This is part one of a two part story of the personal experience of an expat divorce. Part one ‘I was banished’ is available here.
As I looked out the window of the car on the way to the airport I felt a sense of relief and grief all at once. I knew I’d never be back and that my life was forever changed by what I’d been through. He couldn’t even drive us to the airport in a final act of compassion, was what kept going through my mind. How could he be so cruel not just to me but to our children? A kind friend offered to drive us to the airport one last time.
The streets looked so familiar but so cold despite it being sweltering outside. I felt very alone and scared facing the future without a job, a home or any way to support myself and my children. But fear wasn’t going to stop me, nothing was. There was no looking back or second thoughts about leaving. I felt determined to make things work and was not deterred by my circumstances. I didn’t even shed a tear.
The next few months are a blur of sleeping on a sofa at my parents place and starting my children at their new school whilst enrolling at nursing school to get my license back. All whilst enduring abusive phone calls and messages from my ex who was still trying to control me from afar. I found myself trying to keep the peace, trying in vain to do everything he wanted without being a victim. For both his and the children’s sake I wanted him to be involved, to be a good father.
He pressed me to file for divorce and lie about the date of separation to enable him to marry his mistress as soon as possible. How they were living was illegal. I refused. This caused a torrent of threats including losing custody of my kids and having no child support. The stress was constant and unrelenting which kept me focused on getting justice. I made the difficult decision to go to court to fight for it. This was just the beginning of a four year battle through the courts.
People ask me, how could he do this? How could you marry and have children with someone who does this? Were there any signs? But he loved you and told everyone how amazing you were! The lies he told created a life of deceit. But when you’re in a marriage and you feel you have no control that’s when you end up feeling powerless and vulnerable.
From the outside it looked picture perfect. A family who traveled the world and had countless adventures. We had beautiful children, lovely friends, supportive family, good health, financially stable, respectable careers and a loving relationship or so it seemed. In reality the marriage was the opposite. We were under no illusions our marriage was in trouble. We slept in separate beds. We lived separate lives. I traveled with the kids on many occasions without him. He was always stressed about the money. He locked himself away for countless hours in his office. We argued about finances and about how I wanted to go back home to be closer to my family. I felt taken for granted and undervalued. We didn’t share our interests or hobbies. I was into sports and took the kids to their rugby and he never got involved. We drifted apart and lived separate lives.
I was used to him working long hours and he often worked nights so I was responsible for the family and running of the house which I loved. I entertained our friends and their children often played at our house. I loved cooking, baking and socializing. I loved being a stay at home mum. But when the children were settled in at school I decided after years of not working it was time to return to work. He hated it because I regained some of my confidence and freedom. I had a little financial independence and it gave me a sense of purpose.
I wasn’t just a wife and mother anymore. It wasn’t long before the cracks began to grow in our marriage. We couldn’t be together without arguing. I felt angry and resentful about his laziness and selfishness. He believed that since he was the income earner that was all he needed to contribute to our family. He would drive kids to school like a taxi driver but he couldn’t be bothered to engage with them on any level. This bothered me and I felt cheated by him.
I was terrified to leave. I knew if I did that I would lose everything I had worked so hard for over the past 20 years of my life. I knew that I would lose my house, have no way to support myself or my kids, I would have to start all over again. I had started with nothing and would leave with nothing despite giving up my career as a nurse, leaving behind my family and friends to live as an expat, I would be alone, a single mother in my thirties. It was absolutely terrifying and I desired it and dreaded all at once.
I fantasized about leaving and I even started to talk about it with my closest friends. They encouraged me but I was too scared. Then I went back home after a girls trip in summer. My husband was working which was the normal thing to do. Most of the wives and kids left for the summer while school was out. I was at home with the children at my parents house. He called me and told me that he wanted to talk alone. I went to the bedroom which I shared with the kids. Then he told me to “stay where I was, don’t come back, our marriage is over.” He didn’t want me to come back even to pack up our household and let me and the kids say goodbye to our friends, or even their beloved pets.
He was also terrified that it would get found out that he was having an affair with a woman from his work. He thought I’d tell the authorities or his work. I refused to listen to his reasoning. I went back even though it was the hardest thing to do. He was so nasty that he didn’t get his way that he started threatening me. He told me if I didn’t leave he would take the children away from me and because of the country’s law that he could. I was living in constant pain and fear. After months of selling everything I could to raise enough funds to send my dogs to new homes in Canada and packaging up my home, he stopped paying for school fees, I had no choice but to leave. I left with a couple of suitcases and my beautiful children. I left behind the best friends I have ever had.
The truth is my marriage would have ended whether we became expats or not. We were very different people who wanted different things. The new country just made him more powerful and in control of things and took away more of my independence and freedom. It was definitely more difficult because we were expats. He basically had the power to banish me regardless of what I wanted or what was best for the children. But in the end I got everything I care about. I don’t care about money or expensive things. I care deeply about my independence and not being a victim. I care about my kids and my family and my friends. I have not lost any of those things.
I am a better person and I have learned about who I really am. I’m a strong, caring, independent woman. I’m a nurse, a mother, a daughter, and a sister. I’m a real friend who knows what it’s like to feel lost, hopeless, and depressed and I know what to do to get back what’s important. I am back and I’m me and I’m happy. My battle with my ex isn’t over. He continues to live in luxury and doesn’t pay anything for his children yet we survive. I have learnt the simple truth that nothing is impossible and we survive by doing what makes us strong and happy. I may have been banished but I refused to be crushed.
We don’t usually publish articles anonymously but sometimes we need to in order to protect the identity of the writer for their own wellbeing and safety. This is one of those times.