Nevertheless, she persisted


I haven’t written for a while. I haven’t written because this year has kicked my ass. There has been man stress, work stress, more man stress, and now more work stress. I haven’t had mental capacity for the blog and, for months now, I haven’t been “properly” dating either, albeit somehow there are still men in my life.

Throughout the man stress I’ve wished work felt more stable, fulfilling and enjoyable. And throughout the work stress I have desperately wished for a partner to walk through it with me, and comfort me on the many nights of tears. I have incredible friends, who have supported me constantly but, at the end of it all, what I’ve had and what I will always continue to have has been solely me, myself and I. 

When I let myself go down the rabbit hole, it’s incredibly easy to feel butt hurt for myself and wonder what I did so bad in a previous life that I’m being dealt so many personal challenges in this one. I can lament the fact that never did I imagine that I’d be 35 with no job, no financial stability and no relationship. I can compare myself to other people who are seemingly thriving and wonder when will it be my turn for success and happiness and love. It can be a pretty quick downward spiral into a full on Joey-esque “why me god, why????”

But there are no answers to any of those questions, especially not down the bottom of a rabbit hole, so what good does it do to ask them. While I believe in allowing yourself to feel the feelings and not just slap on a smile for the sake of it, I also don’t believe in wallowing or perpetuating negative emotions. 

I have no understanding of where my life is taking me, or what exactly this path is leading to, but I’m trying to trust in it, attempting to become comfortable with the uncertainty and instead accept that this is just where I’m at, for now. We often get so wrapped up in where we’re trying to go that getting there just feels like it gets in the way. But I’m coming to terms with the fact that I will perpetually live in the journey and so I should probably get comfortable with it.

And with every challenge, with every “what the actual fuck” moment, I find myself believing in myself a little bit more, less questioning if I’ll be able to get through something and more wondering how I’m going to get through it. Challenges, disappointments and time spent outwith our comfort zones are truly the best place for growth. And, honestly, I feel like it’s going to take something pretty spectacular to “beat” the trauma that my divorce inflicted. Not that I’m hoping to ever have that happen.

Within it all this year I’ve also seen myself start to harden, something that until now I had never let happen. I was always proud of remaining open, and soft, and hopeful, but I guess after a certain amount of shit you get to the point that it just makes sense to put up some walls – finally! I’ve found myself regressing from new social situations and shutting myself off from hope of new relationships. 

I’m hoping it’s a temporary solution while I find my feet, while I try to get some of my shit together – knowing no one ever fully has their shit together. But in the grand scheme of shits being together or not, I’m definitely on the “absolutely do not have them together” end of the spectrum. 

If you’re just joining my dating stories now, know that I write with a fairly large time gap from when the stories happened to me writing about them. Partly to protect everyone involved and partly to allow me to reflect on them in a less emotional way. Also that gap is now much bigger simply because I took time off from posting them. *the date I write at the top of each post is the date the story / thoughts happened, so most of the stories are in the past, but a lot of the thoughts (like this post) are from the present.

So far what we’ve covered is the “finding my feet” stage – where I was like a deer in headlights, realising online dating was some merry hell that a happily married person must have come up with to punish us for the other freedoms we have. Then we moved into the “oh, these men are kinda hot” stage – where I was surprised at my pulling ability and got a little too carried away with gym bods, after having found my own. And now the stories are moving into the “but none of this is working so let’s change it up” stage – where I tried to move out of my comfort zone, go with the less obvious choices and see if anything there worked. It’s been… fun!

But throughout it all, from those very first stories and right up to where I find myself now, one thought, one mantra, has remained in my head – “nevertheless, she persisted”.

…previous post

Please Remove The Bullet – Part 2 of 2

I never thought going back would be easy, but I could never have imagined how much it would tax me. To live everyday second guessing what your partner is telling you, trying to determine if they’re lying, looking for telltale signs of the behaviour repeating itself. Meanwhile dealing with the fallout of friends who think you made a mistake by going back, or had so vociferously made their feelings clear when you were separated that now they can’t backtrack the things they said about the man you’re giving it another go with.

We went to couples counselling, well, mostly I went. I think he joined for two sessions. I was familiar with counselling already, having gone after my parents divorce and then seeing a life coach before I got married. I’m not sure how much this particular instance helped but I felt I had to go because it was the right thing to do?

It took around six months for me to stop checking his phone. I did it almost daily for the first few months, and then slowly weaned myself off. I sometimes think I shouldn’t have gone back if I couldn’t not check his phone but it seemed like the minimum viable action to allow me to be present in the marriage but to also feel a tiny bit of peace.

And peace wasn’t something that was easy to come by. My brain and my thoughts and my dreams ran wild. I was in a constant state of turmoil, feeling like I wasn’t trying hard enough to make it work, not appreciating enough that he had seemingly changed, not fully feeling like myself. I wasn’t sure I’d ever feel like her again. In fact, I’m not sure I knew who she was by this stage.

We went to Vegas with some family for his 30th birthday in the March, ten months after the whole sorry mess had come out, 11 months after we got married. My aunt commented while on the trip that it was the most relaxed she’d seen both of us in a long time and it definitely felt like a bit of a line in the sand for us.

Then in the April we were in Portugal to celebrate his parent’s (some important coloured) wedding anniversary. It fell right around the time of our first wedding anniversary and so we didn’t get to properly celebrate our anniversary which actually felt like a bit of a relief to me, I didn’t know if the first year of our marriage was worth celebrating. Sure we’d made it but at what cost?

Instead we moved through spring, past the May date that was ingrained in my head from the year before, hoping there would be no random, unprovoked argument that led to a night of horrors. Thankfully not.

The only thing for me to deal with was a hospital procedure for an abnormal smear result that had come back. Hospital visits had never been something I’d experienced in the past, pretty much since I’d left the hospital as a baby I’d had no reason to return. Yet since I’d been married I had been to hospital twice. Can we say omen?

