Samantha and George fell in love a long time ago. Their smiles connected at a dinner party, and then over drinks a week later. Within a few months, George moved in with Samantha and her child. George wasn't bothered that she was a single mum, and her child warmed to him effortlessly.
Life together was 'really good', they were a team and Samantha had no complaints or concerns. George worked hard, very long hours and Samantha was happy in her career. A few years into the marriage and Samantha fell pregnant, they decided together that she could stop work and focus on caring for their family. This perfect arrangement meant George didn’t have to worry about being present, and Samantha didn’t have to worry about not being present for their children. It worked seamlessly for years until their youngest started school. The sudden shift from being a full-time mother to having excess hours of nothing was driving her crazy and she knew she needed to get back to work. Samantha didn't want to give up being available for her family, and her old career was off the table after so many years out of the industry. George, accustomed to Samantha pandering to his needs and schedule which involved plenty of travel assured her he wasn’t prepared to change his established routine to help in any way. Not only was he unwilling to help her, but he started to put her down verbally insisting that she had never achieved anything in her life and why start now. The derogatory language didn't stop there and in time started to add up and wear Samantha down. They had been so happy for so long that divorce had never entered her mind. Today, Samantha acknowledges his response marked the beginning of the end.
Were there any other obvious behaviours that caused problems in their relationship?
As the children grew up, it appeared that their parenting values were far from aligned. Starting with small things like bedtimes, or pocket money to more important issues around discipline and backing Samantha when she said No. Their inability to agree in front of the children started to damage Samantha's relationship with the children as they became more independent.
Then George became colder and selfish, noticeably around events like birthdays, anniversaries, or when she invited her family to stay. The shower became her secret place to cry with the water hiding her sobs.
'I never let him or the children see me cry.'
The events were so far apart that it took time to notice this sabotaging pattern. Meanwhile, Samantha started her own business, and things were starting to pick up when Covid shut down the world. After years of George travelling every week, he was now home and not working. She expected that things would improve now that he had time to invest in their family, but he became more of a bully. Samantha's career meant that she could leave home and her service required her to stay overnight where she was based. No longer telling her she hadn't achieved anything in her life, he started to assure her she was a crap mother. He began to undermine every single decision she made.
'It was as though he had a spreadsheet, a booklet of things to destroy about her.'
The time away from home gave her the clarity that their relationship needed help and she asked George to try couple's therapy.
It was a firm 'not for me.'
Without him being a part of the solution Samantha had no choice but to ask for a divorce.
At first they tried nesting. where the children stay at home and the parents divide the time and move out. It was a disaster. George became a hyped-up Disney dad at home, preaching that life is incredible and everything isn't fine- it's great. The children were sad and struggling with his positive vibes and his newfound parenting. When he started dating, Samantha realised it was best if he had his own home.
George found a house close to the school. He tells the children he is the best parent to live with, no rules, no cares, game as much as they want. Samantha is the boring, shit, terrible mother. She thought him moving out and reducing contact would make life easier, he got even meaner.
Samantha filed a no-fault divorce. It's new to the UK legal system, the intention being that you both want out and it's nobody's fault. People are under the illusion that it makes divorce easier and faster. Samantha wanted everything to be as simple as possible to protect their children, but it isn't working out that way.
Goerge is often vile and awful to Samantha, enough to make her wish she had found fault. The man she fell in love with is not even close to the man she has to negotiate with. He has cancelled insurance policies, stopped mortgage payments, and if it wasn’t for Child Services he would be paying her nothing. Samantha works even longer hours to keep the roof over their heads, and this form of warfare is getting to her as her strength to deal with it all dwindles. George demands they don’t use lawyers, and split everything evenly.
For the sake of the children I complied.
The children are anxious and split between the two homes. He is erratic with timings and disorganised with their school needs. She wants them to have counseling, with co-parenting support to create a balanced realistic timetable; but yet again, it's a firm no from George. Samantha thought that when he had a girlfriend he would stop these personal attacks, his abuse has kicked up a notch. His incessant need to be nasty in his emails and messages demanding an instant response has worn her thin.
Her tears overflow on and off throughout the interview, and she laughs about crying at the most bizarre moments that catch her unawares. Sometimes she struggles to focus or make coherent sentences after dealing with him. He bombards her with emails and messages throughout the day, knowing exactly how to get a rise out of her.
Samantha is emotionally spent but has enough clarity to know it is time to call the professionals. Luckily, nothing has been signed and she has access to professionals that can advise her.