Interview me! I am the angry ex-wife.

Dani and Maddox, a holiday romance that should have ended on the beach.

A woman standing outside calm, the moon in the background with clouds and stars in the sky
The calm moment I decided to end my marriage

I initially met Dani through a mutual friend at a dinner party. I shared that I am writing this blog and that I am struggling to get women to share their stories. Dani jumped up and said ‘Me, interview me! I am the angry ex-wife.’ Which is why I chose this as my first story to publish.

Dani is a vibrant powerhouse of a woman. She has a very honest and direct way about her and I couldn’t imagine her story would be so awful, especially as they never had a child together.

Growing up, Dani and her family would go to Barbados every year and it became her second home. Over time she became friendly with some of the local kids and would hang out with them on holiday instead of the tourists at the resort. In her twenties she became very good friends with Cheryl, who introduced her to Maddox.

‘Maddox was the boy next door, and he was really good looking.’

Dani was 29 when she met Maddox, who was younger than her and already a father to a beautiful girl. He was in a complicated relationship with the biological mother, where they seemed to date for a while, fight, break up and start all over again. That is until he fell for Dani and ended it for real. Maddox was well kept, he had a good home, a decent job and he was a good dad. The package looked solid from the outside. No, this isn’t a scam artist story. The holiday romance continued after she returned home to London and Dani and I reminisce about the days of how hard and expensive it was to communicate with people abroad. No WhatsApp or FaceTime, with Skype depending on the quality of the internet connection. It didn’t stop them chatting for hours and as soon as she could, Dani was back in Barbados to see him. Maddox then came to London for a month. ‘It was a disaster’ she laughs, ‘It was awful.’ Throughout most of his trip she had to work and Maddox would wander around London alone. When she returned home she found him moody, cold, fractious and generally not very nice. Dani justified all of his behaviour. It was a cultural shock, he missed his daughter, he had never left the island, he was lost in the city, no friends, and so on. On one occasion Maddox was actually lost and there was no way of contacting him. He didn't have a mobile phone. Dani and her family were frantic with worry, they looked for him everywhere and when he finally did return, he didn’t seem to care that she had been freaking out with worry. In fact, he was annoyed that she was upset. I ask Dani why she continued the relationship after this disaster; she shrugs, raises her eyebrows, waves her hands and suggests that it was the noise in her head that she was 29, nearly 30 and it was now or never. The societal fear at the time of being left on the shelf alone and too old to have children was very real for women. Six months later, they were already discussing Maddox coming to live in London. He needed a work permit, so instead of a romantic proposal, they decided to marry because it was the practical thing to do. Within a year of meeting they were married. Dani didn’t have time to plan a proper wedding and she didn’t invite anyone besides her immediate family. The wedding itself was beautiful, set on a hill with the backdrop of the sea and blue skies of Barbados it should have been amazing, but Maddox was a ‘dick’ about everything leading up to it. He wouldn’t help with any of the planning and then had the audacity to complain about the decisions that Dani made alone.

I ask if her mum or siblings could see what was going on and if there was any intervention? It transpires that her mum did try by asking Dani to ask herself if this was what she wanted. Dani again made excuses by justifying his moods; ‘his daughter’s mum was making his life harder, he was stressed about moving countries, he was going to miss his daughter.’

Maddox made the big move to London a few months after the wedding. Initially he wasn't allowed to work and Dani had to take up child support payments and basically take care of everything. Thankfully, he wasn’t lazy and as soon as his permit came through he found a job and resumed his responsibilities. The arguments started almost immediately, and they never seemed to stop.

It felt as though Maddox was upset or angry about something daily, he was relentless and would lash out verbally at Dani and then immediately become silent and ignore her. This absence of communication caused Dani extreme physical anxiety. His refusal to respond as to what she might or might not have done left her confused and tormented. She started to walk on eggshells, and in time, it damaged her sleep and her health. He manipulated her daily and without the back and forth of a good fight Dani took responsibility for everything.

I wish I could have recorded her tormented face as she shares this memory, her body recoils from the anxiety she is reliving. If I were to touch her, I suspect she would flinch.

Meanwhile, Maddox went to work and settled into life. His ex played emotional games, sometimes allowing communication and other times alienating him from his daughter. When they did come to London, Dani had to be out of sight or the trip would be cancelled. Dani knew she had no choice. She explains that Maddox grew up in a violent household, his mother had been beaten daily and left him and his siblings to stay alive. He vowed never to be like his father, and to his daughter he was that kind and caring father. With Dani, he behaved just like his father without the use of his fists. His abuse was emotional and just as violent. Dani, whose parents divorced when she was little, grew up without a father and thinks maybe not having a positive male role model or a relationship model allowed her to stay longer in this dysfunctional and painful place. Her mindset, which isn’t uncommon, was to succeed at all costs. She was going to make this work!

The arguments continued and every evening during her walk home from work she would play out the potential scenarios in her head. Will he be nice, will he be picky, will he argue, will he ignore me when I walk through the door? To top it, every chance he could, Maddox would suggest getting a divorce, playing on her childhood anxiety of being abandoned.

‘We can end this now and get a divorce.’

From early on in the relationship Dani would ask herself, ‘What have I done?’. She wanted to leave countless times and yet the voice in her head said 'try harder.' Yes, they tried marriage counselling which enabled Maddox to be nicer for a moment or two, but then revert to ‘being him.’ Dani kept on trying.