I’d been warned that after the procedure I would potentially not feel great and may experience some pain – both of which turned out to be true, not least because my body does not deal well with anesthesia. I’d been told I wouldn’t be able to drive and probably shouldn’t go to work and I was glad for the day off. But as I lay still snoozing in bed at the time I would normally be up and in the shower and instead was listening to my husband in the shower earlier than his usual allotted time because I wasn’t going first, his phone pinged with a message.

As I had finally grown able to do, I ignored it and didn’t instantly jump to any stomach churning conclusions. But as it did the usual iPhone second ping to remind you there’s a message, I suddenly thought that it might be one of the guys from his work. He managed a removal company and if one of the workers was texting to say they couldn’t make it in or there was a problem with one of the trucks then I knew my husband would want to know sooner rather than later, as that sort of stuff could really fuck up his days.

There’s something ironic in the fact that I only looked at his phone to make sure his day wasn’t going to be fucked up and instead it fully fucked up, not just my day, but my life. Again. Damn that motherfucking phone.

Opening up a text that came from a name that could have been male or female alongside the name of his company, making me instantly think it was a work text and so continuing to open it I was faced with a picture of a women’s backside in a thong.

Just staring back at me. At 7am in the morning. Some women’s half naked arse. On my husband’s phone.

I put the phone down, rolled back over and pulled the covers over my head. I couldn’t bear to deal with it. I almost, for a split second, thought about ignoring it. I was in so much physical pain already that the thought of dealing with something that I knew already had no good outcome was really past what I was feeling up to at that precise moment in time.

Instead I waited until he was almost dressed, then half sat up in bed and said “you got a text message while you were in the shower, I checked it because I thought it might have been about work, it wasn’t, it was a girls arse, I can’t do this.”

With panic flashing across his face he picked up his phone to look and then instantly tried to excuse it away as a joke from one of the guys. But I knew all the guys he worked with and I’d never heard that name before. Then he tried to tell me it was a contact he met through work and they’d obviously sent it to the wrong number. He told me I was being ridiculous if I thought a girl would just send a photo like that to him at that time on a Thursday morning.

Again, gaslighting in full effect. With no one around to validate you and the person you love more than anyone in the world standing over you telling you you’re wrong and have made a mistake, it’s hard not to start to doubt yourself. It’s funny what the brain can do to you, even as the memory of a lace thong is still burning a hole in your eyes.

But I really didn’t have the energy to fight him on it. I told him “ok, just go to work” and I could see he didn’t trust that it was ok or that in anyway was I accepting of what he was telling me. But I just wanted him out the house. I wanted to not have to deal with it. He finally left for work, promising to come back at lunchtime. As I heard the car drive away, I called my Mum and had her come over from work and pick me and a few suitcase up.

For the second time in 14 months of marriage, I was back living at my Mum’s.

This time, I told even fewer people. I couldn’t bear the questions. The judgement. The pity. I couldn’t stand having to dissect my marriage all over again. And so I kept going to work, I avoided most social situations and instead hibernated at my Mum’s, while she wondered how on earth her daughter was going to navigate this.

The second time felt more cut and dry. All I had to go on was one picture. I didn’t have all the mounting evidence of the first time, I hadn’t seen anything else. I hadn’t witnessed any other inappropriate behaviour and his constant denials and rebuttals that it had been in anyway what I thought really made me question myself.

I moved out, he kept telling me I was wrong, didn’t give me space, begged me to go back. And while not motivated by my vows so much, this time, I couldn’t fathom not going back due to mostly logistical reasons – negative equity on our house, credit card debt, weddings we were already booked to attend later in the summer. So because of stupid financial, travel, RSVP reasons I returned to my cheating husband for a second time.

And in that moment, I knew that as much as I was being judged by others for my choice, no one was judging me more harshly than I was myself. In that decision, I lost respect for myself.

What had I become?

I moved back in sometime in August, and at first it wasn’t too bad. I felt numbed by so much of it, I compartmentalised a lot of what had happened and instead tried to focus on something, anything else. But I was different. I was incredibly tightly wound, I couldn’t relax, I couldn’t enjoy anything. Life became more and more joy-less. Where I once found joy, I would often find tears. Escaping a room full of friends laughing, I would tuck myself away in a bathroom and allow myself to silently weep. For what? I wasn’t sure.

I continued, mostly in silence for around six months, but into the new year I started to notice that the anxiety which had been rising within me was becoming unavoidable. I’ve written about it in a previous post, but that feeling of the wind being physically taken from you when you think about this being the rest of your life. The startling realisation that this “normal” could be your only “normal” for years to come was literally breathtaking to me. And not in a good way. That was happening more and more often. I had started to have panic attacks in the shower before work. I would scream tears but no noise would come. I would fold into the corner of my shower, feeling trapped in a life that I had a thought would be my forever. I needed to be rescued and I couldn’t make a sound.

By the beginning of summer, I realised I had to get help. Paranoia was driving me crazy. And I truly mean that. I was so convinced that he was still doing things behind my back that I had begun to try and catch him out. I would feign being sick at work so I could go home and be there at lunchtime to see if he came back to the house. I would make the bed a certain way, with something specifically placed in a way I’d remember to see if it had been moved when I came home from work, so I’d know if he’d been in bed with someone else. And I started sniffing the seat belt in his car every time I got in. I told you, crazy! But hear me out…

The seat belt was the thing that gave my Dad’s cheating away. I remember he picked me up from school one day, which was an unusual occurrence, and I happened to smell the seat belt as I was pulling it across myself to put it on. And it was a perfume scent I’d never smelled before. In all fairness, it was lovely, but it wasn’t any of the perfumes my Mum wore. And I remember thinking to myself, for the seat belt to smell that strongly of a fragrance, the person wearing it must have been in the car a lot. Long story short, seat belts can be the downfall of a cheater.

Mostly my husband’s passenger seat belt smelled of me but it didn’t stop me having a quick sniff every time as I got in. And with every lunchtime stakeout, precision bed making or seat belt whiff, I was slowly losing my mind. It was absolutely the start of what could have easily ended up in certifiable insanity. I can entirely understand how people go there.

