Berlin-based Kiwi writer Sarah Quigley on exiting a marriage
How did you get to a point where you could share such private and raw emotions in your book and the column on which it is based?
It has been a really interesting and quite tricky process. I had moved out of my apartment into a temporary apartment and I had been there a few months and I realised more and more that I wanted to write about the whole experience to make sense of it. I waited until I was far enough out of my marriage time-wise to not feel angry, so I wouldn't be writing out of a sense of grievance or revenge. I think that was a good decision because I was able to put the worst experiences at arm's length and look at them objectively. But actually, one of the main reasons to want to do it as a column was I realised once I had left my marriage how alone I felt and so I wanted to write something that would really connect with readers who might be in a similar situation, just to help them feel less alone and less as if they were the only people in the world going through that.
Is your ex-husband aware that you have been writing about the end of your relationship?
No. We've never been in a position to talk about anything like that and I haven't mentioned it to him, so actually I have no idea. His anger and alcohol problems caused so many problems in our marriage. Your voice shouldn't be silenced through fear of what somebody else is going to think. If he stumbles over the book and wants to talk about it, I would be able to talk about it calmly. Whether he would, I don't know.
How long did it take to work through the grief?
A long time. I was expecting it to be a lengthy process. It wasn't a smooth trajectory; it had a lot of ups and downs and there were quite a few times when I thought I was completely fine and then I would realise I absolutely wasn't. The loneliness in the marriage was quite an issue for me, because as the problems grew I felt more and more alone - but the loneliness after I left the marriage was quite crippling at times. I'm really glad I've been through that, because it taught me a lot; I feel much stronger now. I feel able to cope with anything on my own, which is a great position to reach.
Besides writing about it, what else was helpful?
My friends were enormously helpful, they came through as a raft of support. That was one of the interesting things about feeling so alone. When I started to raise my head and look around, I realised I wasn't alone at all, because I had all these fantastic people around me to help with practical things and emotional things. And I had a lot of people who had read the column writing emails, sharing their problems, which was great because I wanted to connect with people and get people talking about problems. That's one thing I have learned - problems don't go away if you don't talk about them.
Sometimes when relationships don't work out, people feel like they have failed. Did you feel like that?
I was fairly lucky because I have always lived on the fringe - I have never done things in a normal progression. I don't like the word bohemian, but it's kind of like a bohemian existence and most people in Berlin I know lead slightly alternative lives, so I think it was less pronounced. It can be quite uncomfortable sometimes, not to want the same things that most people want. It really struck me when I was flying back from New Zealand one time and missed a connecting flight. I ended up in London and everyone was scrambling to book onward flights. I had been travelling for 30 hours and my mobile battery had died. This woman on the desk said, "We can't get you back to Berlin until tomorrow morning. Is there anyone that you want to call?" And I thought, "Is there?" I said, "No, nobody" and she said, "No one waiting for you?" I almost started to cry and then I mentally shook myself and reminded myself that it was fine, lots of people don't have anyone waiting for them at the airport. I remembered all the times when my husband was too busy working on an exhibition to come to the airport and pick me up.
The Divorce Diaries by Sarah Quigley (Random House, $38) is out now.