a whole lot more!

Also, I am suffering from a bit of a relapse with my long term illness after going to a divorce group day in a different county. I knew I would be tired after it but I forgot how badly doing bigger trips – especially driving – affects me, and even more so after my major surgery earlier this year. Felt very sorry for myself today, especially as the other divorce attendees all seem to have so much energy but ‘thems the breaks.’

The Divorce Day was great though. Lots of us, all in this gorgeous countryside. The amount of food on offer was staggering and all they asked was for a donation towards sending the young people to Soul Survivor. (Big Christian youth camping weekend in the UK).

We did some self-awareness exercises and then we had a choice of meditation, jewellery making or manicures! I did the meditation.

Lovely to see my divorce ladies – and, at lunch, some of the men too.

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‘Ain’t Nothing Like the Real Thing, Baby

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I do worry that the only times I seem to be happy, socially, these days are when I am doing things with the Church or my Christian friends – and a few other non-Christian friends. 

Will I detach from other friends/acquaintances and be left high and dry? Am I a victim of the Be Thou My Hobby syndrome? Yet… another part of me thinks this is who I am becoming, that this is the real deal. I hope so.

My main concern about My Church (i.e, this particular church) is that many members are conservative in nature and Conservative politically whereas I am from a Left-Liberal background.

Spring Heeled Jack as depicted by an anonymous...

Spring Heeled Jack – Cover of an English penny dreadful (1904) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I made a comment, quite a long one, in Life Group the other night and I did feel that they hadn’t a clue what I was talking about. It related to modern day versions of the Penny Dreadfuls like Chat and Take a Break and how publishers use them to make the poor and disenfranchised feel like their situations are not so bad after all in comparison to the horror stories they read.

There are people who are more on my wavelength in the church. They are a more intellectual (not saying I am, but I was quite political at university and so are some of my old friends and my Ex). I live in a fashionable, liberal area of a small city about six miles from the church. The church itself is in a semi-rural area.

My home area gets on my nerves, TBH, but I kind of fit its profile. It’s the hot spot for Guardian readers, public sector workers, same sex couples, Greens and liberals,  and snooty-nosed bicycle riders from down South who have settled here. (Actually, it really does get on my nerves!) 

In the church, female friend BL, Pastor 3, male friend SB and a couple of women who go to the divorce group seem to be more…thinking. Male friend SB is definitely the one person I’ve met since my separation who I have most in common with. (We are just friends and likely to remain so). He is a bit ‘out there’.  He can’t be classified easily. I’ve made assumptions about how he might think in the past – then he surprises me. That’s a good thing!

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Emigration on the Cards?

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New Zealand's Milford Sound. Milford Sound, on...

New Zealand’s Milford Sound. Milford Sound. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

A couple I  know left the UK and settled in New Zealand‘s South Island about two years ago. The husband blogs about their new life.

This week in the UK we had some sun. Then it went away. This has been the pattern for the last few years, and frankly, it’s depressing.

Then I saw some pictures of where my newly-ensconced NZ friends live. It looks like paradise. I thought to myself: ‘In a few years time I will be totally free. I could emigrate!’

An escapist fantasy during this hard time? Possibly. It depends how things work out here with my new life post-marriage, my church family, where I move to and so on. It is hard making new friends – good, lasting friends – so leaving behind those I have made in recent years as well as my old ones is not to be taken lightly. But it made me think, did that blog.

It’s at http://2hoomansandaspanielinnz.wordpress.com/

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Uncertainty Is Strength

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English: Lucas Cranach the Elder: Law and Grac...

Lucas Cranach the Elder: Law and Grace, Gotha version, 1529. (Pic credit: Wikipedia)

My friend is certain about many things. She is positive, upbeat and always has an answer.

When I was younger, and particularly in my marriage, I was a doer, a task-orientated type. I thought I had answers – or if I did not I would find them in a book. Research was the key. (I’m still a keen researcher and, I confess, I do delve into things way too much, especially now I have the world wide web to trawl.)

Providing answers to other people’s problems can deprive them of their need to explore how they actually feel about things, to process events or situations, and maybe to meditate on them or, for those inclined, to pray things through. Being a chronic rescuer or a purveyor of certainties disempowers people.

But, you may argue, Christians are a group of people who are full of certainty.

First of all, Christians come in all shades. And, yes, for most Christians there is certainty. Certain of God’s existence, certain of God’s grace, certain about the resurrection.

Yet all this is a leap of faith. Christians believe in something they can not physically see. They feel/sense/believe in God’s grace. And as Pastor 3 says, not all Christians believe in the resurrection (though he preached on being unable to build your faith without believing in the Resurrected Christ.)

While some people say they just ‘know’ for others leaping into faith may mean choosing to believe.  Or at least being more open-minded than they previously were. To me, this is a good thing. ‘Cos one thing my life has revealed is that there are few certainties. Things can change, cataclysmic-style or joyously, in the blink of an eye – or while the lights turn from green to red.

And I am no longer impressed by people who think they have all the answers.

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Tough Enough For Love Must Be Tough?

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Folio 31r - David Foresees the Mystic Marriage...

Folio 31r – David Foresees the Mystic Marriage of Christ and the Church (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Even if I remain anonymous I doubt it would take the ardent follower, should I ever get one,  long to determine who I was as I wrote another blog elsewhere, on Blogger. That one is on popular culture. I will no doubt be cross referencing with that one from time to time. I guess I could keep other people anonymous though, the ones I will refer to, people from my church.

I came to my church by a series of coincidences. Basically, it was through a forum, based in America, for separating people. This led me to a divorce group that just happens to be in a town near me in the UK.  Out of all the people in the room at that first meeting there was just me (and later another guy) who were not Christians.  I was surprised at how normal, and indeed, hip, many of these divorcing people were! That sounds awful, but they looked unlike whatever my image of a Christian person was.

I did not really take on board a great deal of the Christian teaching in the seminars and DVDs but I was open-minded. Two books, self-help ones, had had a profound effect on me during the beginning of my own separation: Hope for the Separated by Gary Chapman, and Take Back Your Marriage by Bill Doherty. The latter is one of my favourite books of all time. While Bill does not openly state he is a Christian, the way he expresses himself, seems to indicate that he is. He is very focused on marriage being supported by community and he is very pro-marriage – and he also talks about how we have a view of marriage as a consumer item.

Neither of these books saved my marriage but they helped me to remain calmer during the separation. I liked the more rounded view these books present of marriage and what it means. Love Must Be Tough by James Dobson was also a good read, though I do not agree with his views on homosexuality.

For me, getting a more involved with the church has been partly about encouragement/teamwork on a spiritual, emotional and practical journey and also about connecting with decent people.

I read the book Safe People, from the divorce group library. This book builds on things I had learnt previously through counselling and other self-help books. I am the Queen of Self-Help! At this time, just months ago, I was knocking around with some people  – mates, I suppose – not my close friends, who are ace, but these other people I knew from the music scene. The mates are not bad people but not what I would call ‘safe’. Many of them are delightful, but some are or were not really addressing deeper issues – and that can impact on those around them. Meanwhile, I was hearing people talk at divorce group and thought, ‘Maybe these are the sorts of people I need to spend a little more time with.’  These were people trying to get ‘whole’.  They were not idiots.  That was what brought me into the church first off.

Now I am trying to read as much as I can, read the Bible, and sort out my thinking.

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