After one particularly tough morning when I wasn’t even sure I could get into work, I texted my Mum and asked if we could meet for coffee. Our offices were near each other and there was a perfectly placed Starbucks in the middle.

Sitting with our coffees at a little corner table, I explained to her how bad things were, the panic attacks, the resignation to a joyless marriage, the anxiety, and she was, naturally, shocked. Everyone thought we were doing so much better and in some respects I’m glad we’d managed to create that facade, I didn’t like the thought of people having to go through this with us. But I realised that it did however mean that if/when I told people about the reality, they were likely to be incredibly surprised.

I told her that when we were in the supermarket I wanted to wring his neck, for no apparent reason. I explained that I had begun to flinch when he wanted to have sex, that it felt like a stranger. And I noted that unlike in the beginning, I no longer felt safe in his arms. It was that last part that I was finding hardest to deal with. I longed to feel secure, protected, safe.

My Mum, having gone through a tumultuous marriage and, possibly, even more horrific divorce with my father, was well placed to offer good advice, which she did. She suggested I set myself a time frame. Be it two months, ten months, whatever I felt comfortable with. And in that time, to really be aware of what was causing me to feel the way I was. Was it solely what had happened in the past, or was it other external factors, that would usually just amount to a bad day.

While she knew I’d obviously been trying like a motherfucker to make it work, she wanted me to be sure that I’d done everything I could before I called time. But she was emphatic that if I knew I’d done that and I was still feeling this way, then I had to walk away, for my own sanity. I was aware that her having to say those words to me were hard. I know she believes in the sanctity of marriage, despite her divorce, and I know she would have have done anything for us to be able to work things out and stay together, she loved both of us even after all he’d done. But her concern, ultimately, was for me.

In my head I gave myself six months. It would take us to November and I hoped that for the first time since we’d been married we could at least make it through the summer, given that the first year shit had blown up in May and in the second year it had been June.

As chance would have it, summer wasn’t to be our favourite season and on the last day of July we returned home from a weekend away with friends. Having taken the Monday off because I wasn’t sure how late we’d be home, I wasn’t in any rush to get to bed. But he needed to be at work in the morning so while he unpacked, I settled onto the sofa with our laptop to go online, having been on an island off the west coast of Scotland for the past 3 nights.

Opening the web browser, I saw an unfamiliar login screen. To an MSN account. With an email address pre-populated in the login field. It was a nickname of his (that I’d always hated) from university. Wondering why he had an email address I didn’t know about, I called him through from the bedroom to ask him about it.

Had he come through and just admitted it was his email address, I don’t know how things might have ended up. However the story he tried to spin me was… incredulous. Initially, he said he knew nothing about the email address. Then he finally (we’re talking five, ten minutes here) admitted that he had previously had that email address but he hadn’t used it since university. When I pressed him as to how it had then ended up on a login screen on our laptop he proceeded to tell me that someone must have logged into it from our computer.

When I feigned shock that he was suggesting someone had broken into our house and we should call the police, as if I was believing a single fucking lie that was coming out of his mouth, he then offered that what must have happened was someone logged onto our wifi, then hacked into our laptop which was connected to the wifi, and finally password hacked the login to an msn email address he used to have at university.

Did he hear himself? Did he genuinely think I was going to believe a single word of that? Even if I hadn’t been working in the tech industry by this stage, I’m hopeful I still would have been aware that it was a big pile of stinking bullshit.

But that was his story and he stuck by it. In fact, he still sticks by it today. It’s fascinating to me.

I gave him every opportunity to provide the true story, to backtrack on what he’d just told me with no repercussions, if he would just tell the truth. But no, he was adamant. Deny, deny, deny. To the point that he stormed out the flat after about an hour of relentless back and forth, apparently hurt by the accusations I was levelling at him.

While he was out I made myself busy hacking into the email account that he insisted he didn’t know about, until he remembered, but definitely didn’t remember the password. I went through all the security questions, had to track down the backup email account, get that reset because it was an old email he definitely didn’t have anymore, reset the security questions and, not long after he’d returned to the apartment, finally I was in.

I didn’t say anything to him about the extreme password reset skills I’d just discovered I possessed and instead gave him one last opportunity to come clean. I vividly remember looking over the back of the sofa at him and saying “I don’t think you understand how crucial what’s happening right now is going to be to our marriage”. He yet again flat out denied there was anything else he wanted to tell me and took himself to bed.

While he was likely drifting off to sleep, I genuinely don’t think he was lying awake and concerned by what was going on, I started to delve into an online world that felt dark and secret and disgusting.

It wasn’t an email account per se, it was a type of MSN account I’d never seen. I didn’t even know MSN still existed at this stage but it turns out it did and my husband appeared to be a seasoned user. All of his friends on there were female, mostly women with profile pics of them in their underwear. There were also a few names of women I knew. Friends of his sisters, a woman he worked with.

There was so much information and I was taking screenshots and trying to get timestamp clarifications on things so I could put together a timeline. It was saying February, but was I just to presume it was February of that year? What if it was from his university days?

Writing this now, I’m aware it doesn’t fucking matter! Either way, it was fucking shady, he’d clearly lied about something and I didn’t need anymore proof. But for me I wanted to be sure. I wanted to be 100% sure before I effectively blew apart my marriage. For what I knew would absolutely be the last time.

I went from looking at the MSN account to Googling how to do a deep dive on your laptop’s history. I knew you could easily wipe the browsing history but I also knew that it didn’t completely clear it. I spent hours reading all sorts of articles and doing all sorts of things in the depths of my laptop. I was truly on a mission.

As I finally discovered browsing history that confirmed my inclination that he had been coming home at lunchtime, I also discovered that while he maybe hadn’t been coming home to have sex with people (though who knows), he had definitely been coming home to go on this MSN account and had also been partaking in dating sites.

