Breakfast host on The Hits, columnist for nzherald.co.nz Life & Style.

Polly Gillespie: My daughter's response to my marriage ending

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It's hard sometimes to believe I'm not really married anymore. Photo / Supplied
It's hard sometimes to believe I'm not really married anymore. Photo / Supplied

As you read this it's likely my current partner will be signing his final divorce documents, standing next to his "minus one". I asked him if I could come too and he said, "It's not really a party, Polly. It's not a 'take a guest' type of thing."

I thought it could be interesting.

He said: "No babe. It's a divorce, not after-work drinks."

So I'm in the middle of wrangling a legal separation that I never ever dreamed I'd be wrangling. I was the last person on earth that would ever walk away from a marriage. God knows we went through so much in all those years. My parents were together until my dad died. Till death did they part. And Grant's mum and dad are still together, through sickness and health, for better or worse.

That's what we're supposed to do. We are supposed to stay together. No one in Mum's family divorced. And on my dad's side there's only one uncle. I remember being shocked and horrified beyond belief when it happened. We were a family of "stickers".

Elizabeth started at my primary school when I was eight and we became best friends. She had a younger red haired sister and her parents were D.I.V.O.R.C.E.D. She was the first person I met who lived in a home with no dad. It was shocking. We referred to her dad's new partner, Meredith, as "That horrible woman".

I'm sure Meredith was a very lovely person, but we eight-year-olds could only imagine an evil witch, or the stepmother from Cinderella. I wonder if he's still with Meredith? Perhaps, but the likelihood is slim. They say that for every marriage you have the likelihood of it lasting gets slimmer and slimmer. Horrible stat really. Let's tuck that under the cushion and move on, shall we?

My parents seemed happy. Dad was always out coaching rugby or at work. He also used to go drinking with his mates at the police club. Mum sewed and cooked and there were rarely raised voices.

Naturally, over the years Mum has told me that it wasn't all plain sailing. Dad would sometimes drink a little much, and Mum never really drank more than a tipple of sherry.

As Mum has aged, and seen me go through my own angst, she has revealed little things - not a lot - but little things that make me realise her marriage was not entirely bliss.

It was hard to leave. It's hard sometimes to believe I'm not really married anymore. I see women of my age with wedding rings on and I feel a small stab to the heart. I didn't go into my marriage wanting it to crumble. I thought it would be a "forever love", and some days it hurts so badly that I couldn't make that magically happen.

I made some huge mistakes. We both did. What seemed like forever turned into goodbye and the pain manifested differently for everyone.

I knew my kids would eventually understand. I didn't realise there would be quite as much angst as there was, but my three beautiful children all had to face the break-up alone and together. They had to process it all, and I imagine still do from time to time.

I know I do.

My daughter has started writing a blog. Lucky girl inherited the anxiety gene from her mama (sorry Honey) and it's through her blog that I've felt the pain a young adult feels when her parents break up.

I actually couldn't finish reading it, so I'll get you to do that for me. I asked if she minded me sharing her blog with you. She doesn't, so go ahead. Since reading it I have felt heartache, relief and heartache all over again. I had no idea... really... I had no idea.

Here is my daughter Katherine's blog about her parents' break-up. She is new to writing down her feelings, and initially wasn't keen to "write" because she wasn't a writer. But as my partner Tim pointed out: "If you actually write, then you are a writer. There are lots of tossers who claim to be, but they do not write, therefore they are not." Well said, darling!

Katherine's blog:

I know that a lot of people who are reading this right now went through the divorce of their parents when they were young. To them, all I can say is "you must be one hella strong mofo!" But right now I want to talk about what it's like for your parents to get divorced when you're a young adult.

Remembering back, I used to base every single one of my friendships and relationships on my parents' relationship. I remember thinking that one day I would find a love like theirs. The stories they used to tell me about how they met and their early lives together inspired me every day.

I remember seeing my friends' parents get divorced and feeling a sense of sadness for them but also happiness because I knew my parents were different and that the love they shared could last an eternity - or so I thought.

In August last year my whole perception of love and relationships changed as I experienced as a young adult what it was like for my parents to get a divorce.

It was hard, it was really hard. It was one of the hardest things I've ever had to go through and it suddenly made me feel as though there was no such thing as love. I know that sounds dramatic, but when you're so adamant that your parents are going to be together forever it's hard to think otherwise.

At first, I spent nearly every day crying. Silly little things would set me off. Pictures of them together, pictures of me with them, seeing both of them upset. It was terrible. They would come home and tell me things about each other, things I didn't want to hear. I would sit and nod my head and try not to cry but more often than not I'd have to get up and leave the room.

The first couple of weeks were especially rough because to cure my pain I'd just go out and get drunk. Getting drunk led to hangovers. Hangovers led to feeling sorry for myself. Feeling sorry for myself led to drinking, and so on.

I don't want my parents to read this and feel bad because I can see how happy they are now. But sometimes, if you want to be happy again, life gets just a little harder for a while. And that's okay! If it has to happen, it has to happen.

Which brings me to part two of this post: Step parents. I remember when my mum asked me to come and meet her boyfriend Tim for the first time. I don't think I've ever been so scared in my life!

To see my mum with another man who wasn't my dad and the thought of them being affectionate with each other scared the living daylights out of me. But I went ahead and met him. And I can tell you now, it really wasn't that bad.

I saw a side of my mum that I'd never seen before; like a little girl, so in love. I could see that she was happier than she had been in a very long time and I'm so thankful that Tim came along and bestowed his love upon her. It completely restored my faith in love and marriage again.

All I needed now was for my dad to find love. And he did, with a lovely woman named Lisa. Once again I've never seen someone so happy in my life. His entire demeanour changed, he was a different person, he'd emerged from his sad hole of depression into a world of love and affection and I couldn't have been happier if I tried.

If you, like me, are going through the divorce of your parents and you're devastated, feeling like there's nothing in the world that can make you believe in love again, just remember, it gets easier.

Your mum or dad will find love again, they'll be happy again, they'll show who they really are again and when that happens things will be even better than they were before. Life will be worth living again, I promise.

To Tim and Lisa I just want to say thank you for loving my mum and my dad, for making them feel special. And thank you for making me believe in love again. You two are such wonderful people. You are two of the best "step parents" I could've ever asked for and I want you both to know that I really appreciate you.

Katherine xx

- nzherald.co.nz

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Breakfast host on The Hits, columnist for nzherald.co.nz Life & Style.

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