knowing me, knowing you

Somehow, this has turned into the breaking up blog.  I’m sure I never saw that coming when I started writing.  Right now, I don’t have much else going on, to be honest.  That’s it, the sum total of my life.  I feel like all I do is spout cliches and shed tears in public.  Next thing you know, I’ll be writing a misery memoir about My Tragic Life, and flogging it down Tesco for £4.49.

Tonight’s debate: is it better for the children for us to live happily apart (because I believe at the moment, we’re still capable of that, but if we hang on here much longer, maybe we won’t be) than miserably together?  I think this is a no-brainer, quite honestly, but apparently opinions vary.  I don’t believe children are damaged by parents separating and going their own ways, but by parents living together in hatred.

And I know we’d both miss the children horribly for the time when we weren’t with them.  We’ve always been together (barring the weather house phenomenon of the last few months.)  But we’ve also done quite a lot of miserable together.  I reckon I’d happily trade that hopelessness, despair and frustration for missing out on some bedtime stories and goodnight kisses.

So, tell me the truth, unvarnished opinions, warts and all.  If I sound deluded, please tell me.  There aren’t that many people I listen to, but several of them are reading this.


In the middle of all this, I had the sudden thought that the one thing better than making strawberry jam would be making strawberry and rhubarb jam (this idea was brought to you by Chinley stores and their special offers…)   What do we think?  Good: acidity to balance the sickly sweet.  Bad: offputtingly stringy texture perhaps.  I fear I’m putting more mental energy into this conundrum than I am into my domestic situation.  That probably says it all.



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28 responses to “knowing me, knowing you

  1. Hmmmmmmm.

    I have seen the change in my two older children since we went our separate ways, and I still hate hate hate what this has done to them. We have had some incredibly low moments (some of which you were all witness/victim to in Scotland last year…) and if I’m completely honest, right now is a pretty low moment actually. I am down enough to be capable of telling the unvarnished truth as I see it right now – that separation and divorce should be an absolutely last resort and not a decision to be taken lightly as I am currently scared we may have harmed our older two irrevocably.

    However, it may quite possibly be that due to my low-ness I am being unfairly negative. Feel free to ignore everything I say or at least discount quite a lot of it!

    I know you are not taking any decisions in the least lightly. Neither did we. I know without a doubt that divorce was absolutely, totally, the right thing for us grown ups in the end, and we are both happier in ourselves, freer, lighter, better in many many ways. You’ve watched me change from a scared huddled caterpillar into a butterfly. When I’m not in this current state (actually thinking about using the ‘D’ word for the first time ever…) I love the me I am now. I’m STILL not 100% convinced it was right for the children though, but then again who can say how they would have been coping two years on if we’d struggled on together all this time? (God forbid).

    Reading your blog, knowing you, everything in me is screaming ‘get out! Be happy while you can!’ the whole time I am reading. But then I look at my own children and the mess we seem to have created for them and I wonder if that is a totally selfish attitude.

    I do believe in the end that happier parents leads to happier children. I think that even given my own experience I would still encourage you to follow your heart and go and be yourself. And your children seem to me to be strong and wonderful and survivors. I have a feeling that even though it will be (already is?) utterly shit for a while, you will all be fine.

    • I really appreciate that thoughtful reply, and will go away and ponder it as it applies to our situation. Can’t let what you say about your children pass unchallenged though- don’t you honestly think the harm was done during the years you were together?

      • Some of it maybe yes. Some of it, particularly with Two, is a direct result of the situation we are now in. I know, because they have told me, that they wish we were still together and none of this had happened. However, I also know that they don’t remember how awful it was when we were, especially towards the end.
        You are all very much in my thoughts at the moment. I hope we manage to meet up at some point over the summer.

  2. I think rhubarb is disgusting, so wouldn’t thank you for strawberry/rhubarb jam; Robert, on the other hand, would love it!

    All I would say is don’t decide anything too quickly. Only you can know what is right for your particular family – but all marriages go through really bad patches. Sometimes it may be right to call a halt; other times, it’s right to soldier on and come out the other side. My brother did the first, my sister the second. Which isn’t very helpful, I’m afraid!

  3. Oh and… I’ve no idea if I count as one of the people you would listen to, but thought I would weigh in anyway. 😉

    And strawberry and rhubarb jam? Go for it! I’d love to try some!

  4. dawn

    I suspect you already know what my views are on it – I wish we’d split up when the kids were younger, both Andy and I are so much happier and that has reflected on the kids. Even small kids pick up on the constant atmosphere of stress and strain and tears and your 3 are old enough and aware enough to know that things are not good. And my lj became my break up blog and those who supported me through it (you included) were fabulous and helped me through the times when it was all seeming impossibly bleak. And I know oh so well the feeling that if we split now we might manage to stay friends (well most of the time) rather than waiting and hating each other for ever more. It is hard for you, for him and for the kids, but sometimes it is the only way. Many many hugs and much love.