I had a chilling realisation that this didn’t even hurt me. My overriding feeling was actually one of relief. Relief that I had a final reason to walk out, that I had validation that the choice I was about to make was the right one, and that finally I was going to be able to end this on my terms.

I barely slept, and as soon as I heard his car leave the next day, I called my Mum who was already at work. I gave her a brief overview of the previous night’s cyberspace investigation and asked her to ask one of her colleagues who works in IT, that I knew, if there could be any other feasible explanation for what I found. I didn’t even care that the guy must have been like “WTF, why are you pulling me into your family drama?!”

I sent her the details of what I needed to know word for word in a text which she relayed to him, ending with “can there be any other explanation?” Her reply came back “no”.

Trying to make a relationship work after cheating can be like being shot and the bullet being lodged in you. The doctor tells you that you could probably survive. So you try, with the bullet still inside, to heal, you hope it’ll just take time.

But you find that the long term effects of having that bullet lodged in you isn’t something you can live with so you choose to remove it. You know that in the act of removing it you’re going to cause yourself far more short term pain. When that bullet’s pulled out, the vacuum it created is soon going to be flooded with blood, pain and tears, and it could well kill you.

It was that day that I decided to remove the bullet and let the flood come.


Next post…

…previous post

In Sickness & In Health & In(fidelity) – Part 1 of 2

The breakdown of my marriage wasn’t the biggest surprise, the biggest surprise was the timescale in which it broke down. Both in its quickness and what, to some people, felt like it’s slow painful death.

While I’ve alluded to my divorce a number of times in previous posts, I’ve never delved into the details too greatly. Partly because I was/am more focused on the present and my life now. But so much of where and who I am now was shaped by that experience that I feel it only makes sense for me to give more of that background that got me to where I am today.

Six weeks – weeks, not months, not years – after our wedding I found out my husband had cheated on me. In numerous fashions. The first being that before we were married he had slept with at least one other person. And that since we were married he had been texting a whole host of females – both known to me/him and strangers from online – with texts that would have been considered inappropriate even if he hadn’t been married.

The way I found out was… a mess. One Friday, not long after we were back from our honeymoon, and while I was still recovering from the gastroenteritis that had landed me in a Mexican hospital on said honeymoon, I got home from work and almost instantly he tried to pick a fight with me. It was so odd, it felt like it could have been a joke. He ended up storming out the house, but not before he’d changed clothes and made plans with his friends all within about five minutes flat. But what guys do you know that make plans that quickly?

Despite the unpleasantness of the whole situation, I was actually glad he was out the house because I was so confused and so it gave me time to figure out if I’d actually just completely lost my mind. This would turn out to be the first real example of gaslighting I can put my finger on.

[Gaslighting – to manipulate (someone) by psychological means into questioning their own sanity.]

I didn’t hear from him all night, until he finally came stumbling in the door at around 4am. Now, I’d seen him drunk before – neither of us had ever held back in our drinking around each other, which wasn’t always the healthiest thing for our relationship – but this was next level drunk. This was incoherent, couldn’t see, couldn’t undress himself, drunk. I let him sleep on the sofa until I gave up on sleep so moved him into the bedroom so I could go into the living room.  After I moved his dead weight of a body to the bed, I undressed him and as I did so his phone fell out his jeans pocket.

I had never checked his phone before, the thought had never even entered my head, was simply never in my consciousness. Until now. His phone lay on the bedroom carpet staring up at me. I looked over at him, dead to the world and there was just something, a feeling I couldn’t explain, something felt different, something didn’t feel “right”.

So for a reason that can only be explained as gut intuition, I picked up the phone and took it with me through to the lounge.

What I didn’t know, or didn’t realise, was that what I would find would lead to the biggest shift in my world that I’d ever experienced. Even more so than when my parents divorced. Things can’t be unseen, truths can’t be untold, hurt can’t always be reversed. What is it they say? Don’t ask questions you don’t want the answers to?

Regardless of the outcome, I did want the answer. I hate being kept in the dark, I don’t like being made a fool of and if the choice is to know something shitty or don’t know at all, I’ll always go with the know something shitty option. My philosophy is; being blind to something doesn’t make it untrue so you may as well know the truth.

And so, sat on the sofa with the early morning Edinburgh sun (yes we do sometimes get sun in Scotland) streaming into our first floor flat, I delved into his phone and my life was changed forever.

Instantly I read texts to some girl the previous night suggesting that she travel through from Glasgow and he get them a hotel room. It was a back and forth, banterful, sexually charged text exchange which only paused at one point when she wrote “I thought you just got married? lol” and he replied with “Oh yeah, so I did”.

Can we talk about a punch in the gut? Can we talk about a stab in the heart? Can we talk about a pain you never thought words staring back at you could cause? There is no way to describe the hurt.

Over the course of the next few days I discovered about the texting and I had someone confirm they’d slept with him before we were married and they were still regularly in touch. In fact I’d only found out about that one when she sent through a very weird photo when I opportunely had his phone. Despite the number being saved under a guys name, I played along, replied as if I was him and then did the bait and switch and told her it was his wife.

He denied it all, told me none of it was true, until I would present him with yet more evidence in black and white at which point he would eventually admit it. But none of it was information he gave up easily. He made me work for every single confirmation – I had to go digging through months of texts, I had to keep his phone & text people as if I were him, I had to offer up suggestions of people he might have inappropriately texted before he would ever admit it.

And so, before the wedding photos had been seen, the wedding gift list delivery had arrived or the thank you cards had even been sent I was questioning whether I could stay married to my husband. It hit me like a train.

I moved to my Mum’s, gathered my best friends around, those same girls who had stood by me at the alter just seven weeks before, and told them what had happened. People rallied, work were understanding, he was desperately sorry, inconsolable almost. And me? I was numb. I could not understand how this was my life. How this had happened. How I could have married someone that would do that. And how I married someone that I didn’t know.

