A year ago today my husband and I separated. A strange anniversary to mark, perhaps. But it’s a notable one, nevertheless. Because, today, I am a million miles from where I was that day, last year, which was full of sadness and relief, confusion and inevitability. All at once. And I want to share where I am now, for anyone who is going through a separation, for anyone who is thinking about it and for everyone who is wondering if they will ever feel ok again. I AM ok. And I know that you will be ok, too. One day, you will laugh again.
A good year.
I cannot believe that 365 days have passed since my marriage ended.
I don’t want to make light of a situation that was a sad and difficult decision to make. Separation is painful and uncertain and no one would go into a marriage hoping it ends that way.
That said, the past year has been one of the best of my life. And I know that must sound really odd. But it has. Because it has been full of love, opportunities, amazing energy and personal development.
It has shown me, over and over again, that I am never alone.
And that I can pretty much do anything I set my mind to.
I don’t know that I would ever have realised this, otherwise.
Making peace with yourself.
I remember, a few days after separating, sitting in the garden with my sister.
I was confused more than sad. The end of my marriage had been inevitable for some time. I knew that, deep down. There was no way it could have gone on.
Yet there was a niggle that I couldn’t shake. Was it all my fault? Could I have done more? Would I ever feel ok again?
My sister was resolute on that. She told me that I had done everything I could. That she believed in my decision. And that the place to put my energies was in moving forward, not soul-searching something I would never find the answers to.
That conversation was the last time I ever let the doubts take over. I didn’t have them again, after that. I simply chose not to. I chose to believe in my decision. In what lay ahead.
And I kept moving forward.
Going it alone is liberating.
The thought of being alone can be scary. Especially after 15 years of being with someone and having three kids together.
I realised in the early months how our society is built for couples. To have a person by your side. To do ‘stuff’ with someone. There were so many things I hadn’t factored in that took me by surprise. The sinking feeling of going to parties on your own. Trying to get the sodding Christmas tree out of the house. Building my first fire. Most recently, doing my first BBQ. Having to do everything ON MY OWN.
And, for a girl who thought she was pretty independent, there were so many things I had simply never done. Because I had always had someone else to do them for me.
Suddenly, it was just me. And three kids. Suddenly, there was no one else.
And you know what? We survived. I managed.
I can now do a pretty kick arse BBQ (even if I did initially have to call a friend to talk me through it). As for the Christmas tree? Thanks to my Instagram followers, this year I know exactly how to get the b*stard out without first shedding all 13,457 needles in my hallway and just removing the carcass.
And in three weeks time, we are doing our first family holiday abroad to the amazing Club Letoonia in Turkey. Just me and my three kids. This is the ultimate milestone for me. Once I’ve done that, I’ll feel I’ve done it all. (Sort of).
So, being alone? Turns out, it can actually be really, really liberating and empowering.
THIS is a real family.
Of course. I am not naive. And I am sensitive to the situation I am in.
Because, as happy as I am, I know my kids would rather have their parents together than apart. Of course they would. It’s how we are conditioned. It’s how society tells us a family should operate.
And I do live with the knowledge, every day, that we have affected our kids’ lives. There are days where I feel terribly guilty about that. Where I internalise any of my kids’ struggles and wonder if our separation is the route cause. Did I put my happiness before my kids? Until a good friend said this:
‘You are teaching your kids something I can never. That leaving a man can be the most empowering thing in your life. Never stay with someone because society thinks you should. You’re the epitome of a strong woman. And your girls will thank you endlessly one day.’
In a rational state, the guilt doesn’t touch me. Because I can see how much better we all function. How much happier we are.
And I will always stick by what I said in my post on New Year’s Eve. That separation can be positive. That we will continue to do the best by our kids and show them that this is making their lives better. That they still have two parents who love them to the moon and back.
That we are still a ‘real family.’
Day by day. And then a year!
So, one year on, life is very different. I feel that we have come a long way.
And there are things that have happened, like The New Mum’s Notebook and my book deal with Penguin, that I don’t think would have happened if I’d stayed. Because the energy channels were so blocked with negativity and low self-esteem.
Since my separation, lots of you have got in touch. Sharing your stories. Your worries. Some of you have confided in me and asked me what you should do. That’s always a difficult one. Because do I advocate separation? No. Of course, I don’t. Do I think it’s an easy option? No. Of course, I don’t. It took me a long time to have the confidence to face up to what I needed to do. And then to do it.
What I do believe is trusting in yourself. In how you feel. And recognising that, sometimes, when you know you’re in the wrong relationship, the best thing you can do is make the break and have faith that everything will be as it should be, in the end.
The last year has shown me this over and over again.