The amazing change that happened when my marriage suddenly imploded

The amazing change that happened when my marriage suddenly imploded

This is not a very easy or comfortable story to tell but I know we’ve been quiet around here so I wanted to tell you why.

Earlier this year, I faced the biggest challenge of my life when my husband suddenly announced he was leaving.

It was completely out of the blue for me. I never saw it coming.

When I was a young woman I spent time yo-yoing from relationship to relationship. I was a serial dater who loved nothing more than the thrill of the chase and the challenge of hooking a fella. I would quickly move on once I got bored. I dated all types: artists, musicians, architects, losers, engineers, nice guys, sexy guys, greenies, bouncers and boring guys.

I was incompatible with most of them because I didn’t set any standards and was frankly, happy to be with anyone who liked me. Underlying all of this of course was insecurity, a need to be loved, fear of being alone and all that blah-blah. All the stuff that most of us deal with when we are in our 20s and finding our way in the world.

But when I met my husband 16 years ago, I knew I had met the man I would marry and be with forever. He was charming and hilarious, and we couldn’t stop laughing and talking – we instantly became besties. And he was secure and had a stable job! When you’re 30 and hooking up with a potentially permanent mate, their ability to pay a mortgage can be as attractive as sexy butt. And, ahem, obviously I hadn’t really grown out of the fear of being alone thing.

From there we went on to marry, buy a home, have two beautiful boys and do all the stuff that you do. I loved all of it, I felt secure and stable. It made me feel like I was achieving something great. We made a wonderful family and created a gorgeous home. Everything was bloody lovely. We were the couple that were best friends, a really great team. We had a great circle of mates and entertained and had parties. We laughed and had great times together. We went on date nights and weekends away. People told me they wanted a relationship like ours.

The amazing change that happened when my marriage suddenly imploded
TOP: the birth of our first little man BOTTOM: celebrating the birth of our second with my eldest son who was 3 (naww), my gorgeous brother and mum and dad.

I would talk to my friends about how amazing and kind my husband was and how lucky we were to have each other as we were a great partnership. I really appreciated that he was so caring and dedicated. I knew I couldn’t possibly live without him. We each contributed equally, but he took charge of a lot of things on the home front. And he was a wonderful hands-on dad.

But all that awesomeness also caused me to doubt my own parenting, because he was always doing such great job. I convinced myself I was slightly crap in comparison. I had worked on myself for years through self-help and therapy, so I knew myself well and I had pretty healthy self-esteem and confidence in many areas of my life. I had tight relationships, a good job, a fulfilling business in Champagne Cartel, I was fit and healthy and I had energy and drive to make things happen, I worked very hard and pushed us to achieve family goals for our kids’ futures and I was loyal and loving. But when it came to day-to-day household management and being a mum, I wasn’t so sure of myself. I never really felt in charge in these aspects of my life and I was happy for my husband to be good at it as he loved doing it. And we can’t all be good at everything, right?

But one of my greatest fears was that I would be alone and have to deal with all the things. I would look at single mums or women whose husbands worked away from home and be absolutely in awe of them. I knew I could NEVER do what they did. I felt I just wasn’t capable.

What happened next was that my big fear came along, said good morning and then gave me an upper cut to the noggin…

My husband got up one day and left.

It was incomprehensible to me – something I never could have imagined. There was no warning and no explanation except that he said he realised he simply didn’t love me any more.

WHAT THE ACTUAL EFF?! I believed we were happy and that without a doubt we would be together forever, so I literally couldn’t believe it.

What ensued was a period of deep, dark crisis. I walked around like a zombie, in complete disbelief. When I wasn’t completely numb, I was suffering anxiety attacks which caused me to stay awake (and when I say stay awake, I mean literally for days).

I went into survival mode, focusing on just getting through each day, one step at a time, going to work and looking after the kids and trying hard to make life as normal as possible for them. I was surrounded by helpers a lot of the time, propped up by my wonderful family, my BFF Carolyn (who went through the end of her marriage last year too), my neighbours, old school friends, school mums, my workmates and a bunch of other wonderful women who texted, phoned and delivered food and flowers.

I did all the “right” stuff, from meditating to seeing a psychologist, visiting my doctor, talking to friends, reading books, walking in the bush, doing yoga and setting intentions. But nothing could stop the ugly arrow of rejection which would slide nastily into me a few times a day causing me to sharply inhale from the pain; or the brutal agony as my heart felt like it was slowly tearing into ragged chunks and blood was seeping out of my chest.

When I did sleep, I was still in flight or fight so I would wake up at 2am and remember what had happened, and the thoughts would rush like a train coming at me full pelt as I relived the agony and worried endlessly for the children. There were times when I felt like my grief was a heavy blanket and under it I felt pain on all my limbs and I was slowly suffocating.