But I took my vows seriously. When my great-uncle had married us, in that cathedral in front of 131 guests, I had meant every word. Testing the strength of those vows so soon was never something I could have foreseen. But here we were and I had a decision to make. I made the decision that I personally felt was to do the only thing I felt I could do – stay and try to make it work.

The biggest difficulty I had with my decision was that in my naive days, before all of this, the days before I truly understood the depths of commitment and the extremes of life, I had always said if someone were to cheat on me there wouldn’t even be a conversation to be had, it would be over before the conversation began. I mostly said that in thinking about my parents marriage and how my mother put up with my father’s infidelity for so much of their marriage. Little did I know then that it wasn’t as simple as black or white, in or out, stay or go.

Context, feelings, emotions, logistics – they are all things that made that decision far more difficult, so much more complex and far more of a head fuck than I had ever anticipated back when I thought a cheating partner would automatically mean the end of a relationship.

I’ve been listening to a lot of Esther Perel’s ‘Where Should We Begin’ podcast recently and if you haven’t heard it, imagine being a fly on the wall at a couple’s counselling session where nothing is censored, emotions are raw and the complications of people, and relationships, and past experiences are laid bare for you to hear. It’s a brutal, often triggering, but beautiful listen.

A number of those sessions (each episode is a different couple’s session) talk to infidelity and in one of the sessions Esther says “the old shame used to be divorce, the new shame is staying when you can leave” and that smacked me in the face like a wet fish.

It’s a rock and a hard place. There’s still an element of shame tied to divorce (as I explored in this post) but Esther’s correct, there is also now shame with staying in a relationship when you’ve been cheated on. People presume you are weak of character if you choose to stay. You’re damned if you do and damned if you don’t.

With time off work for stress, I spent a lot of the weeks living at my Mum’s thinking. Questioning. Disbelieving. Talking. There was a lot of talking with people. Family, friends, work colleagues. I just remember it being turmoil. And I hated living at my Mum’s. Yes, it was comfortable and she was/is always an incredibly welcoming hostess to family or friends, or strangers, but I missed my home. I missed my bed. I missed having all my things. It was just an added layer of shitty-ness in an already shitty situation.

Eventually, lost in a world that was full of people constantly asking me how I was doing, of not knowing if I’d be able to move when I woke up in the morning because stress was taking over my body, of dreams so tormenting that proper rest was a long lost memory, of sleeping in my childhood bed but it feeling alien and unwelcoming, of people thinking they had answers for me, of me not being sure I’d ever have the answer to anything ever again, I made the decision.

My vows, my marriage, my husband deserved work. And I needed to know I’d done everything I could to live up to my vows. Mama didn’t raise no quitter and, for me, I knew going back was the right thing to do.


Next post…

…previous post

The Real Love Of My Life


Why am I writing a blog about dating if I’ve already found the love of my life? Don’t worry, this isn’t a spoiler that I’ve found my life partner – although if she were single and we both swung that way I wouldn’t say no.

No, the real love of my life I’m talking about is someone I’ve mentioned a couple of times in previous posts, who’s always there to help me in my time of need, and knows just what to say.  The love of my life is Julia, my therapist. She who assists me in learning all the lessons I write about.

Talking about my problems, or really anything, has never been a problem for me, I’ll tell anyone. Sometimes I wish I maybe had a little more of a filter, but it’s how I am. Sharing is caring, right? So going to “speak to someone” about things like my ex-husband cheating wasn’t that difficult. I know for some people the thought of having to be vulnerable or self reflect is enough to make them run for the hills.

I had been to see counsellors back in the UK, when my parents divorced when I was a teenager and also when issues first surfaced in my marriage, and while I always thought of them as positive experiences I never felt I had any real “a-ha!”, come to Jesus moments in those sessions. I never really came out feeling all that much different.

Yes, I had maybe learnt some new coping mechanisms or better ways to communicate but in terms of feeling wholly better about the issue at hand? I wouldn’t say that there was an overwhelming feeling of change. So I’d let the time between sessions get longer and eventually stop going altogether.

My life changed though when during a particularly difficult few months of my new life in Canada, I found myself in a fairly dark, deepening spiral of depression-like symptoms and knew I needed to do something about it. I had begun to experience severe social anxiety as a result, which I hated because it perpetuated the issue. The anxiety made me not want to go out, so I’d stay in and the feelings would deepen, and the anxiety would worsen with the longer I squirrelled myself away. It was a never ending cycle.

I didn’t know exactly what was at the bottom of it, but given some experience with depression in my late teens, I was aware of what the feelings were and knew I needed to seek help.

And that can sometimes be the hardest part – just knowing you need help when you’re reaching breaking point. Thankfully my friend who is a therapist (she of brilliance who helped me craft the final text to Filipeen) recommended me to another therapist she knew to be good. Given that my friend can’t counsel me, it was the next best thing to get a recommendation from her, someone I trust.

My first few sessions with Julia were, as is normal with a new therapist/client relationship, mostly me just unloading all my experience (we don’t call it baggage) and explaining what I was struggling with. There was a lot, I mean I think it was session three or four before I was no longer telling her about another life dramas I hadn’t gotten round to with her yet. But at the end of every session she would ask “what was something useful today?” and there would always be something. Either a question she asked that got me to think about something differently, or a comment she would make or a story she would tell of her own personal experience to complement mine.

There was always something, usually more than one thing, that was useful. So while I wasn’t having any massive revelations in the first few weeks/months, it was definitely feeling beneficial right from the outset.

The sessions were hard, I would come out of them emotionally wrought and exhausted. I got into the habit of having them late on Friday afternoons, and then I would take my tear stained cheeks home and hibernate for the night. But despite the rawness of those sessions, with tissue in hand, I would text my Mum on the walk home and say what a great session it was. Every single time.

I started seeing Julia at the end of the September and by the early-February I had made contact with my father who I hadn’t spoken to in 15 years, had truly processed my divorce and started to deal with the residual bullshit it had left me with, and had started dating again. She was a miracle worker. And for the first time in a really long time I could say I felt happy.

