Till death us do part?
I've been instructed by my solicitor to prove to the court that my husband and I are living ‘Separately’ in the same house (he refuses to move out and I have nowhere else to go, so it's checkmate). ‘I’m not leaving,’ he announces firmly; ‘unless it’s in an armoured vehicle or a box.’
I've always upheld the opinion that writing is therapeutic in dire situations so keeping a daily record of events may be beneficial in dealing with my divorce-related stress. I find that a sense of humour also helps although others may not always share the same sentiment. I feel the only way to deal with marital breakdown is for both parties concerned to be at least civil to each other but in my situation this is just not going to be possible.
For the next fortnight or so (to comply with the legalities) I'm not allowed do any washing, cooking or ironing for my husband and I mustn't sleep in the same bedroom either - not that I want to anyway, but there isn't a spare room. I'm even supposed to keep our financial arrangements separate - now that's a real joke seeing as I have no disposable income.
My solicitor tells me it's an absurd stipulation but it's the law nonetheless and if I want my freedom I have to comply: ‘You have to make an affidavit by swearing on The Bible that you've carried out these instructions to the letter or you won't get your Decree Nisi and then you won't get the Decree Absolute six weeks after that.’
I feel like asking: what if I'm not religious? But he's charging 110 GB pounds per hour plus VAT and at that price I can't afford to be awkward.
Since applying for a divorce, ten months ago, I've still carried on doing everything a wife is expected to do for her husband but only under protest, in order to keep the peace. But my estranged husband is placing every obstacle in my way, even intercepting solicitor's letters and throwing them in the paper bank. He is reluctant to accept duplicate papers from the bailiff who appears on the doorstep and is still under the illusion that he can make me happy after sixteen years of making me unhappy. There is no one else involved in our marital breakdown - we are just totally incompatible.
As I begin to write this account, I have a feeling that meeting the requirements of the affidavit will just make matters worse and I suspect my husband will only get the kids to run around after him if I refuse.
When bridging the gap doesn't work
Thurs May 3rd:
I return home from town at 3.40pm. My husband is back shortly after. Let's call him something else: ‘Mr. Leech’ will do because over the years, he has almost sucked the life-blood out of me. I start to take the family's washing in but leave his on the line. I inform him of my solicitor's advice. He mutters an obscenity in reply. I prepare the children's supper and wash up. Mr. Leech has difficulty in opening a can of oxtail soup for his own meal (this is a man who has attended several army survival courses so I'm not unduly worried). It begins to rain; he reluctantly takes his washing in and dumps it on the dining room floor.
Tonight I decide to sleep with my five year old son; the only alternative is the floor. Mr. Leech objects vehemently, ‘What are you doing in my son's bed?’ he snarls at me.
Trying to sleep, you stupid idiot, I think to myself, but don't actually say it. Blessed is she who is slow to anger.
Friday May 4th:
Mr. Leech leaves his breakfast pots in the sink so they remain there until he returns home from work. ‘They weren't mine anyway, they were Michelle's,’ he smirks, referring to our teenage daughter, when I ask him to wash them.
It's a nice, sunny afternoon so Mr. Leech goes outside to cut the grass. ‘I've cut your half of the lawn too,’ he declares smugly as he comes back in.
I start a separate laundry bag for Mr. Leech's dirty washing. I can do without this really as with four children I already feel like a Chinese laundry; two of them wet the bed so everyday is washday in our household. On sorting through the wash load I find just one item of clothing belonging to Mr. Leech - a pair of ‘Y’ fronts. I place them in the bag but he takes them out and puts them in the washing machine. I take them out again; after all I'm no longer supposed to do it - I swore on the Bible, remember.
‘It's my washer,’ he snaps, delighting in seeing me agitated, ‘I paid for it.’
I say nothing in reply but remove the ‘Y’ fronts from the washer a second time and put them back in the bag. He takes them out... I put them back... the kids laugh, all highly amused at this new adult game.
‘Be quiet,’ he tells them sternly, ‘or you'll annoy that madwoman.’ Later, Mr. Leech tells me to pull my weight because I'm not doing anything for him. I'm a very long-suffering person as a rule but I do have P.M.T today and if he's not careful he might end up with a knife in his back - long before this fortnight is up (if he thinks I'm mad anyway I can easily plead insanity at my trial).
But then again, it might not be necessary to resort to such drastic means as he is now attempting to eat some of the half-cooked chicken casserole I'm preparing for lunch tomorrow. If salmonella bugs will do the trick why should I make a nasty stain on the carpet at the risk of a life sentence?
Mr. Leech eventually decides against stealing my casserole and opens another can of oxtail soup, this time avoiding a struggle with the tin-opener because the can has a ring-pull attachment.
Saturday May 5th:
The kids are home for the long, Bank Holiday weekend. My period arrives so I'm not feeling quite as murderous as yesterday. Mr. Leech takes umbrage at something I say and throws me out of the back door. I promptly come back in and throw him out. I'm quite pleased with myself as I'm only five feet nothing. He has a scratch on his nose and says I've knocked his glasses out of alignment. ‘Next time you'll be mincemeat,’ I warn him, wielding a lethal-looking Tupperware implement at him.
