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Partner and Head of Family Law, Rugby
Leading up to the festive period, I have taken the time to reflect on many workshops which I have run looking at the issues of separation around Christmas and domestic abuse. In doing so I have written a short story which if you are going through a separation, you may find of interest.
Once upon a time there was a lovely woman called Hope, she was aged around 60 and was a devoted mother to three adult children, two of whom lived out of the family home. She had a husband who was a little younger than her who she had been with for over thirty years. Throughout their life together Hope had supported her much loved husband emotionally, physically and financially, she was a bright intelligent woman with a variety of skills and her willingness to work and her giving nature allowed her husband to work as he chose knowing he would always be supported by his committed wife.
Unfortunately, unbeknown to Hope, her husband was an egocentric man with narcissistic traits and rather than appreciate all she did for him, he not only took her for granted, but verbally and emotionally abused her throughout the years they were together. Hope’s childhood had left her emotionally scarred, she had been invited to feel ‘not good enough’ and unlovable and that she must be one of life’s ‘givers’ and ‘put up with’ what life threw at her. Consequently she had no clue that her errant husband was abusing her, she thought that it was all that she deserved and instead of challenging his unacceptable behaviour she accepted it and as a result her confidence, self-esteem and sense of worth continued to diminish.
As is not unusual in these circumstances, it wasn’t the abusive nature of the relationship that finally caused its demise, it was an event – her husband’s infidelity and the fact he just ‘disappeared’ from her life. This was a turning point for Hope as it can be for many whose relationship ends. She had choices; she could become overwhelmed with grief and become bitter and depressed, she could be filled with need for revenge and plan all sorts of retaliation and retribution, she could embrace the victim mentality and become immersed in negativity or like the mythical phoenix she could rise from the ashes and grow and develop.
Hope chose the latter and with great courage, perception and insight she began to find ways to increase her own self awareness, to look at why she had made the choices she had and how she had colluded to maintain the nature of the relationship. Hope’s divorce journey was not an easy one with many obstacles put in her path; her estranged husband still tried to maintain control of both her and the situation, sometimes her children rebuked and misunderstood her and sometimes events conspired to make her lose faith in those around her.
Hope is now the woman she wants to be and can look forward to the future she deserves, she won’t be rich in monetary terms but her quality of life will have a richness that was previously missing, she is happy and fulfilled she doesn’t hate her ex husband but in her words feels nothing but “disdain and pity” for him, life after divorce is allowing her to feel the warmth of happiness again.
This story is one based on fact, ‘Hope’ is one of the many wonderful people I have met who have been in crisis but who have ‘dug deep’ and got through what has been an emotionally distressing time and found new opportunities. So for those of you who are in the throes of a difficult separation, take heart from ‘Hope’s’ experience - believe in yourself and try to enjoy your Christmas.