One of my girlfriends sent me flowers with a card that said, “The only way is through,” which is beautiful and unfortunately true.

But then the craziest thing started happening. It was only early days but there was a faint glimmer of joy when I realised I actually enjoyed my day-to-day life without my husband’s loaded presence. I took pleasure in realising I am not shit at household stuff. I started to feel pride when I realised I’m most definitely not shit at parenting. I had spent years seeing myself through my husband’s gaze but now I could see things with fresh eyes. I had changed a lot over 16 years and I was a VERY different woman from the girl I was back when we got together. I didn’t ask for this crap to happen but the upshot is that being alone was starting to feel like a nice new coat that fitted well and looked good on me.

The amazing change that happened when my marriage suddenly imploded
My ladies held me up! Here I am with mum, sister and bestie Carolyn. And (with helmet hair) in New Zealand where I took the kids on my first family holiday as a single mum!

A few months on, I can see that I’ve been set free and I am enjoying the feeling of independence of doing things my way. The house is relatively clean, the dishes are washed every night. I can always find a matching sock (apparently washing is my super power). I buy the toilet paper I want, and I know where to find everything. We went to New Zealand on a family holiday and I didn’t perish from exhaustion or lose a boy off a ski lift.

I now have my own Spotify account that isn’t filled with heaps of hideous easy listening and bad country music. The boys and I laugh, go bike riding and have lounge room dance parties. We get out the door on time, meals are cooked (although sometimes it’s breakfast for dinner) and they are as happy and settled as they can be under the circumstances. And of course they still bicker constantly and pretend to ignore me when I tell them to turn off their iPads, which makes me cranky.  It’s the new normal. But now I have space to breathe and be me.

My psychologist has given me a mantra that she believes sums up how I feel right now, “Now I get to live the way I want to live” which in the current situation is empowering.

I’m not saying I’m super terrific 100% – far from it. I panic about how this will change the kids and I have some days where I am scared of stuff. But at least I have lots of good days now.

I believed I COULD NOT live without my husband. It turns out I CAN live without him. From a place of the greatest fear, I have emerged into a place where I realise I am capable. And resilient. And WOAH, if I am capable of THIS, I can bloody well pretty much do anything! That’s wild, man. Somehow I am able to stand neck deep in the shittiest point of my life, but look out with hope and realise that one day I am not just going to be okay, I am going to be great.

It’s early days but each day the feeling of relief of being alone grows stronger.

I always knew our relationship wasn’t perfect and now I can clearly see what was wrong, but at the time I made the best of it because there I believed that marriage was forever, no matter what. But now I’ve been presented with a chance at a fresh start.

The thing is that in life there are not that many opportunities to be completely reborn without extreme trauma such as illness or death. This is a relatively gentle (okay, it’s still traumatic but could be a lot worse) way to become a new person.

The amazing change that happened when my marriage suddenly imploded
Thanks to my very resilient friend Louisa for this one!

I get to grow because I’m facing shitty stuff and it’s from spending times in these dark caves of grief and difficulty that you become greater. Plus, you learn to appreciate what you have: your children, your family, the people that throw their loving arms around you, the smell of nature, the ability to exercise your body, laughter, the taste of champagne (!). These are the important things.

Out of this I have two things to tell you:

  1. If you are going through this, I am so so so sorry. It sucks. But please know that you WILL be okay. I promise. I’m getting better every day.
  2. If you can face your greatest fear, you can do anything. Take a few minutes to think of what you would do if anything is possible.

I’d love to hear your story. Have you faced adversity and come out the other side stronger and better?

Written By

Gillian is a marketing savant and brand strategist with over 20 years of experience in above and below the line marketing, digital strategy and creative direction. She is an exceptional people person who loves to collaborate with clients every step of the way to achieve the best possible outcome. Gillian is also a successful makeup-artist and make-up obsessive who loves to share her tricks of the trade and help women to look good and feel great.

24 Comments

  • I can relate! I went through this late last year with all the same fears. Thinking how can I do this on my own?? But I bought a house on my own 🙌 and I’m in a really good head space now – there’s certainly been some dark days for sure. But 5 months on I’m doing well 😊 We’ve got this! 😘

  • OMG- this is my life right now. 26 years together 18 years married and now he is gone. I was 18 years old when we met- 3 children, private schools and a beautiful
    Home that we worked so hard for together. Just like that. I am shocked devastated and taking one step at a time. I am lonely and so so very sad.

