This is part two of a two part story of the personal experience of an expat divorce. Part one ‘I was banished’ is available here.
Every divorce story is different and regardless of whether you are an expat or not, they often have the same theme which is a loss of security, self, independence, and freedom. We lose this because of the power of shame, judgment and the lack of self-confidence. I let my ex have power over me out of fear. I had friends who supported me yet are in similar situations and still haven’t found the strength to move on. It saddens me to know they gave me strength and courage to make huge changes in my life but have not found that same strength and courage themselves.
I find myself now trying to figure out why I was a victim, why some of my friends who were supporting and encouraging me were also victims and are still victims. I felt such shame and guilt about my marriage that it disempowered me. It’s no surprise that so many ex-wives have been diagnosed with depression and anxiety. It has taken me a long time to come to terms with what happened. I blamed him and I blamed myself. I was a victim and I attacked myself for many reasons including marrying him, having children with him, moving overseas and becoming an expat, feeling like a failure and for my all-around lack of judgment.
After it was all over and I was banished to my home country I felt like a bad mother, unable to afford normal things for my children like school uniforms or new shoes, unable to send them to better schools, unable to buy my own house, or clothes, or go out for dinner, or even go to a movie. These are things I had taken for granted! Being in the position of poverty and being at the mercy of your children’s father to pay child support, thus relying on your own parents to help pay for these essentials is demeaning and heartbreaking. It astounds me to think that these fathers can sleep at night knowing what they are doing to their children.
My ex has money, freedom and a career (one I supported him in building) and has moved on with a new marriage and life without any disruption or discomfort. Despite this, he continues to disrupt my life and refuses to pay child support. He expects the kids to not only want a relationship with him but to respect and care about their relationship with him. He wants the glory of providing for his kids and being a father, without doing anything a father does. He still threatens me and attacks my parenting, saying I’m not good enough. He wants me to suffer and doesn’t care if it affects the kids. That’s why I’m writing this. I would like to empower women and empathize with them.
I get that our marriage was over long before it was over. I was at peace with that and when it finally blew up I just wanted to it to have an amicable ending. It could have had an amicable ending. For a long time I kept thinking he would soon see things with more clarity. I thought he would not want to spoil his relationship with the children. I thought he would come around and be more reasonable. I never wanted to ruin his life and I still don’t speak badly of him. But these are facts and the truth needs to be told. It is happening to women all over the world every single day. Here are some things I could have done differently to help better protect myself and my children.
If I had of spoken up about what was happening and not been so ashamed I would have been better off emotionally and mentally. Once I knew it was all over I was far more open with my friends and I realized how much support I could have had if I had only talked to them earlier. No one was surprised, so the fact that I was ‘keeping up appearances’ was a waste of energy. I should have been far more open and honest with everyone.
I could have also reached out to a counsellor. There are many options for online services nowadays so finding one that I would have felt comfortable with would not have been too difficult. Perhaps this would have given me the emotional support to address things before they blew up in my face.
It was very difficult when things fell apart and I had no access to money. I should have put aside some of the money I got from my little side job even if it was just in an envelope under the mattress. Throughout my marriage, my ex-husband was always a control freak when it came to our finances. I would encourage other women to have a very good grasp of what their financial situation actually is, right from when they are married. It’s important to have a comprehensive understanding of your financial options at all times. Don’t just rely on what your husband tells you. Too often I think women do not establish ground rules with regard to finances when they are first married. They trust that their husbands will always be there, will always be of sound mind, and are in fact making the right and fair decisions with what is in actual fact a ‘joint’ contract. Any other option should be legally outlined from the outset.
Make sure you understand the law both in the country you are living and your home country. Get professional help if possible and don’t depend on people who “know.” If I had divorced in the country where we were living together as expats (and where he still is) the legal system would have protected me. I was misinformed that my children would be taken from me and that the courts favoured the father. This is not true. The courts are there to protect the children and want both parents to be able to see them. In my case financially he would have been responsible for providing child support.
I should have worked harder on a backup plan from early on. A plan for ‘what happens if/when this all finally falls apart’. Maybe I could have had a concrete plan that I could have put into place when things got ugly – an exit strategy if you like. Easier said than done I know but I should have spent time mulling over my options. This would have enabled me to put a few plans in place that would have given us options when everything finally exploded.
I am now in a much happier place. My kids get to be surrounded by people who love them. They love their home country and the sense of freedom and purpose in living with their extended family and peers but in hindsight, with a bit of thought and planning, I could have made it easier on myself and my children.
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.