    As for the jam, it sounds good, but rhubarb and ginger is even better…

  5. Jane

    X says that the worst thing about the divorce is not seeing his children. They’re still quite to very small, 4 and 20 months… and they have, from what he says, picked up that what’s going on is not right. The elder refuses to eat, the younger is just initially non plussed when Mummy isn’t there and wants to be entirely in control of her little world.

    Meanwhile, in the last 20 years, I watch my parents grow further apart and argue more and more. But they won’t split.

    I think, either way, it changes you as a child. But, really, I wish my parents were happy. Particularly Mum. Daddy was away a lot with work when I was 8 to 11, and it was OK… I missed him but there was phone. Then we were all in one place and it was miserable. And mum isn’t as happy as she might be and nor is Dad. She’s too scared to go. He’s got Duty drummed in to him.

    Sucks, essentially, watching them hurt each other.

    This got me-ish. Sorry.

    I think, if you think they can process the idea, ask them.

  6. Heather

    I’ve no idea and can only second Jane’s ask them if you think they can answer/ handle it. I too get to watch my parents longstanding marriage/ feud although to be fair it really deteriorated when we all moved out. There’s a thought if you stay together for the kids – what the hell happens when they leave.

    BTW – I hope your misery memoir would be worth more than £4.49…

    • I’ve been planning my gap year for a long time, but I’ve realised I can’t contemplate another decade like this.

    • Jane

      This: and then add in that I don’t really want to go home to visit much now because they’re constantly sniping and arguing and then sulking in silence for days. I actively look for reasons to *not* stay long (I’m trying to use up my holiday so I don’t have enough for the whole Christmas week…)

      They used to mostly behave well; or put up a good facade, but as I get older, that’s gone out the window. Being true to oneself is all well and good, but I get caught up in the middle…

      This whole miserableness puts me right off the idea of marriage full stop: or, rather, the inability to admit that yes, it has gone wrong, and they won’t even consider something like Relate…but will just keep making each other miserable much of the time.

      • Jane

        p.s. not to say that Relate is a magic wand or works for everyone, but I’m pretty sure much of my parents’ problem is that they don’t know how to communicate… I’ll shut up now.

  7. The only help I can offer is to say I’d love to eat rhubarb and strawberry jam.

    As a happily married daughter and daughter-in-law of two happily married couples I reckon I’m in a fairly unusual situation. But I have seen the difference in friends who have separated (and subsequently divorced) – as Helen said, they have become butterflies.

    Not sure how PC this is, but could you get the views of your 3? How would they like things to be?

  8. Nell

    I feel I have no right to make comment having been lucky enough never to have been in the situation from either side. But I would hate to see you stay and watch you and the kids be miserable and wonder whether it would be different if you made the break. But as is so often the way we can’t see the future (how much easier might some decisions be if we could) and can only make what feels like the right decision at the time. Ignore this if you wish but whatever the decision I’m here and reading/listening.

    And no I love strawberry jam and rhubarb and ginger is good but I’m not sure about the combination…

  9. Rosy

    I think when you’re growing up, you think your parents will be together for ever. You don’t consider as a child what it might be like if it were different, in part because you’re doing better things with your energy like growing and asking questions but also because you haven’t yet learnt to analyse every situation and weigh up the results.(IMHO). That being said, your three are bright and thoughtful and they know that neither of you are happy. I’m not saying it will be easy for anyone who you do decide to call it,but isn’t your happiness and sanity as important as theirs? You’re not considering this lightly. And it may be rough whilst you settle into doing things differently, but temporary roughness: six months, two years, whatever, might well be worth it in the long run. Not that you have to listen to me.

    Rhubarb. Nom. Jam. Nom. Starwberries. Nom. Works for me,

  10. Kathryn

    Like some of the others, I’m not really in a position to comment being the child of parents who are still together but, frankly, either way is going to be shit for a time for both you and the kids but you will all get through whatever happens and no doubt come out stronger for it. It seems to me that one way will be shit for a time but get better but it’s difficult to see how the other one will ever get better but only you really know that.

    Take care of yourself x

  11. That Kate There

    I am with you in the ‘no-brainer’ camp: while I am the offspring of happily-married parents, I have seen more friends damaged by being the semi-adult go-between for their miserable, together-for-the-children parents who subsequently split up than I have friends damaged by parents who split up when the kids were younger. Equally, in the cases I can think of where the divorce happened younger, the only kids who ended up messed up were the ones who had been to start with, if you see what I mean.

    Lots and lots of sympathy: it is hard and horrible. x

  12. Hmmm. Well the answer to the first question is that I’ve never tried strawberry and roooooobarb jam, but rhubarb & ginger is yummy (someone else mentioned it?). I think it’s worth an experiment.

    The more knotty problem, well. If only we could see the future? I think about friends I have and their parents’ various marital statuses, and there’s everything in there – always-single parents, remarried parents, split up but not remarried, still together (happily & unhappily). And what I see is that those people have turned out like they always would have done. The nervous ones have continued to be fragile. Some have depression. Some have rebelled. Some have become the most outrageous extroverts.