For me, there was something about being able to see the change, being able to feel the release of years of tension and anguish and hurt and guilt. One of my favourite things to do is carry guilt about situations I had no control over, it’s a skill. And the impact that had on my day to day life and, more importantly, my mental state was huge.

Mental health is no joke. One in five people in Canada will experience a mental health problem or illness each year and in the UK that number is one in four. Mental illness affects people of all ages, education, income levels, and cultures and around 10% of adults will experience major depression at some time in their lives.

I truly believe that as a society we need to do more to remove the stigma around mental health and also accept the fact that you don’t necessarily need to be manically depressed to need, or be benefitted by, therapy. Life is hard, everyone’s life is hard – yes, even the people who seemingly have it easy. They likely also have struggles. Everyone does. Why do we pretend we don’t?

I get that it’s not the most glamorous or comfortable thing to talk about, but we do need more to make sure we’re creating safe spaces where people can feel like they can be honest about it and where they can get help. I know I’m lucky that I have the ability to seek out and pay for my own therapy.

Even if you’ve never experienced a big life trauma such as a divorce, or the loss of a loved one, or addiction, abuse, or another life event which you may seek therapy for afterwards, I still believe there’s value in having someone, in a safe space, you can be vulnerable and self reflect with.

As you may be able to tell, I am a massive advocate of therapy and have recommended Julia to a number of my friends. I’m also super happy to talk to my friends about anything – my issues, their issues – but just talking isn’t the same. A professional has years of training and, crucially, they also have no bias. As friends, or as anyone who in some way is connected to that person other than for therapy’s sake, we can’t say that.

Support networks are important, don’t get me wrong. Having my friends and family support me after I’d had a tough session or when I was facing big changes was key and I couldn’t have done any of it without them. But without Julia I don’t know that I’d have gotten to where I am now.

That’s not to say that everything in my life is now perfect, it’s not and it never will be. Nothing is perfect. I still see Julia every month or so, for “little tune ups” as I call them or when something shakes me I’ll go more often, like after Filipeen I was there a lot more frequently, unsurprisingly.

In this world of ever changing situations, and relationships, and myself, it’s important to keep reflecting and growing and Julia provides me with the ability to do that, which makes it the best money I spend each month, hands down. And I don’t doubt, as this journey still has many more corners to turn and curve balls to throw at me, that my dates with the real love of my life will continue to be some of the best dates I have.

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As Long As There Are Lessons


I try to look at every experience as a positive, in some way at least. Whether a dating experience ended horribly or it didn’t meet my hopes/expectations, if I can learn something then it was a good thing for the experience to have happened. And I do truly believe everything happens for a reason, even if at the time the reason seems unfathomable.

On every date I’d been on in the past year, I had learnt something – about myself, about dating in general or about men. The biggest learnings though had undoubtedly come from Canadian DJ and Filipeen. Arms gets an honourable mention because he was such a treat.

There were two lessons with Canadian DJ. The first was an incredibly positive one. I realised I could actually feel something for someone again. That wasn’t something I’d been entirely sure of since the end of my marriage. I was so scarred from that experience that for a long while my heart (and my vagina) had felt nothing. Remembering those feelings of heart flutters, hopes, excitement and burning loins (legit wrote that thinking I was Joan Collins) was like a re-birth for me. Knowing you will feel something for someone again was so encouraging for me.

The second lesson was that making allowances for someone’s behaviour based on what they’re going through (in his case his divorce) didn’t allow me to take care of myself and, instead, I put him first. And especially having come from where I’ve been in the past, I’ve realised I should always be my number one priority.

And as Julia puts it, it’s not always about making decisions which will make me happy in the short term, but decisions which when I look ahead two, or five, or ten years I know will be the best for me. As much as short term it could have been fun with Canadian DJ – who doesn’t want a trip to Mexico? – the red flags were already there in abundance and did I really want to live through another divorce, albeit not mine this time?

It could have been years of struggle and who knows how it would have ended up. That process changes a person so much. I know, I’ve been there. In trying to be sympathetic and kind and a good person, I allowed someone to be less than good to me. Be kind to yourself first, so you’re able to continue being kind to others. Putting yourself first does not equate to selfishness or unkindness towards someone else.

With Filipeen, it was a lesson in standing up for myself and not letting someone make me question myself and my self worth, especially when their sense of me seemed so warped. Don’t feel like you’ve got to be agreeable just so you don’t rock the boat. If standing up for yourself is going to tip the boat over, especially if it’s already listing, then let that motherfucker sink.

On reflection of this situation afterwards, I realised it was far more about him, than it was me. And I randomly happened on this quote, which felt incredibly apt – “If you are willing to look at another person’s behaviour toward you as a reflection of the state of their relationship with themselves rather than a statement about your value as a person, then you will, over a period of time, cease to react at all.” – Yogi Bhajan

Deciding what your standards of acceptable behaviour are is critical. Just because you’re not married & he’s not cheating on you & sexting people (i.e. me using my ex-husband as a yardstick), doesn’t make his behaviour ok. That’s not the only form of poor behaviour & anything that’s not as bad as that isn’t necessarily good. There’s a whole scale of shitty and unacceptable behaviour.

If I wouldn’t accept it for one of my friends, then I shouldn’t accept it for me. If I wouldn’t accept me doing it to someone else, then I shouldn’t accept it being done to me. And if by respecting someone else so much I end up disrespecting myself, it’s my actions that need to change.

As much as learning lessons is an enriching part of life, when it’s a painful experience to get to the lesson it’s natural to feel like you’d maybe rather have avoided it and either learnt the lesson another way (tip – there is no other way) or never learnt the lesson at all (tip – all these lessons are invaluable, deal with it).

I always ask myself how I can make sure I don’t find myself in the same situation again, not repeat the same mistakes or, rather, put my newly learnt lessons into practice. But you do the best you can with what emotional capability you have/the information you know at the time. And trying to never let the pain be repeated can mean you look to change some of your own inherent qualities.

