There is a
Divorce is one of the major factors leading to many men perceiving a major gulf in an ability to grapple with finding the rungs of the ladder needed to climb out of a position of vulnerability. Support services are available but overstretched. Very often the burden of an inability to manage or rationalise the feelings of isolation become too much for the individual and a release from a position of personal torment leads to the ultimate decision.
Why am I writing this article ?
Too many men in my age group (I am 46) are in a position of extreme distress and anxiety that can’t happily wear a label. Whether that is caused by debt, by relationship or marriage breakdown, loss of employment or a personal incapacity to understand how to broach topics that are too painful or emotionally distressing to describe or to rationalise.
I got to the age of 45 and was happily married (or so I thought) to someone who I idolised and put on a pedestal. A father of two amazing children when my wife left me for another woman. Stupid decisions we took, or that I went along with to keep my wife happy destroyed my life. My wife then isolated me from my children (and continues to do so) for no valid reason other than divorce positioning, isolating me from the only family I have.
In early October after being assaulted by her girlfriend in a pub in front of witnesses I hit rock bottom having left the marital home three months earlier. Having had no contact with my children for weeks and having no contact or ability to talk to the woman who I had spent a decade in love with who had been having an affair with someone else for six months whilst trying to coerce me into a “Thrupple”. She had sat and watched a program on Netflix called “You Me Her” which was the exact gameplan for the life she then built. It was awful.
Six months on I found myself sat in my tiny cottage in the West Country beyond what you can describe the depths of despair. I was in an intimate purgatory, a lot of it self inflicted by personal incapacity to rationalise feelings of loss. Add on to that living with higher functioning autism and being separated by force from my children I was lost.
Disorientated and entirely astray from the world that I had worked so hard to build, with a loss of financial security paying huge legal bills to attempt to see the children we had agreed shared care of before my wife decided to all but kidnap them legally. To see a way out was an option that I did not have. No manual,
I had nobody to call, the only call I wanted to make, to the woman I was still madly in love who was now infatuated with someone else, was a door that I had helped slam shut by rushing into serving her divorce papers and alienating her, making her so angry that she had isolated me entirely from her life and thoughts. The compassionate and loving woman I had woken up with thousands of times and created life with was long gone, replaced with someone I no longer recognised who had not only fallen out of love with me but had chosen to hate me. Being Aspie hate isn’t something that is an objective emotion that I can harness, I was still smitten with her as much as the day I met her, regardless of her infidelity or the fact she was waking up with another woman who had taken my place in her heart. Court action throughout the summer between us had built a rift so huge that no rational conversation could bridge it.
For me, all the family I had was her at the helm and two fantastic little boys we had made who were the epicentre of my cosmos. Here, months on having moved out I was a hermit in a very tidy little cottage. My wife already spending days on end in our marital home days after I had left with the woman who had been
To be 45 and a dad is amazing. To be 45 and scared and without anyone to bounce feelings of personal loss was terrifying. I would regularly go four to five days without leaving the house, throwing myself into working remotely but putting in too many hours to fill the void. Not seeing my children properly for 100+ days was starting to shatter my will to live and the hit at the very core of my ability to cope with daily stuff. I lived in a very tidy clean cottage, never had any dirty washing. Found myself shopping late at night to deliberately avoid the remote possibility of seeing my wife and my children in a supermarket. I found that avoiding supermarkets when tills were open meant I did not have to make conversation. After
I didn’t feel bitter or angry. When you are Aspie, you want answers, you want to ask questions and the only person I could get those from I was alienated from and was divorcing, and she held the handcuffs that were preventing me seeing the children I needed.
Children I deliberately did not want to use as a crutch or as an escape. But children I craved holding, playing with, feeding and just watching them grow. My home had been built during the summer of 2018 with every item of clothing, beds, books, toys and Lego my kids could need. School books, bookbags, shoes, school uniform all still currently sat untouched in plastic six months on. I couldn’t even open their wardrobe or walk into their bedroom without feeling such a sense of loss that left me crippled in a puddle of tears.
I am not alone. Many divorcing women withhold children. It is an ever-growing tactic of
I failed to cope. I would sit up at night trying to lose myself in long novels or cleaning away my home until it shone. Two bunk beds made up in my sons bedroom that hadn’t seen their occupants for months. My wife refusing to allow me to even speak to my kids reinforced a feeling of bereavement that surpassed the feelings of grief I experienced when I lost my father suddenly more than two decades previously.
I had weekends where I didn’t get out of bed. Didn’t open my curtains, ate sparingly, but knew that if I let her tactics win that I wouldn’t be any good to my children and I could be painted as weak or mentally ill, something that I genuinely wasn’t. When you’re trapped in a war with someone you loved, who has your personal destruction at her core, to allow her to destroy you would be giving in.
I found help. Realising what she did was an extension of the coercive controlling behaviour that had started in
I took dumb decisions to rely on poor legal help.
I was guided by people who wanted to part me with huge invoices and I was separated from the only person who I thought could help me, who had one agenda. Me, out of my children’s lives for good, but me supporting her financial needs and supporting her and a new partner.
She had forgotten that for me, money and support and fiduciary issues were never an issue. She just needed to win at all costs. She didn’t get the memo that nobody wins in a divorce. Everybody loses and the only people who matter are the children. And when you are deliberately hurting the children by preventing them having access to the absent parent so soon after separation then you’re actually being really quite manipulative and deceptive and you are not acting in the best interests of two children who have a right to see the other parent.
