As another ‘celebrity’ marriage bites the dust Gary Lineker insists
that he and his ex-wife remain, ‘very close and the greatest of friends’. I sincerely hope this to be true, divorce can
be a brutal process that I wouldn’t wish upon anyone. And if from the wreckage of broken promises
and dreams a genuine friendship can be salvaged then that is to be respected, applauded
I count myself among those whose first reaction to those words was
something along the lines of, ‘yeah, right, course you are’. And after pause for reflection I felt a
little crappy at taking such a dim and condescending view of the
statement. I do believe that people can
remain friends after divorce and there are plenty of examples to attest to
this. So why the cynicism?
Well, I’m not there. And for
most of the 17 months since separation I have been a very long way from ‘the
greatest of friends’.
Will I ever get there? Honestly,
I don’t know.
On first separating it is difficult to conceive of the possibility that
the person you have shared so much with for so long will fade out of your life,
or worse, become an enemy. Of course you
are aware of what divorce can do to people, how appallingly people that once
swore to love, honour and cherish each other until death do they part can treat
But that won’t happen to you will it?
You’re above that, and nothing can take away all that you have
shared. And anyway, you know each other,
really know each other; whatever happens you will be dignified, you will be
civil. You’re good people.
I thought so too. As hard as it
was to hear I could accept the reasons for our separation and, with time, come
to terms with the fact that the rest of our lives were to be spent apart from
each other. And I could come to truly
believe that in the long run I would find greater happiness than any I had
known before. Yes, the dust would
settle, we’d adapt to our new circumstances and build lives of our own. We would share 100% commitment to doing what
was best for our children and, in time, we would be friends.
Well let me tell you, it ain’t easy….
A few weeks after the revelation of the final demise of our marriage,
and in the early stages of recovery from that savage blow to the guts, I told
those around me that I held no grudges, that we would divorce amicably and yes,
in time we would be friends.
Sadly in today’s society divorce has touched many families and I came to
face many knowing looks and sympathetic, but not utterly convincing, nods of
“If I had a pound for every time I’d heard that…”
I took advantage of the free legal advice that I was entitled to – discovering
that it was free for a reason – before selecting a solicitor to act on my
behalf in the divorce, which I was keen to finalise as soon as I could. For right or wrong I’m not comfortable with
the anticipation of known troubles ahead, my attitude to dealing with such
situations is pretty much akin to pulling off a plaster – do it quickly and get
the pain out of the way. But really it
doesn’t work like that. For me being
divorced was important symbolically in helping me to move on and accept that
the marriage was over, but the feelings that surround it don’t follow any
externally imposed timetable. And in
dealing with the powerful and painful emotions and rituals of divorce, the idea
of a present or future friendship slipped further and further away.
It is odd to enlist a professional stranger to act on your behalf ‘against’
the person that you thought you would be spending the rest of your life with. But there is no getting away from the fact
that divorce is an adversarial process and throughout it our thoughts turn from
‘we’ to ‘me’. What is best for me and
for my future?
Recognising this attitude in your ex is painful and difficult not to
take personally, proof as it is that you no longer matter in the way that you
once did, that their plans for the future no longer concern you and what is
best for your future. Because now that
is solely your responsibility. And in the
case of a mother or father that responsibility is not just to you but to your
children too. In the confused,
unfamiliar emotional terrain of marital breakdown, professional legal support -
detached, practical and logical support – can be essential.
As divorces go I would say mine was one of the ‘better’ ones, not
exactly a ‘conscious uncoupling’ (ughhh) but no ‘War Of The Roses’ either. The major issues that can make divorce so
painful and that can set out the stall for years of battles and recriminations –
child custody and money – were settled quickly and with little conflict. Even in adversity, I’m a lucky man.
But friendship was, and is, elusive.
Why is this? And does it point
to some flaw in me? I’d like to think I’m
a good person and can honestly say that I wouldn’t do anything to deliberately
hurt anybody. That’s not to say that my
actions haven’t caused hurt to others, but I do my best to treat others how I
would hope that they would treat me. And
as such I would have thought that future friendship would be possible for me.
But in the end there is no rulebook in the complex and often messy
world of human relationships. Some
people grow closer after divorce, others develop a lifelong bitterness and
enmity. I’ve never wanted to live with
anger and bitterness, recognising how they could consequently poison other significant
relationships in my life and damage my happiness and health in the process. But in contemplating and dealing with what
you have lost it is perhaps inevitable for most that anger and bitterness will
have to be faced and tackled. I carried
that anger and bitterness and at times it got the better of me, but now it has
Still, the seeds of friendship have yet to sprout.
When a marriage ends it is rarely a truly mutual decision. Even if both parties can recognise the need
to go their separate ways it will usually be one person that has instigated the
start of that journey. It is unlikely
that the decision will have been taken quickly.
As such one party will have a head start in the processing of the
emotions of divorce, and in anticipating and preparing mentally for a different
future to the one that was for so long taken for granted. Being at such different stages of the
grieving process can make it difficult for each to comprehend the behaviours of
the other, and as you begin to become strangers friendship can become a distant
goal (related post: http://4d74.blogspot.co.uk/2015/12/becoming-strangers.html
I have found that in becoming strangers and in establishing separate
lives we are given the space to heal, to move on and to live confidently in a
different present. And in doing so, over
time maybe the door to some sort of future friendship can open. But divorce leaves a scar and I’m not sure
that it ever fully heals. I guess the
ability to live with that scar, to wear it as a sign of the adversity that we
have faced and overcome rather than as an ugly sign of failure, is part of what
will determine whether friendship is possible.
But for now that friendship isn’t something I really think about. For now I am living for me and for my
children. And, hopefully, the lessons
that I have learned will help to build a strong foundation for a future
relationship that will last the course; a relationship where we will grow
closer together with the passing of the years rather than grow apart.
I’m not perfect. I’ve made
mistakes. But tonight I can look myself in
the mirror and be comfortable with who I am and how I have dealt with my
divorce. I can look my children in the
eyes and tell them that I did my best and I never compromised my values.