The Power of Divorce

Yes, actually, there *are* important things happening in the world that have nothing to do with celebrity “uncouplings” (I can’t tell you how much that word makes me want to scratch my eyes out). There is death, famine, war, discrimination, hate crimes… but no, hang on, put down that latte…it’s THE DEATH OF BRANGELINA AND ISN’T SHE A VILE MAN-HATER. It’s like some alternate reality Kanye/Swifty version of news. “Imma let you finish, but first… who gets custody of Shiloh?”

So, it’s a divorce. It happens all the time on the planet. People split up a marriage and hey, the world keeps turning. When it comes to a public persona however, or a celebrity couple that millions of people seem to have invested loads of their time and opinions on, all of a sudden everyone jumps into the barrel of “well, here’s what I think”. The press has a field day, the news starts post-rationalising old pictures of the couples’ body language on holiday, and everyone starts acting like a mother-in-law weighing in on how “unfair” it is that some woman decides to break such a handsome man’s heart. Sigh.

When I was 24, I got into a very serious relationship. He was lovely. Kind, sweet, talented and good-looking. The kind of guy you immediately imagine taking home to your parents. When I was 27, I practically forced him to buy me a huge ring and ask me to marry him. He was so obliging and patient. When I was 28, we got married. By the time I was 29, I had cheated on him three (okay, four) times and then served him divorce papers. I just knew it wasn’t the right fit for me, and I couldn’t imagine having kids with him. I was pretty brutal about it. I unceremoniously broke his heart and set fire to the relationship.

Understandably, amongst his/our friends and his family, I was made to feel like a soulless, black-hearted emotionally inept witch. He was the ‘poor guy’ whose heart I obliterated.

He was the good guy, the solid friend, the nice guy, the man that I ruined. Now, admittedly, I wasn’t the nicest of people to him and that’s partially because I knew I could run rings around him so I took advantage. I behaved abominably to someone that I loved. And bless him, he loved me so much, so the other part to that behaviour was that he afforded me allowances that I probably should never have had. Recipe for disaster.

But, what no one understood, and didn’t want to, was that even though I managed the situation really badly, what I did do is get us both out of a marriage that ultimately would’ve been bad news. If we’d had kids, they probably would’ve been in therapy by now. Come to think of it, I probably would’ve been as well. It wouldn’t have been the life that we both ultimately deserved. He did. I did too.

I started seeing my current husband whilst I was still married to the guy (unhappily, obviously). What a slut, people said. Vile home wrecker. Evil bitch. I did the best thing I could’ve done at the time, and not address those remarks (I wanted to defend myself so badly). I worked so hard to ignore it all, whilst on the inside I was slowly disintegrating. I had finally found someone, the one, that I knew I was happy with, but I was battling everyone’s perception of me, so I couldn’t indulge in my happiness, I couldn’t celebrate it. I had to hide it and apologise for it, and I had no one to talk to (all of our friends were originally his, so you can imagine how that worked out for me).

I’m now almost 40 and I have 3 amazing kids, and here’s what I know: I know that calling quits on a serious relationship, partnership, marriage… that takes guts. You’re basically splitting your heart open and being honest about breaking someone else’s. In and amongst this grim emotional rubble, the glimmer of power is taking control of a situation no matter how painful it is. And women especially should not be vilified for that. Frankly, it’s much easier to just put up with a relationship and not deal with the messy upheaval. Gloss over the broken bits and keep going. But changing your emotional trajectory? Brutal. And it won’t come as a surprise, but it’s not fun for the decision-maker, especially as a woman. So why does everyone think we deserve it? Just because on the outside someone looks glamorous and rich and loved by millions, doesn’t make her any less sad and confused and alone than someone living in a busted flat in Brooklyn crying into her soup.

Taking matters into your own hands and changing your life around is a hugely important decision that women as well as men need support for. Had I not given up on my first husband, I wouldn’t have met the man that lights up my world every single day. I changed my life for the better, and it was a painful fire to walk through, and I do regret how badly I handled it all, but the scars ultimately were worth it. And I know that somewhere out there, he’s celebrating the fact that he has a girl on his arm that makes him smile and laugh every single day. And he deserves as much of that as I do.