    I am so glad there is a light at the end of the tunnel coming slowly but 3 weeks in and he is already talking settlement and children living arrangements and child support. It is going too fast for me to take in and my psychologist is finding it hard to keep up. Please tell me the hurt and rejection doesn’t last forever because I am struggling to keep up the pace!
    Sending you every blessing for being so brave- you have said every word I can’t bring myself to say xxx

    • Megan – hugs, pet. It’s horrible, horrible, horrible. I’ve been there (albeit with no kids in the mix) But if I can give you one piece of advice it’s go through this at YOUR pace. He up and left – he doesn’t get to dictate the speed with which you make formal arrangements. Get a good solicitor and proceed when you are ready. Stay strong and be kind to yourself x

    • Megan, i am sorry to hear this is happening for you right now. One thing I would recommend is DO NOT RUSH! You are totally right to take some time. Don’t leave your house…. and pay for some GREAT legal advice on how to proceed. (I jumped out of my marriage and marital home and rushed the settlement before I had an understanding of what it is like to go from a reasonably well-off financially ‘family’ to a single mum who’d been out of the ‘bank recognised’ workforce for 8 years. No bank will lend me any money, even though I have a substantial downpayment for a home…. It is a shock (as the female) because the kicker is (in most cases) the husband continues in his well paid employment whilst the primary caregiver often ends up trying to rely on Child Support & Centrelink payments and juggling various part-time work to fit in with school hours…which in the city is not enough…. As Gillian and her wise pals have said, the only way is through and you will ABSOLUTELY get through this, even though it might not feel like it now. One day at a time. You WILL rise and you will revel in your strength and power as a woman and a mum.

    • Megan it gets better. Reading your story is almost exactly mine. 26 years, 18 years married, only two kids property great school for the girls and a career I loved. One day bam – you don’t make me happy, I dread coming home to you… I was devastated. Like this article I was a zombie, like this article I didn’t think I was as good as my husband at everything. I’m two years on and believe me there isn’t just a light at the end of the tunnel it’s a sparkly spotlight that’s just for you. I’m handing in my PhD application soon. My daughters are thriving and not seeing their dad dismiss every little thing their mum does or wants or feels or says is good for them too. They no longer see me being dismissed, ridiculed, belittled.
      You will feel better. You will not only survive you will thrive. Does it take time? Yes. Is it awful? Yes it’s fucking awful. But is it life changing and wonderful and affirming? YES! Take care lovely. Call your friends, go out, shout yourself something you’ve always wanted, be kind to yourself and never say anything bad about him to your kids. xo

  • All I can do is send you lots of love as I have been in exactly the same situation last year. You describe perfectly the flight or fight feelings and 2am wakings which I still suffer from. You are brave and amazing and I hope you continue to share your stories here as they help other women more than you know. Thank you for sharing such a heartfelt experience with such raw honesty xxx

  • Great article, sucks that you had to go through this but although being a single mum is a huge challenge it’s also an opportunity to teach your kids a lot about being resilient and that life’s not fair but that doesn’t mean it can’t be fun. Having a strong support network will get you through even when you get to those times when you think you just can’t do it anymore (and they will happen. But like you’ve said above, you’ll make it through. xoxo Maree

  • Same thing happened to me. Out of the blue and I was devastated. Time is the key and that advice was so true, the only way is through. Stay strong and keep that music pumping when you feel low.

  • Oh Gill I’m sorry to hear you are going through so much pain. This was me 15 years ago – I thought I had a fabulous marriage and that my husband adored me until I found out on Fathers Day he was having an affair with someone at work. Even then I tried everything to keep us all together but finally I had to ask him to make a choice, I couldn’t live in limbo. He left and left me living in a caravan for 11 months (we’d sold our house to build) with 4 kids from 3 – 13. It was such a hard period but I always knew I was blessed (I cried a lot and vomited out my story to anyone who would listen – a few tradies building the house were on the receiving end more than once ) I had my 4 beautiful kids with me and we were healthy the rest would sort itself out. My wonderful family (all living in Perth) did everything possible to support me emotionally and financially. My mum told me I had to go through the pain – I couldn’t go around it or under it, I had to deal with it and time would make it hurt less. How hard is it that hear that it just takes time. I just wanted the pain to end. But I can say from the other side it’s true and the whole experience was a blessing in a very bad and painful disguise. I LOVE the person I am, my children tell me regularly how proud they are to have me as their mum (for me the best validation ever) and I have a wonderful man in my life. But we are equals – I now I don’t need anyone else to make me happy I’m in control of that.
    Sending you so much love beautiful lady – I just know you’ve got this. You have such beautiful people around you and you are MAGNIFICENT xxx

  • Oh my, so hard and you are so brave to share. My heart goes out to you – same thing happened to me 18 years ago after 10 years of marriage. No warning, said he no longer wanted to live my life, although 3 months later turned out my now former best friend had something to do with it as well. Thank goodness no children were impacted. It was both hell at times, and quite liberating living on my own for the first time. You will travel to the other side of it, sounds like the journey’s well and truly in progress. I met my current partner a couple of years later and realised I’d done a great trade up to someone who really loved me as I am and wanted to be in a proper grown up relationship. Wishing you the best of love and life, you have a great team around you. Xx

