Divorce at 43 - Why it was the best decision of my life

I had always dreamt of getting married, having children and living the perfect life… because that’s what happens when you grow up… right?

Marriage, kids, a house, and family car.

However, I always felt that there should have been more of a pull.  A feeling just like that maternal feeling you’re meant to have leading up to pregnancy and having children. Sadly, I never shared those feelings and just put it down to not being the right time or I just was not old enough. A real “oh well” time in my life. 

As a child, I perceived marriage as a belief and a value that just happens when we grow up . You may not know this but as we grow, our programming adopts the beliefs systems and values from our parents. This means we do not have the ability to choose the beliefs and values that we want. We adopt them, all of them. The good, the bad and everything in between.

My programmed view of marriage from early on was conflicted.  My mum married very young and my dad was killed in a work place accident when I was just 6 months old, to label this disruptive to a normal up bringing is an understatement. My Mum remarried and my new Stepdad was OK, however he wasn’t a very maternal man.

Then came the second hit. My Mum and Stepdad divorced when I was just 9 years of age, it was horrible. There was lots of anger and unkind words. But this bitter split wasn’t my only exposure to marriage, my aunt and uncle have an amazing marriage and it continues to this day some 50 years later. So growing up I had these two very different outcomes as the result of marriage and engineered two very opposing views.

Fast forward, to when it was time for me to walk down the aisle and I still remember my apprehension around the entire event. I was still undecided.  Sure, I was in love but I never experienced that “I am getting married” excitement that my girls shared…I remember asking myself, “Where is it?”

My husband and I headed into married life like everyone else. The house, the car, the dog, the cat and most importantly we have two beautiful children.

But still that feeling - that poised satisfaction of a happy family life…where was it? I remember convincing myself it will show up soon, surely?

I was married for 15 years, he is a good man and an awesome Dad and from the outside, we living what looked like the magazine lifestyle. A combined $300,000 a year income, corporate careers, house, cars, amazing friends and two children, a boy and a girl. Everything was supposed to be perfect.

I was even lucky enough to leave my job and be a stay home Mum with the children. It was a golden period in my life as it allowed me to start thinking about those missing feelings and making big decisions like not returning to a corporate job.  Instead, I started thinking about me.  I had always being very driven and knew that I wanted to bring value to the world; so I choose to go back and study and as a result became a qualified Clinical Psychotherapist specializing in Self-Image and Relationship behaviors. 

While dedicated to helping others I can’t help but think that this path chose me so that in some way I could also help myself.

Afterall, a broken down Psychotherapist isn’t going to be much use if they can’t solve their own mysteries. 

I solved mine…but this isn’t a fairytale, there was no story book ending.

At 43 years of age and after 15 years of marriage, I decided to end my marriage.

It was one of the hardest decisions; I have ever had to make in my life.  Even harder for my kids and Husband.  I’ve been there and made sure I didn’t make the same mistakes that I witnessed when I was only 9 but still there were tears and questions and even more tears.

But just 12 months on and everything settled and into a routine I consider the decision to pull a “divorce” one of the best decisions of my life and not only for me but for my kids and now ex-husband. 

Sadly, in lot of cases, couples stay together because of the stigma of divorce, financial reasons and also because of how it might affect the children.

But let me tell you a lifetime of sadness is the biggest crime anyone can inflict on a family just to keep up appearances for the school mums, your family and neighbourhood.

Very early on in our relationship, In fact right on the 6-month mark there were some little things I should have taken more notice of.  While I did communicate how I was feeling it took 8 years for me to realize it was all falling on deaf ears.

We, as Husband and Wife, and maybe just like you and your partner, have two very different value systems when it comes to communicating problems and then being able to work through to a resolution. We had very different up bringing’s and as a result very different values systems in many areas, including our relationships and future life values.

So slowly over time, as we endured these differences, the ones that love makes you blind to, my position in my marriage started to change.  I fell out of love with my husband, we starting operating more like friends under the same roof and this was definitely not what I wanted for the rest of my life and definitely not the valued view of marriage and or a relationship that I wanted to pass onto my children. 

When I told my husband I wanted a divorce, he reacted with both shock and extreme sadness. We had many discussions about how to save it, and things we could work on, but in the end, it was too late.

However, we promised to behave like adults during the separation, but when it came time to split our lives things didn’t all go to plan. I was locked out of all the bank accounts, my car was taken away and I experienced what is known in Divorce Lawyer circles as “financial abuse”. It was the most difficult time I have ever had to experience. I was shocked by it as I thought it would never happen to me. Maybe I was naive but I never believed he was capable of such behaviour. 

For 12 months, during the most tumultuous period of my adult life we remained under the same roof. I could not afford to move out until the house was sold so instead shifted into the spare room. 

There were times my privacy was breached, even my personal communications were accessed - a breach that resulted in an AVO.

It was suffocating.

It was degrading.

It was insulting.

And psychologically, it was one of the toughest experiences in my life that just seemed to last forever.

The whole time I always put on a brave face in front of the children and not once did we get them involved in the situation.

Divorce isn’t pretty, you’ll experience every emotion you own and sometimes you feel that you cannot keep going. You may even have second thoughts and consider it easier to stay and not rock the boat.

But listen when I say this is a situation for the rest of your life. I decided it wasn’t what I wanted for the rest of mine or for the early years of my children’s lives.

I’m here to share with you that there is light at the end of the tunnel, in fact, you could describe it as a rainbow. It’s been 2 years since I sat my Husband down and delivered the news. I’ve had to work hard, not only on myself but my business and I can say that financially I’m stable but the real gold, the real difference is that I am now both emotionally and psychologically very much in love with my own life. I have dreams and am chasing them.

I get excited making my own decisions, I feel free and it shows.

And even better is that my kids get to experience a happier more positive and driven version of me. And that alone leaves us all excited about what the future holds.

Before I finish there is one question I always get asked and you may even be asking it yourself as you read my story.  “Would you go through it all again? The honest answer is mixed. On the surface, I say “Not if I don’t have to.” But if it meant learning everything I have about myself, how capable I am and experiencing the great deal of growth I went through then maybe I could justify it and say “Yes”. However, I can’t take all the credit. I didn’t go through this ordeal alone.  I have the most amazing friends and colleagues who supported me, not just financially but with love and care and compassion. I’m thankful for them every day.

And I’m thankful every day that my children now experience two happy parents who love them and that their belief systems around divorce are a positive one.

This blog post was written by Natalie Dwyer – West DCht, MAACHP. Natalie is a Clinical Psychotherapist, Self – Image and Relationship Behavior Specialist, and Speaker & Trainer who is located in Australia & Canada.

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