    I don’t know how much of it is due to their parents, but I think that with children the age they are you can see – to an extent – how they might turn out. I don’t think that it’s going to make a difference to their personalities, whether you break up or stay together. I am constantly amazed at both how long and how short memories can be. But what will affect them is in their future attitude to both their parents.

    My parents are still together; they snipe and I hate that, especially when it is behind their backs. I’m their daughter; can’t they offload at their friends?? They nearly split up. Dad walked out after a blazing row one night and wasn’t heard from for 24 hours (gosh that was a fun phone call to receive in London). They decided on balance that they wanted to make their relationship work – not for us, but for them. They went to Relate and for them, it worked. They’re still together. But like Jane, I hate going back to theirs. I can’t help but wonder, if they had made different decisions, seen someone earlier, whether I would have a different attitude and want to go back somewhere that was just a happier place.

    I just know you can’t go on like “this” (whatever this is).


  13. Jackie

    I’ve been pondering all day with what to comment. I suppose my main feeling that I have to say is try not to let it get to the state my parents did. I was always sensitive to my parents fighting (and it was fighting, usually with one or the other flinging things, a trait I’ve inherited although it takes a lot to get me to that state) and the one I’ll remember the most was my Mum throwing my Dad out of the house in the early hours of the morning.

    I do think the thing that affected me the most was not knowing what was going on. I think my only advice would be keep the children informed. Nothing is worse than half-hearing conversations and not knowing what’s happening with your life.

    Also – Not really a strawberry jam person – but who knows what the Rhubarb would do.

  14. I’m with Jackie, I think that children need to be informed even if that is difficult to give them all the facts. I generally do err on the side of working things out but my gut feeling is that you will never be totally well unless you are out – and a well Mum is always good for the kids. Helen the homeopath from Buxton always says if you want to make the family better treat the mum first – you are the centre of their world. And I do think that Relate/similar counselling can have a place – as I understand it their role is to facilitate each person in actually hearing what the other person is saying (not always easy), which is equally relevant to splitting as to staying together. So I guess I’m feeling the end is inevitable for you, but that how the children are at the end is by no means definite. Whatever your decision you will have lots of support I can see.

    • Oh and I meant to say that on the one hand there is ‘working things out’ so that you are happy together and the other there is ‘staying together for the children’. The first is great WHEN it’s possible and the second is in my opinion nonsense.

  15. katherine

    Hi, don’t know if you want to hear from me…but you know I’ve been where you are. It’s shit & tough & horrible. But the decision has to be yours. I wouldn’t ask the kids for their opinion. They may feel bad later if they think you stayed together unhappily just because it’s what they wanted. Equally, if you split despite their wishes, they may feel betrayed? Divorce is an absolute last resort – a step only to be taken if the grown-ups absolutely know that they have tried everything and cannot be happy togther. Relate is certainly worth a go. If nothing else they can help an amicable decision if it is inevitable. They don’t try to ‘save’ relationships, just get the two of you to communicate effectively & see if there is anything to save.
    That’s all from me. Chin up! Cant’t comment on the jam situation. Kxx

  16. Tried to reply on my phone and would have been trying to type this til midnight.
    Firstly, as a lover of strawberry jam I would say, no don’t mess. But if you like rhubarb (and the jury is still out as far as I’m concerned), you go for it!

    Secondly, as a child of happily married parents and being happily (although newly married) myself, I am not really in an advice giving place. However I’m not one to keep my thoughts to myself so I thought I would share. Whatever the affect a split may have on your children, living with people (mum and dad) who are unhappy, must also have a bearing on their feelings/ emotions/ well being. If they were unhappy, you would want to do whatever it takes to make them happier, and I’m sure they would hate to grown up, knowing that you stayed together ‘for their sakes’.Sorry if this is a contraversial comment, but I don’t want anyone to feel that they are somehow being selfish: walking away from a relationship is always hard.

  17. Liz

    What a difficult decision to make! Would it be possible (i.e. would you both be willing) to go to relate or some similar couples counselling to help you discuss this and other issues that you need to talk about?

  18. Gnome

    I think it would be worth experimenting with the rhubarb. Strawberry-and-gooseberry jam is a thing too.

    I’m happy to share my thoughts on the other problem but for full disclosure and other people’s privacy I’d rather not do so in public. Is your email address that is just for you, or is it a shared one?

  19. Catriona

    Nicola, I just don’t know what the answer is but you are so unhappy, something needs to change. You obviously can’t carry on the way things are. There’s no “one size fits all” solution – whatever happens has got to be the best thing for you and your family at the time you make that decision. I do think that happy parents = happy children though.

    And as for the rhubarb – I’d say rhubarb fool is nice…….

  20. Claire

    When my parents finally admitted defeat and seperated it was such a relief. The arguing and knowing something was wrong but not what was going to happen was very upsetting. Once we knew we could deal and move forwards.

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