  • A friend and I talked about such a thing today… there can be great happiness out of something so terrible you wonder how you’ll ever survive. Love and light to you 💜

  • You have my deepest sympathy, and empathy. The same thing happen to me 3 months ago. After 10 years of marriage, 14 years together, my husband sat me down on the couch after our daughters had gone to sleep to tell me he was leaving me, he’d slept with someone else and we didn’t have a ‘connection’ any more. I was completely blindsided. I thought having just been through the hardest time our lives, our eldest daughter had just completed 26 months of chemo for Luekaemia, that we were in a good place and our lives were only going to get better. 2018 was suppose to be a year of happiness and catching the missed opportunities for the last two and a half years. However that is not the case. Like you I am learning how much I am actually capable of and trying to find strength in that. Each day is a new mountain to be conquered. I’m still trying to find my place in my own life but for now I need to be the best mum I can be for my girls. Show them what strength looks like.

  • Well done to you and your kids and for taking the time and effort to tell everyone your story, not an easy thing to do. You’ve given others hope and comfort.

  • Oh Gill – biggest of hugs to you. I went through this 9 years ago. At the time it is hard to believe that the searing pain in your heart ever ends… but it does. Good on you for using this as an opportunity to live your best life. xx

  • Gill, you beautiful woman! I laughed when you said you never thought you could do what your ‘suddenly single’ friends were doing! There is nothing you can’t do Love. You will get through and you know it… it just sucks until you find your feet. Can I offer a different side to the above stories of strength – Being the person that leaves the marriage, there is also terrible grief – in my case I grieved for almost 4 years before I found the courage to leave. I was liberated and joyful, I was celebrating not because I was heartless but because I was so miserable for so long…. but I found I had to be careful of my ex’s feelings because his grief started when I left. Mine ended when I left! He probably felt ‘blind sided’ while for me I thought it was so obvious we were so unhappy. Ahhhh my love. Can’t wait for that hug soon, xxB

  • Thank you for sharing your story and The Only Way Is Through…how I love that. From me, a woman who was left and devastated, to me, now a woman who sees this amazing life as abundant with so much to give and live for I salute you for getting to this point. I absolutely recommend taking things day to day…some days are great and others you feel like you have taken 10 steps back WTF??…anyone who told me “this has happened for a reason” is lucky to still have their head on their shoulders. It is a really shitty time but man, once you connect in with your power and start to really connect with you and all the things that you loved and all the things that you want to do and achieve, you will absolutely soar! For me, once I recognised that I was allowing my marriage break up to define me as a person, I was able to let go and really heal. I didn’t want to be a victim any more. Once I had some time to really heal and the backward steps got less and less to the point where it was full steam ahead moving forward, the most amazing man came into my life and the best part about that was that I didn’t ‘need’ him, we just enhanced each others lives. So many lessons learnt and yes, what a massive gift to be left! Who would have thought. My very best wishes for you and your future.

  • Oh Gill, I know you have an amazing support group around you but you must know you are a wonderful funny, gorgeous, strong woman and I am sending so many big hugs your way. I have no doubt your next version of you will bring even more joy to those around you (but don’t forget to cry and swear and bang the walls when you need) Susan xxx

  • Oh gosh Gillian, I am so sorry you have gone through such a shit time. Thanks for sharing such an honest heartfelt post with us. Sending you big hugs, but I think you’ve got this. You rock. Go get em girl. x

  • Reading this post and the many stories from women in similar situations reminds me how strong women are! My mum was a single mum, after leaving our violent father (spoilt rich brat) three kids under four, studying to be a teacher after deciding nursing was not for her. I don’t know how she did it but I am proud of her and in awe of the resilience of women. Women rock!!!! Love u Gilly xxx

  • Gill, and other women in here who are hurting.. It really does get better. You can’t avoid the pain.. U really do have to just push Thru it.. The early morning wakening with a jolt thinking ‘oh my god I can’t do this’.. The constant ruminating over why it has happened and all the seemingly wasted years. After 17yrs my ex cheated on & off for 18mths but still wouldn’t actually willingly end the relationship with me.. He wanted me… but also didn’t… It absolutely messed with my head.
    Spend time with people who love you, who build you up, who remind you who you are!! I felt lost.. I’d forgotten who I was.. My parents and friends reminded me who I used to be.
    5 yrs on I’m now engaged to a man who I could never have dreamed existed for me. I was 39 when I met him and wasn’t even looking.

    Life works in mysterious ways… Sometimes terrible things happen… But as a result beautiful things come into your life in all shapes and forms.. I wish that for every woman in here who is in pain right now.

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