I had nowhere to turn. I couldn’t talk to her, she wouldn’t have helped or been interested, even though I had made sure a decade earlier she had got the help she needed when she had been depressed. I hadn’t realised that feelings of loss and grief come in cycles post-divorce or separation. What I was experiencing was normal. I didn’t have an affair, I didn’t want a divorce, I didn’t want to leave our home. I was isolated and locked out.
I spoke to men in the same situation as me and struggled to realise that this is a long game and applying to the courts as I did in September would take time. The courts, correctly, want to find the best possible outcome for the children of the marriage. They don’t care about you or your ex, just what is best for the children. We had agreed shared care twice in writing only for my ex to revoke it to secure a preferential financial outcome in her favour. But also reinforcing potential future spousal maintenance.
To unravel this takes time and takes professionals like CAFCASS and the Family Courts. Expect dirty tricks, expect false accusations, expect to be accused of everything under the sun. If you read the forums a lot of divorce solicitors almost brief their female clients to invent accusations of abuse or domestic violence, or to goad a divorcing husband into a reaction to get a
In my sense I was about to become a turkey baster to a an
Holidays and breaks, feeling like a million dollars waiting for her on railway platforms for her to turn up looking amazing. I cannot tell you in words how in love I was with her – listen to all 26 episodes of our podcast if you don’t believe me. Eating in
I needed help. I needed someone to turn to who could listen and who could separate the noise from the reality of needing help. As an independent man living alone in
I sat and read the Fathers for Justice forums and
I turned to two bodies to help me, I had been seeing therapists throughout August – October who didn’t really help much. I took to writing her letters almost every day. Putting them in a box as she will never read them. Never understand, or care. She had cut me out her life the minute she fell in love with someone else months before we split up and I filed divorce at haste.
The two bodies who I turned to provided me context help and care to rationalise and align feelings of loss and to start eating properly, to start sleeping properly. My HR team at my employer were fantastic and supported me. Work is central to my life ethic. I have to be working and I have to be productive. My health suffered hugely and I lost 60 kg plus in weight. Not having family nearby and not having neighbours it was like being under house arrest.
I slowly found my feet and I found friends who were at the end of the phone in the UK, the US and Australia so that I had 24/7 coverage. Unlike many in my position I didn’t seek solace in alcohol, never been a drinker and never understood those who drank. Hiding in a bottle isn’t an aid to recovery. Sadly many men don’t have that ability to not self medicate. I didn’t want a lovelife and if I had had one I wouldn’t have been good to anyone. My libido wasn’t even on my top 100 things to consider, after all I was still madly in love with the very root cause of my pain. Regardless of what she had done to our marriage and our family.
Slowly and surely I started working my way out of negative feelings and feelings of self doubt. There were times when I felt like ending it all, but knowing the damage that would do to my children and also that behaving like that would both provide a victory to my ex partner who I think would have popped champagne corks to my demise. It wasn’t ever an option but if you can’t admit that you’ve thought about it seriously you can’t rebuild.
I am fortunate. I am good at what I do for a living and am surrounded by technology folk and I always am working my ass off to find new avenues in security that effect positive change. Researching that and working hard for my employer who gave a crap really was the backbone of recovery. Add to that the fact that I knew that if I didn’t concentrate then I would have let them down. I wasn’t about to do that for a nanosecond.
I read a lot. An awful lot. My age group are the most likely to attempt self harm or suicidal thoughts and that this isn’t a feeling of personal weakness but more a release. There were weekends where I lay in a clean bed listening in the dark to audiobooks. I didn’t spend a penny on luxuries. I didn’t buy anything for myself, I just kept myself isolated. I still do now. I’ve been out my house twice in eight days out of choice.
Throwing myself into my work, harnessing what I am capable of for
Remember kids who are caught in a divorce are in a bubble of trauma and confusion. They’re growing and listening and confused, they don’t need your confusion on top of their own adaptation to
I have an older son now approaching 29 who saw his own biological parents separate before I came into his life and I watched what that did to him longterm. My wife was a product of a divorced home and I saw how that affected our marriage and her attitude to marriage. Even now I am unable to speak to my children on the phone. I’ve spoken to them three times in sixty-five days by telephone.
Alienation and isolation are the Swiss Army goto tool of the embittered and empowered ex-wife.
Remember in many separations your ex partner has decided you are entirely surplus to requirements and are not needed any more and you aren’t valued and you certainly have no voice. In my situation the children have been used as
Making sure my children grow up balanced happy and capable is my only goal in life now. They are my every waking dream and if I had given into feelings of loss, despair and reacted to what was narcisstic and very cruel behaviour by an ex then they would have been without a dad.
But I am happier in my own skin now and I am productive, I am eating better and I am able to think laterally about a positive future. I am aware and cognitive of the very real battle ahead in courtrooms proving I am still the good father that I always was prior to my
If you are in a position like I was I want you to reach out and seek help from your GP, from support bodies locally to you, from agencies. The support is available, I use it and will continue to do so. Do not think this is a personal sign of weakness. It’s a wave of grief and loss that is normal. In many cases like mine sadly, amplified by the controlling behaviour of an ex-partner who once loved me. Do not dwell. Pick up a phone now and call someone.
Remember. Being in love with someone who hurts you isn’t wrong. Even if they turn overnight into someone you no longer recognise. My wife carried our children and made me a dad and no matter what she did to me and continues to do to me, out of sheer spite, I will always always be grateful. Learn to forgive. Hate is a negative emotion. She gave me a decade of love. A decade of happiness. I didn’t help myself and for
If that someone doesn’t answer or provide you
There is light at the end of the tunnel.