As much as I can look at past experiences and think “if I hadn’t let it go so far so quickly” or “if I’d just stood back a bit and tried to get a better measure of the person” or “maybe I shouldn’t have given so much of myself”, ultimately I don’t want to become guarded. I don’t want to question my decision making ability. Especially when you cannot control what is coming at you from the other side of a relationship. You cannot control how honest or vulnerable or committed the other person will be.

Change is also unsettling. Adapting to a shift in your life – whether it’s a relationship, physical environment, career – takes time and can be challenging. This is particularly true when the shift involves another person, a human being who, for a certain time anyway, brought some love and light to your life. But there is something poetic about the ebb and flow of people into and out of your life.

However, a change which when it happens can seem so significant (whether that’s someone coming or going), can seem so irrelevant when looking back in a few months / years /decades. Being able to remember that these, at the time, pretty big / meaningful / painful life events will eventually all just become small threads in the fabric of your entire life can help with providing some perspective and letting you take a step back from the minutiae of the overwhelming feelings. In the end they’re all just really good stories in your life book.

And uncertainty is a given when getting into a new relationship. Which is unfortunate, because I like to have a handle on things. I like to know what’s what and know what’s not. It’s important for me to have a sense of control, feel like I know what to expect and be able to prepare myself.

I’ve always been sort of like that but the control requirement really got out of hand when my marriage unravelled and I felt like I didn’t have a handle on anything – my emotions, my husband, my life. It was a scary feeling.

So post-separation and divorce I held on for dear life onto any control I could get because it made me feel safe, it made me feel less vulnerable, it made me feel like for the first time in a long time at least I got to make proactive decisions rather than reactive decisions.

Getting into a new relationship, however,  doesn’t provide any of that – even in the best of circumstances when you know yourself, when you don’t doubt people’s honesty and when relationships don’t seem like a potential black hole of disaster (wow, I sound so positive!). But in my circumstance, when I can’t even answer the question “what are you like in a relationship?” it provides a whole extra level of uncertainty to the already pre-existing unknowns. So that’s… fun.

I don’t know what I’m like in a relationship because I’m not the same person I was when I was last in a relationship. It was over 5 years ago (jeeeeeez I’ve never seen that written down before!) and it was my painfully broken marriage. The experience of that situation changed me in ways I didn’t even realise until a few years ago and there’s definitely been elements I’ve tried to scrub from the memory bank. So my “truth” of how I was in that relationship is unlikely to be anything like how I’d be as a partner now, for so many reasons. And how I would be now, after so much change, is anybody’s guess.

A fairly unsurprising residual from my marriage, which broke down due to infidelity on my husband’s part, is of course the fun time feeling that is insecurity. While I never questioned that the severe misgivings in my marriage were his doing and not mine (albeit I don’t suggest I was the 100% perfect wife), women particularly seem incapable of not taking on an incredible – usually, unwarranted – amount of self loathing/self doubt in circumstances where cheating has occurred and I was no different. Was I not good enough, was I not smart enough, was I not attractive enough, not good enough in bed…

It’s indescribable how much it can eat away under the surface, like rot infiltrating the foundations of what looks like an otherwise stable home. And sometimes the “stable home” may only realise the extent of the rot when it comes time to potentially welcome a new dweller in.

Trust is the other bitch. It’s the thing that you hear so much about – you can’t have a relationship without it, you need to earn it, it’s a mutual thing, once it’s gone you can never get it back. Very little is spoken about trust in a superlatively positive way.

So when you realise that you’ve developed such a strong sense of mistrust, it’s difficult to figure out how you’re going to get around it when you meet someone new. And when I say mistrust, I mean in everyone. Every single person in your life. To the point that you genuinely think your friends are lying to you when they say they can’t go to a movie with you. And it’s no reflection on them. It’s you, it’s your mind, it’s the mental abuse you suffered when you knew something wasn’t right and someone you loved lied straight to your face. Over, and over, and over. About the biggest things and the smallest things. Did you sleep with her? No (I have a text from her saying otherwise and he later admitted it). Did you forget to take your lunch to work today? No (I’m staring at it sat in the fridge).

So how do you set yourself up for a new relationship when you already don’t believe a single thing that anyone says to you. And now you’re supposed to trust a stranger who wants into your bed and into your life, and you’re not sure which is their main priority.

I’d also moved to a brand new country, a whole other continent no less, so is dating here different? Are relationship roles/expectations the same as back in the UK? I don’t know how dating in this day and age works!

I also came here by myself, with my family thousands of miles away, so does that impact what I need/want from a partner? Do I need more stability, a ready made family given that I don’t have my own here. I don’t know, I don’t know if I would still be looking for those things if I did have my family closeby.

I’m also now 30 plus… so you’re looking for different things than you were in your twenties. It’s not all “oh I’ll just see how it goes”. I don’t have time for that. Your patience and your tolerance are a lot lower in your thirties I’ve found.

Based on the above I know it sounds like I lack self confidence, I don’t trust a single soul, I’m in a weird new place and I’m old… this isn’t all strictly true.

I spent a lot of time, and money, working on the self confidence and the trust issues, not least learning to trust myself and my gut again, so they’ve definitely had some repair work. My new location has given me an incredible new lease of life in the best possible way and the extra years of experience (we don’t use the word baggage) are invaluable.

Technically I could/should be in a much better place now than ever before to get into a relationship. And I don’t actually argue with that. But I do have an additional level of unknown. having changed so much in the last few years, Friends and family who have seen me through it all, have commented on how different I am. Thankfully, always in a good way, that I’m so much happier. But that change means I don’t know who I am in a relationship. I don’t know what to expect of myself.

So I’m trying to figure it out as I go and situations like Canadian DJ and Flilipeen, while painful and difficult at the time, are all part of that and I’m thankful for the lessons they provided.

(Sorry for the lack of jokes in this post, dating after divorce ain’t all funny stories and sex-ploits.)