She thought moving to a bigger home rather than living in her one bedroom flat would help. It didn’t. Dani soon started to struggle with sleep, and her doctor prescribed her meds. She was diagnosed with insomnia and referred to a sleep clinic where she had to endure sleep monitoring tests wired up to machines. She was prescribed a regimented bedtime routine with a mask and more wires. They had to sleep in separate bedrooms, and still, that didn’t help. Meanwhile, her anxiety continued to escalate, affecting her physically. Mealtimes became particularly painful, suffering from sharp stomach pains to the point of being unable to move. Maddox didn’t care, he found her health issues annoying and another reason to lash out. There was one particular event where she was such a mess Dani walked out and went to her mother. Within an hour she was hospitalised, operated on and then had to reluctantly return home to a man who couldn’t care less about her. She felt alone, anxious, tired, and tormented. He didn’t even bother to come and collect her to bring her home.

So, who called it?

It took a major life event to push Dani to the edge. Jess, a close cousin who lived abroad and was going through some personal issues came to stay with them over Christmas. Dani explains that Jess had been unwell for years, but it never occurred to anyone that her life would end so abruptly. A few months after her visit, Jess passed away. Dani received the call at work, the shock ripped through her and she hurried home to be with her mum and brother. Maddox returned from work later that day and when he heard the news, he shrugged. His cold, uncaring, lack of affection or comforting words was a slap across Dani’s face. Later that evening she sat in the garden staring up at the stars talking to Jess. Jess's death gave Dani the courage to pack a small bag and walk out, never to return. Maddox was so used to Dani coming home after a fight that it took him a while to call and check up on her. When he finally did, she responded “I’m not coming home.’

‘And then it got so much worse.’

I personally don’t like to speculate what people are thinking and why they behave as they do in emotionally charged situations. Whatever he was thinking that allowed him to behave as he did is only known to him. Dani, as his partner of seven years has her theories, and she may be right.

She thinks that the merging of cultures is always hard, coming from an island and growing up in a small community with the dream of getting to the USA or the UK was seen as a major achievement. The reality being so much harder than the dream. It was all hard, and now he was here, alone, divorcing and no longer able to live the life he had become accustomed to. Before she pulled the plug, they were about to sell their home and buy a bigger one. The penny didn’t drop for him until she cancelled the estate agent and he responded by being irrational about everything. Meanwhile, she felt nothing but relief once the decision was made and started to sleep for the first time in 6 years.

In no time, Maddox became unhinged and threatening in behaviour, demanding she return items that weren’t his, turning up at her mother’s home screaming and banging on the front door and more. One specifically stressful incident he was so enraged that the police were called in for assistance. He was arrested and stayed overnight in a cell. The police advised her what to do should he turn up again and he was advised to stay away from her. He was prosecuted, but the judge dismissed the case as a 'domestic dispute.' Dani was terrified. He started calling her every day at work, hanging up if a colleague answered. He threatened to show up at her work. She had to get building security involved to keep her safe. The police at this point were unhelpful and there was little she could do. He would follow her in the car, he would call to say how nice she looked in her new outfit. He was threatening and harassing her daily and she became quite rightfully a nervous wreck, Dani knew she was vulnerable and it put her back into his vicious cycle of emotional abuse.

Her solicitor was honest with her about what she was up against. He wanted to keep her costs as low as possible and he knew how difficult Maddox was being. Considering they had no children together and his abusive behaviour she was advised to share everything 50/50. She wanted to ‘get rid of this man’. You would think this would be enough but he became a ‘money grabbing dick.’ It was as though he had received advice. He was making demands for more than his rightful share.

She had to have the divorce papers served.

Once everything was agreed they had to sell their home and he refused to let anyone in for viewings. Dani laughs, her estate agent was a god who somehow managed to make the sale happen. He wouldn’t even give her access to pack up her belongings when the house was sold. He had illegally changed the locks. On the day of the move Dani arrived with her family, friends, and the removal company and was forced to call the police for assistance to gain access. They had to pack everything on the spot, it was chaos. Dani was embarrassed.

Strangely, after the divorce and the sale of the house, Maddox pretended to be sick, pretended he wanted to return the money and pretended he was sorry. He never returned any of the money. He called non-stop and she was advised to block his number which started a new game of calling from different numbers, which she would then have to block. Ten years on and he hasn’t stopped. He follows her business account on Instagram, to sharing pics on Facebook, commenting inappropriately on posts and finding out about her life through friends. For many years she found it very stressful, draining, and impossible to ignore. Today she finds him an annoyance and it no longer causes her anxiety. She has the legal right to report him but doesn’t want to open that can of worms.

It took Dani therapy and time to heal from the abuse she endured. Fortunately, her next relationship was with a man who was kind, gentle, warm and welcoming. He was the polar opposite of what she had endured. Although this relationship is now over, it was a safe platform for her to heal from the trauma of emotional abuse. The scars this relationship left on Dani are real. She struggles with sleep, the health issues during their marriage stopped her conceiving, and as much as she is relieved that they didn't have a child together it robbed her of being a mum.

She asks why? Why would he still be interested in her life, in her? I wonder too. The truth is only Maddox knows.

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