My divorce recently came through after being separated for nearly six years. There was nothing contentious, we just didn’t see the point of rushing into it when we had no assets to split and we’d organised custody between us, plus neither of us were looking to get re-married. In reality, nothing has changed (apart from the surname on my new passport), but still, I know that soon I’ll have to sit down and process the finality of my marriage being over.
The thought of ending a relationship is a huge one, and you need to weigh up the factors:
Are you staying together because you are married/have a child/children? Or is it just easier to stay in a loveless relationship for the sake of being in a relationship? Is the fear of being alone and starting again too much to think about so you’d rather stay where you are?
I’ll be honest, it’s terrifying starting over.
Firstly, you’re completely alone. Even though everyone around you envelopes you with their love and kindness, but you really don’t want to be enveloped and reminded of their lives full of love when yours is broken. You just have to feel it. Raw. And live with the pain, hurt, guilt, fear, shame and loss until it works it's way out of you like some kind of torturous virus that lasts for as long as it lasts.
My break up was the lowest point of my life. I spent the first four months after moving out of the family home working through the Sex in the City box set accompanied by many bottles of Blossom Hill Rose. Co-parenting is great when it finally falls into place, after the dust and emotions have started to settle. But it takes a long, long time to make it work. And then the quiet time turns into the noisy time. I hadn’t had a weekend in years without doing some kind of activity with my daughter whether it be ballet, parties, walking up and down the escalator in John Lewis for fun because it was pouring with rain outside. Playdates, grocery shopping, brunch, lunch, dinner, cinema, theatre, playing school with a gazillion stuffed toys, stories, reading, drawing, cooking, baking, dressing up – you get the picture. Full days with not a moment to yourself, then, nothing.
Whole weekends of nothing.
So. Much. Time.
What do you do with all of that time? I tried to remember how I spent that time before becoming a parent? No idea.
Mum friends would invite me to join them, a lovely thought but you really don’t want to be reminded of other people’s joyous family lives when yours is no more. So you have to start again, start your own new weekend regime to fill all of that time.
For me this started with Bingo. There was a place fairly local, a friend said it would be a laugh and the wine was ridiculously cheap, so a few of us went along. More than once. We’d get drunk - quickly, split any winnings and it was over by 9pm, so home in plenty of time for more SITC.
I didn’t go too many times, I much prefer going out to dinner, theatre, a film or an exhibition. I’d take myself out to see something for the evening, sometimes with a friend, mostly on my own. I’m okay with this, I’d much rather go to something alone than wait around to find someone to accompany me.
Eventually, the pain of dropping my daughter to her dad started to ease a little and I found I could fill the void more. Mostly by going out and drinking too much. Almost as though I couldn’t come home unless I was literally crawling in a gutter, regressing to being 25 again. However, the hangovers hurt and last much longer, you forget that part of course when you’re out having a good time.
This cycle went on for some time. Four days a week I’m on mum duty doing the school run, working, grabbing groceries, vaguely keeping on top of life admin, and trying to find the money to pay for everything (that’s the part that keeps me awake at night. More than the ‘what if I die in my sleep, how long will it be before someone notices I’m gone?’). I have had to wait for an eBay payment to come through many times so that I can go shopping for food for my daughter. It’s definitely not the ‘heartbreak diet’, more like the ‘am I going to give myself an ulcer diet’. I can happily live on rice and beans but she deserves a lot more, and doesn’t need to know the trials and tribulations that each day brings. I’m not even sure if after time things start to balance out, or you just get used to this new way of juggling when you’re on your own.
It does get better, I promise. There are still lots of times I feel very alone and wish things were different. But, the positives outweigh the negatives. Onwards and upwards right?
Cat Cooper is a forty something, single mum who lives in North London with her ten year old daughter. She is writing her first book about the roller-coaster ride that is online dating, post millennium and post her own break-up. Life’s curve balls can really throw you, and starting over has certainly been a journey of self discovery. It wasn’t until her girlfriends who enjoyed her stories so much and encouraged her to write them down, that she decided to share them. The dating research continues...
Also by Cat Cooper:
Dating This Side Of The Millenium, Do I Dare?
My First Date: 17 Years After The First
Cat Cooper: My Second Date
Cat Cooper: My Third Date