CAROLINE WEST-MEADS: I knew my marriage was a terrible mistake… now I want a divorce and my husband’s reaction has shocked me
Q I knew my marriage was a terrible mistake within about two years of our wedding, but by then I was pregnant with our second child. Now, however, after more than 18 years of my husband’s neglect and mistreatment of me, I have finally plucked up the courage to tell him that I want a divorce.
After our third child, our sex life dwindled to practically nothing. At first I blamed myself for being too tired, but in retrospect he never helped me around the house – he was always too busy at work or out boozing with his City friends. He didn’t listen when I told him I was lonely and miserable. I also suspect that he may have been unfaithful when away on frequent business trips.
He has reacted with fury to my request for a divorce and tells me that he will make it as difficult as possible. He claims that he has been a perfect husband and has provided me and the children with everything we need (we have a very comfortable lifestyle). I was young when I married him and he is 12 years older. Now he says that our youngest child can’t stay at her school because he won’t be able to afford the fees if he has to run two separate houses.
I don’t know which way to turn. I can’t understand why he wants to stay married because he doesn’t seem to be interested in me. We don’t ever laugh together or talk much.
A I think your husband has reacted this way because he is in shock. He believes he’s been the perfect husband, but while he has provided well materially, he has offered very little emotionally. It is a good question as to why he wants to stay married given that there isn’t much affection there.
Perhaps he doesn’t want the stigma of divorce, or maybe it is because you run an organised home and most of the childcare (by the sound of it), allowing him to focus on his ‘marriage’ to his career. Also, he might fear not living with his children any more.
Unfortunately his anger is making him behave badly and he is using your daughter’s schooling issue as a weapon, which is wrong. She will need the security of staying at the school she knows amid a parental split. This situation must be so upsetting for you, but there is a way forward.
Most people seeking a divorce are now required to have a mediation assessment meeting before going to court. This can help lessen the stress and bitterness, and the government is currently providing £500 towards the cost of mediation in many cases. Sometimes, mediation is child-inclusive so that everyone’s voice can be heard. So contact familymediationcouncil.org.uk for information. Also, familymediationandmentoring.co.uk has a blog about how mediation can help, even in high-conflict cases.
Should my children stay with their grandad?
Q As a teenager, I was terrified of my father’s explosive temper. In retrospect, I can see he was under a lot of work pressure and that he and my mum were unhappily married. Now that I’m in my early 40s and have children of my own, we get on much better, although his temper is still below the surface.
He is now in a second marriage, to a woman I find quite cold. The problem is, he keeps pressuring me to have my children stay with them on their own for a few days during the Christmas holidays. They are nine and 12.
I think he feels left out because his friends sometimes have their grandchildren to stay. However, I know that my children wouldn’t be comfortable visiting him on their own and I wouldn’t be either. I don’t want to upset him but I’m running out of excuses.
A This is a difficult dilemma for you. I’m sure your father has an unrealistic vision of having his grandchildren to stay. He likely imagines taking them to shows or the cinema and them behaving perfectly 24 hours a day. But he is unlikely to be prepared for the reality, which may well be an anxious nine-year-old and a bored 12-year-old, both missing you and their friends.
Much of this is about bragging rights – his friends have their grandchildren to stay and he wants the same. Even though he has mellowed, you are right to trust your instinct. You are very forgiving and it is lovely that your relationship with him has healed. But you can’t risk his temper with your children, especially as his wife could not be relied on to comfort them. You don’t need excuses. Just say you would all love to see him – and you’ll join them when they stay.
If you have a problem, write to Caroline West-Meads at YOU, 9 Derry Street, London W8 5HY, or email [email protected]. You can follow Caroline on Twitter @Ask_Caroline_
Caroline reads all your letters but regrets she cannot answer each one personally
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