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The D Word


There are some really great D words – diversity, drinks, dogs, delightful – and then there are some not so great D words – death, diarrhea, disease, Donald Trump. Where does divorce fall?

In the midst of the breakdown of my marriage, I remember having a recurring feeling that I’d never had before. When two specific thoughts came into my mind, I remember the breath being physically taken out of my body. It was a sensation I’d never experienced before and it actually felt like someone had punched me in the gut. I would have to stop and physically steady myself. Every. Time. The. Thoughts. Came.

Those two thoughts were this: “what if I have to endure this marriage, this misery, for the rest of my life?” and; “I could be divorced before I’m 30”.

Looking back now, it is unthinkable that those two things should illicit the same response. Contemplating a lifelong prison sentence in a destructive marriage with an unfaithful husband whose actions were robbing me of my happiness, my confidence and the life I’d dreamed of. And worrying about some goddamn life status title that gets pronounced on you by who? The government?

Society’s views on divorce are slowly changing (at least the societies I’ve lived in) thankfully. As divorce becomes more prevalent, it’s becoming more normalised which can only be a good thing. While I don’t ever wish anyone to take divorce or the preceding marriage lightly, the very fact that divorce is an option for which we know we won’t be socially shunned means there are now far less people living lives of suffering and unhappiness because of their marriages.

Does the rise of divorce also mean some people aren’t trying as hard at their marriages and are instead using it as a handy get out clause, as some people suggest? I wouldn’t know, I spent 3 years trying for my life to save my marriage, which caused me untold damage and potentially sucked more of my life out of me than I should have allowed, so it’s definitely not something I can talk to. (Handy FYI, saying to me “people just get divorced all the time now” will get you a punch in the face.)

For the majority of people, divorce is this big, scary unknown. It’s the the last resort. Like amputation. And the word holds an incredible amount of gravity with people, not least because it is one of the biggest “life experiences” you can go through. You say divorce and people are like “WOAH, shit musta happened there, I could never survive it” and it’s not something everyone can get their head around, it’s so incredibly alien.

Most people have never experienced it personally and it’s always true that what you’ve not experienced for yourself you can’t completely understand, hard as you might try. Looking at things from the outside they always seem more complex, more overwhelming. Watching someone climb Everest you might be thinking “well shit, that ain’t ever gonna be me” but the girl climbing Everest maybe thought that as well, but she put one foot in front of the other and (with a tonne of training) got up there. Or someone leaving a stable job to open their own business, from the outside seems scary as all hell, but hopefully that guy has run all his numbers, done all his planning, he knows there’s potential.

Now granted those two examples both include people choosing to do things, which isn’t always the case with divorce, and then training and planning for them. But my point is that when you’re in the middle of something, when you’re the one doing something, living everyday of something, the actual big end goal/destination isn’t what you’re caught up in.

There were days when I was trying to sort out selling my car, yes because of my divorce but to outsiders, I was just getting divorced. There were days when I would breakdown while running on the treadmill, yes because of my divorce but to outsiders, I was just getting divorced. There were days when I was changing my name at the bank, yes because of divorce but to outsiders, I was just getting divorced. To me it was just, selling a car, crying while running and doing some bank admin. Side note – it was the same when I moved countries, people were overawed by it but for me it was just booking a flight, finding an apartment, applying for jobs.

Now don’t get me wrong, most, if not every part of getting divorced was emotionally traumatising and scarring but I wasn’t sitting around every single day thinking “THIS IS DIVORCE”, I had too much “other stuff” to deal with. Nor was I living in denial. I knew at some stage some piece of paper would arrive that said “divorce certificate”. Which always makes me laugh because a certificate is normally to recognise something you’ve achieved and I’m not sure how much people want to “achieve” death or divorce.

There’s also the other side of what “divorce” conjures up within people and unfortunately it is a connotation, that in some form it’s a failure. There’s even the term “failed marriage”. And yet when you speak to people no one is likely to turn around and say “wow, that’s a shame you failed at marriage”. But I do know a mother who’s said “we just couldn’t deal with a divorce in our family” and a father whose words were “we taught our children to work at their marriages”. As if somehow my family invited divorces in and my parents taught me to not work at my marriage. Side note, my mother fought for her marriage for 19 years. 19 years! She is a trooper.

When people hear the details of my story, it’s incredibly unlikely they would ever think that my part in it was a failure. Did the marriage as a whole not make it to the “til death do us part” bit like we vowed? Sure. But, even for how absolutely horrific parts of my marriage were, I can’t and won’t live with it being called a failure.

Esther Perel talks to my heart when she says: ”It’s important that we, as a society, stop judging an entire marriage (or relationship) by its end… We don’t let people feel that the relationship and the time they spent together had value and merit. It’s unfair to the institution of marriage and to the couples to dismiss the time they did spend together—the children they may have given birth to, family members they buried, jobs they’ve supported one another through, homes they built and lived in, communities they were a part of. Infidelity, divorce, and break-ups are hurtful and lonely—but they don’t equate to failure.

I came out the other side of my divorce, thankfully, a completely different person with an entirely new outlook on life. I count myself certainly to be one of the luckiest of lucky ones. I truly can sit here today and say that my divorce was the greatest thing to happen to me, but that also has to include the preceding marriage because without it there would have been no divorce.

I’m also not naive, or bitter, enough to try and pretend like every single second of my marriage was a pile of stinking poo. I readily admit that we had some great times, parts of the life we had together were incredible and I did love him. I had to have to put up with all of said stinking poo. And I will never wish my marriage hadn’t happened. A lot of my friends would agree, but mostly because some of them still tell me to this day that our wedding was one of the most fun they’ve been to. And I can still get a kick out of that.

The point being, would I have chosen to be divorced pre-30? No. Can I change the fact that I am? No. So am I happy to be one of the ones to wear divorce as a recognition of the fact that I have been through and, more importantly, survived a life altering head fuck? Absolutely. Will I ever get bored of the look on a guy’s face when on a first date he asks what my last long term relationship was and I unfurl that story? Definitely not.

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