Sunday May 6th:
The ‘Y’ fronts have now been joined by several pairs of socks and a vest which Mr. Leech has sneaked into the washer when my back was turned. His clean washing from last Thursday is still lying in an unruly heap on the dining room floor and it is now beginning to smell distinctly mouldy.
Bank holiday Monday:
Mr. Leech has to work until late evening so no nasty confrontations with him today - the kids drive me nuts instead.
Tuesday May 8th:
Another easy day as Mr. Leech is working late again. Why doesn't he get a job on an oil rig or something? We'd get along perfectly.
Wednesday May 9th:
Another two weeks before I see my solicitor again. This morning I'm out at my writer's circle. Mr. Leech meets up with me later to do the weekly shopping. Strictly speaking, I'm not supposed to go anywhere with him, but how else can I get the shopping home? We live in an isolated spot, nobody delivers and I can't drive. Ours is a family which easily gets through two loaves of bread and a six pints of milk everyday - there is no way I can struggle with all that on the bus.
What to do in a loveless marriage?
Thursday May 10th:
Mr. Leech eventually washes his ‘Smalls’ in the sink. ‘Is that his entire week's washing?’ my friend asks in disbelief when she sees them hanging out to dry. ‘The dirty so-and-so!’
Friday May 11th:
Drawing the line at ironing, Mr. Leech gets our thirteen year old daughter to do it, and then she becomes verbally abusive towards me too. It seems I'm bound to get it in the neck from someone whatever I do or don't do. Mr. Leech is trying to turn the kids against me now. I console myself by thinking that they'll perhaps understand the situation more fully in years to come.
Saturday May 12th:
I've now developed permanent backache because of sleeping in a child-size bed with my youngest son. The children just want things to stay as they are and according to them I am the baddy for wanting to split up our family. No use trying to talk to them about the pain and loneliness of sharing your life with someone who cares little for your happiness and just treats you as a possession - someone to wash, clean and cook. Why didn't he just stay with his mother if that's all he wanted from a woman?
Sunday May 13th:
By now I'm settling into my even-more-chaotic-than-usual routine and if I try to avoid conflict with Mr. Leech, things aren't too unbearable. It is not addressing the issue but how can you begin to get out of such a mess when the person you're dealing with won't even acknowledge there’s something wrong. Throughout our marriage he has chosen to sweep all the marital problems under the carpet. He refuses point blank to go to marriage guidance or family therapy so what can I do?
Monday May 14th:
A relatively uneventful day as Mr. Leech is late home. He's upstairs and I'm downstairs. We're as good as separated anyway - divorce or not.
Tuesday May 15th:
I receive a letter from my solicitor which confirms the requirements I have to meet. I think I'm doing pretty well so far under the circumstances. And all with no recourse to Prozac, alcohol or any other mind-altering substances although I find I'm in need of an Aspirin or three after composing a lengthy reply to the aforementioned solicitor's letter. Divorce-related stress is proving just as painful as my marriage.
Wednesday May 16th:
I call in at the solicitors and give him my reply so he can prepare a statement before my appointment next week. Why does no-one forewarn you of all this when you get married? The one person who should respect you treats you badly because they know you can't escape. You have nowhere else to go and have given up financial independence to raise a family. It's all about power - or rather the abuse of it.
Tammy Wynette - D.I.V.O.R.C.E
Thursday May 17th:
A man from the Social Services comes round at my request. ‘I can't cope with my family,’ I told them last week when I called at their office, ‘What, if anything, can you do about it?’ He takes down all the relevant details and says he'll be in touch. Maybe some nice, kind-hearted person will offer to babysit my entire family so I can go on a long overdue holiday. As we are talking, a large rat scurries past the patio door and the Social Services man says he thinks I may need help from the Environmental Health department as well.
Friday May 18th:
I make curry for supper tonight because I know Mr. Leech hates anything spicy and will therefore have to prepare his own meal. For the past few days he's been eating everyone else's leftovers, instead of preparing something fresh himself. There is no need for him to go hungry... in the garage is a chest freezer full of ready meals which is large enough to accommodate a body - don't tempt me.
Saturday May 19th:
Mr. Leech is feeling decidedly ill (maybe he misses my cooking). Now I'm a compassionate soul by nature and find myself faced with a moral dilemma here. Do I cheerfully play the part of Florence Nightingale at peril of not getting my divorce or do I ignore his desperate pleas for a cup of tea in bed and leave him to die peacefully?
This could be useful!
Sunday May 20th:
For most of the day Mr. Leech stays in bed. I potter around the house trying not to disturb him - he's even grumpier than usual when he's dying.
Would you put up with a lousy marriage for the sake of the children?
Divorce Court - why not air your differences with your spouse on the air?!
Monday May 21st:
An Environmental Health official calls round... it seems like the man from the Social Services wasn't joking. ‘I hear you're having a bit of bother with a rat,’ he says, poison at the ready.
‘Oh yes, but he's unavailable at the moment,’ I can't resist saying, but my humour is wasted on him.
Tuesday May 22nd:
At lunchtime Mr. Leech is sent home from work - still ill. He makes an appointment to see the Doctor. He says he has a pain in his right testicle and is convinced he has testicular cancer (at least it’s one thing he can't blame on me). This sends me rushing off in search of the health insurance documents. Would I be better off financially if I became a widow rather than a divorcee I wonder? Just one more question to ask the solicitor tomorrow...
© 2015 Stella Kaye