Ben and I were sitting at the kitchen table when he blurted out that he had slept with two women while he’d been in California. He explained, “I made a conscious choice to experience great pleasure, to see if I was willing to miss out on this in our marriage. I am not.”
He swallowed as he sat staring at me, looking slightly terrified.
“I am willing to work on transforming our marriage and have been reading books and working on it. But I feel stuck… I don’t know if I can transform my desire for you.”
I kept quiet. I wanted my marriage to be over.
I don’t know where the words came from, but I spoke them.
“This is over and you should go.”
He nodded his head. I walked out of the kitchen and finally allowed seven years of pent-up frustration to emerge. I sobbed. He came and hugged me.
“Have we just broken up?”
“Yes, Ben. You should go. Go be free and live in the Caribbean. You never liked London anyway.”
He nodded again.
I wasn’t angry. Looking back on the years we’d shared together, this had been inevitable. I had dreaded this day for a long time. As much as I loved Ben and our time together, I always knew deep down that it would end.
Ben left soon after and went to stay with his father in South Africa. After a few days he called me. He felt it was time I knew the whole truth. There were new revelations. Of the 18 women he had been with over three years, some of them were friends of ours.
I screamed down the phone in shock and then hung up and sat in silence. My head was spinning.
I was utterly devastated, humiliated and ashamed. I told no one about what had happened but simply hid away for 2 days. The only action I took was when I spontaneously trashed my kitchen in anger and every single plate found its way onto the floor or against the wall. I lay on the floor for hours just sobbing and the physical pain in my chest was palpable as I digested the concept that I was going to get divorced. Divorced. Even the word itself felt like some horrible disease I had just caught.
Those early days went by in a fog and for anyone who has ever suffered the devastating effect of divorce, perhaps you can relate to that feeling of being lost and overwhelmed by emotions. When I eventually thought of telling people, I was confronted with a dilemma: revel in the delicious feeling of having the world feel sorry for me at what my love rat of a husband did OR actually grow a pair and take some responsibility.
It was not an easy time. As I squirmed in discomfort, one thing became clear to me: I had to tell people and in telling them, I had no desire in becoming the victim of some sad tale of woe. As much as I wanted to blame Ben, I definitely had something to do with it ending.
The first therapist commenced the therapy session by taking me back to an incident from my childhood. I was two-years-old and was in hospital for many months due to a congenital hip birth defect. The doctors were spending months building me hip sockets and due to the strict rules of the hospital, my parents were not
allowed to visit me very often. Consequently I developed some abandonment issues. Rather than focus on the divorce, my therapist was linking my feelings related to the divorce to the fear I’d felt in childhood.
We explored that incident for some time and after two hours of deconstruction (and a hefty bill later), I left feeling thoroughly dis-empowered and confused. Not only had my husband ‘abandoned me’, my parents, doctors and family had abandoned me, and in turn, not only was I now annoyed with my husband, I was now annoyed with the world too.
Now, I know therapy works wonders for many people. I also know that it works very effectively in many situations and that millions of people all over the world choose therapy above any other process. I do however think that certain people do not have the patience for therapy and I count myself within this category. I wanted to get on with my healing. I wanted to take active steps and get to a place of empowerment again. I did not want to indulge in self-pity or gaze longingly at my navel whilst I drifted back into my childhood. It felt like a distraction from the emotions I knew I needed to confront.
And so began the most transformational period of my life. A period of creating a programme for healing from this shock over 3 stages.
Over 5 weeks, I leant on my 12 years as a change management expert and feverishly wrote a 21-day programme for myself which incorporated everything I could think of in healing in the best way possible. It included daily routines, checklists, a ‘divorce diet’, supplements, physical and written exercises which would help me take responsibility from various perspectives and tracked my progress at each interval. I became my own lab rat as I studied my progress with fascination.
I was keenly intrigued to answer how someone of my obvious intelligence could step over and ignore all the signs of being married to someone who would cheat so many times. This question was the focus of my experiment.
The next few weeks that followed were transformational as I realised so many things about myself in answering this question. Here were my findings:
- I had never really failed at anything before. I began to think how much my entire life was geared towards keeping up impressions or giving people the idea that I was happily married or successful in some way.
- I realised that I isolated Ben during our relationship and kept him at arm’s length.
- I realised how I substituted ‘busyness and activities’ for intimacy and that my success intimidated and emasculated him.
- I realised that he was cheating almost from the very beginning and that I didn’t want to see it, because I wanted to believe everything was perfect. I had known very deep down throughout our relationship that something was not quite right and had known all along that I had married a man who was just not that into me. I had ignored all the warning signs and my intuition.
- I realised that I drove him away with my drive for perfection and was emotionally unavailable in our relationship.
- I realised that I had chosen to stay in an unworkable relationship whilst pretending all was well and by staying, I had contributed to the inevitable, to him seeking what his heart truly cried out for with someone else. I had been living in a fantasy world and had concocted a dream-like, fake relationship around me. I had settled for a seemingly contented and happy relationship but with very little passion or intimacy.
Yes. This was the truth and the truth was so freeing and so awesome to see. The difference was that rather than beat myself up for any of my realisations, I simply felt amazing. The exercises I had designed, ensured that I took responsibility for the part I played in the demise of our relationship, without feeling like a bad person. The relationship simply didn’t work out, I didn’t have the insights back then that I had today and I could clearly see what I would do better next time.
It was effortless.
I remember to this day that when I was done, I looked at myself in the mirror and I looked different. About 10kg of weight had dropped off my hips and my face became less strained and weathered. I looked younger.
When the process was done, I began to share with Ben and others the process I had been through. Everyone was really amazed that I had no residual issues over what had happened. Ben was the most surprised that I didn’t want to kill him and instead was offering that we do a ‘Vow Break.’ Today Ben and I have forgiven each other and have made peace with our marriage.
Pretty soon those around me dealing with a break up were also keen to take part in my experiment and the programme adapted as it was used on others. It later evolved into the naked divorce (www.nakeddivorce.com) which has helped hundreds of women heal emotionally from their divorce and I am very fortunate to be in a position to help others move through this trauma in an empowered way.
Ultimately, there are those of us who rise to the occasion when adversity hits but the issue for most people is they get resigned and often do nothing about their predicament. As an analogy, for those of who fall into this trap, it’s tantamount to walking around with a dislocated shoulder. It hurts, but after some time the pain will become ‘normal’ and there are many who learn to live with their pain. The sad part is that those people do not realise that healing is so easy after you have gone through the momentary pain of popping your shoulder back into its socket. It hurts like hell but once back in place, healing happens at a much deeper level.
So, the moral of the story is no matter what happens in life – even if it is a terrible thing, we all have a choice about how to respond to and deal with what happened. We can choose to take responsibility for the part we played or walk around with a dislocated shoulder pretending we are fine.
Taking responsibility is definitely not the easy path, but it certainly is the path to a more empowered life.
Adèle is an Author, Change specialist, Family Mediator and Divorce Angel – has an 11 year career in helping people cope with change. She used her change management techniques to develop a revolutionary systemised process called the naked divorce for healing from divorce within 21 steps. She has worked with professional men, women and couples as a family mediator, Divorce Angel and divorce programme trainer, helping people heal from break ups, separations and divorce. Today countless people depend on her process to help them heal from divorce. www.nakeddivorce.com
You can read Adele’s book, reviewed by Mandy Campbell- Miller here – The Naked Divorce review
Adele also appear on Dream Corner’s Theme Show – Aftermath of divorce and separation