Why divorce was the making of me
When her 13-year marriage ended Kerry Wallace, 33, feared she would face the future alone and unfulfilled. however, one year on the mum-of-three reveals why it was the making of her
Getting ready for my first night out as a single woman in 16 years, I felt a mix of dread and excitement. Part of me couldn’t wait, while another part wanted to put my PJS on and hide away. I was newly divorced and my confidence was at an all-time low, but I knew I couldn’t spend any longer feeling sorry for myself. After 13 years of being a devoted wife and mother, this was my time.
I had met David* through mutual friends when I was just 16 and he was 20. I was living at home while he was in the Navy, which seemed so grown-up. When he was away at sea, I’d write him letters and count down the days until he returned.
Married but alone
In February 2003, about 18 months after we started dating, David asked me to marry him. Of course, my family was worried as I was so young – especially as so many friends were only just starting to go partying or study at uni. But I loved David and knew it was what I wanted, so that December we tied the knot.
In April 2004 I had our first son, Aiden. I started working as a carer in 2006, but after having our second child Charlie in 2009, I became a full-time mum. With Billy then born in 2012, life was hard with three small children and only one wage, but we made do.
As David was still in the Navy, he could be at sea for nine months, sometimes with little communication. When he came home, it was tricky as I adjusted from being on my own to part of a couple again. I would get frustrated by small things, like having to change our routine because David was used to eating dinner later, or finding he’d put the Hoover in a new place. The tension accumulated.
While David was away, my social life was practically non-existent. Friends and family would offer to babysit so I could go out, but I was exhausted. I knew what I’d signed up for when I married a Navy man, but I couldn’t help envying people who got to be with their partners always.
By September 2015, I felt like I was hanging by a thread. Between the housework and all the kids’ clubs, school trips and football matches, I was run off my feet, but by then they were older and didn’t need as much ‘mummying’, so I had more time on my own to think about how my life was turning out.
I realised I had spent almost a decade focusing on everyone but myself. I’d look in the mirror and see a tired, pale and overweight version of my former self. When I married David I’d been 11st and a size 12, and now I was 15st 9lb and a size 18. I tried to pretend it didn’t matter, but deep down I felt bad about my body.
As I wasn’t happy in my skin, a physical distance developed between me and David. The spark we’d always had when he returned from leave was no longer there, and I’d feel jealous when I saw couples in the street holding hands. My husband and I weren’t like that any more.
‘i had spent a decade on everyone but myself’
In May 2016, everything came to a head. David and I didn’t intend to have a big heart-to-heart, but one evening I mentioned the growing disconnect between us and we ended up talking for hours about how we’d grown apart rather than together. We agreed we’d changed after having kids and spending a good portion of our 13-year marriage apart. After lots of honesty and tears, we
decided our relationship had run its course.
David’s absences were the only thing that had been keeping our marriage going for the last few years, so rather than have a trial separation, we decided to get a divorce right away.
When we broke the news to the boys, Billy, then four, was too young to understand. Aiden and Charlie, then 12 and eight, were shocked but said they were used to us being apart so it wouldn’t be a big upheaval.
A week later, David moved out – and even though he’d so often been away for weeks on end, his absence really hit me. I was truly on my own now, starting over.
Those first weeks, I spent countless nights watching TV when the kids were in bed, drinking coffee and contemplating my future. Sometimes I’d cry, feeling like a failure as a 30-something divorcée and overwhelmed by thoughts of what would happen. Other times I’d tell myself this was the start of an exciting adventure, but the truth was I was emotionally exhausted.
That September, four months after David and I had split up, I confided in friends that I often felt like I could crumple into a heap. One of them said I should look at my divorce as a springboard to a new me, rather than something that would break me. Another had recently joined a gym and suggested I go along. I hadn’t done any exercise since school, but after the first few self-conscious sessions, feeling frumpy, I started to look forward to building up a sweat.
Confident in myself
As I began to embrace life, my confidence started to come back. I even lost 3st, dropping down to a size 12-14 at 12st 6lb. There were still days I’d feel I couldn’t face life on my own, but my friends were always there, reminding me to focus on the bright future, rather than the unhappy past I was emerging from.
When my divorce papers came through in July 2017, I celebrated with six friends on an 80s-themed fancy-dress cruise. I wore a Madonna-inspired outfit and had one of the best nights of my life, dancing and drinking with my friends. It was such good fun and really helped reinforce the positive outlook I’d started to develop. I’m now looking into going back to college to study hairdressing. David’s still a great father to the boys and our relationship is amicable, so in that sense I’m incredibly fortunate.
I’ve discovered that the dating world has changed a lot since I was last single – I downloaded Tinder after a friend suggested I try it, but deleted the app after about half a day as it seems far too casual for my liking.
I have been asked out a few times though, by friends of friends, and on nights out, and I’ve even gone on a couple of dates – but for now, I’m really just enjoying life as a single woman.
I never imagined I’d get divorced, but it’s made me a stronger and better person. I can do what I want, when I want, and I make all the decisions – no one else. And that is a really empowering feeling.
No one enters marriage thinking they will split up one day, but sadly it does happen. But getting divorced really can be the making of you – it was for me.
‘the dating world has changed since i was last single’
Kerry grew apart from her husband as he worked away in the Navy
Dressed as Madonna at a fancy-dress cruise, looking and feeling great Supportive friends have been key