HAPPINESS IS LIVING LIFE ON MY TERMS
Since splitting from her ex, Tracey’s doing exactly what makes her happy.
I don’t know how I held it together in the days after leaving my husband. I was devastated and heartbroken after discovering the infidelity and his web of lies. Retiring at 48, he wasn’t good at being on his own apparently, and had been having affairs for some time without the expectation that I would ever know about it. And for a long time I didn’t.
Meeting through Sunday Times Dating when I was 40, we’d been married for 10 years and were really happy together. Every day he told me he loved me. We laughed a lot, led a wonderful life, had loads of shared interests and there were no obvious signs that the relationship was in trouble.
I had shifted my life to move to where he was, tearing myself away from the area of Central London where I’d had a flat for years. I’d even taken up golf so we could join a club and play together. We’d made new friends in the area – interestingly he didn’t have any of his own while I still made a lot of effort to see old friends even though I no longer lived near them.
Discovering his affairs came about through a change in his behaviour and a suspect phone message which led me to check his mobile phone bill – something I’d never done before. I soon discovered the truth about what had been going on behind my back – and it wasn’t pretty. At first he tried to fob me off with lies but when one of the women he’d been seeing started stalking me on Twitter and I matched her name to one on the phone bill, I gave him one last chance to tell me everything. He denied there was anything to tell and it was she who revealed the truth. My whole world fell apart.
Devastated as I was, I didn’t take any time off work. I work for myself and was determined that although my marriage was falling apart my business that I’d strived so hard to build would not, so I ploughed on with the project I was working on to get it finished. I could turn up to work, smile and act as if all was rosy in my life, while in the evening, by myself in my flat, I was in bits. I lost my appetite, didn’t want to see anyone and struggled to understand why I hadn’t seen what had been going on.
It turned out he’d been contacting women through a site called Illicit Affairs and when I first discovered his infidelities, I didn’t tell anyone what was happening to me. I just quietly moved out to a rented flat in the area I’d lived in previously, where I felt safe. I was humiliated. I felt rejected and cheated on and lied to. My self-confidence was shattered. In my early 50’s when this happened, I was going through the menopause and felt on the shelf. Going home to the Lake District to see my brother and sister was out of the question as I couldn’t face telling them what had happened, although when I finally did they gave me so much love and support.
“I relished the opportunity to do and be what I wanted”
But after a while I realised how much I’d sacrificed for the relationship and how much I’d lost. Moving out to the suburbs as a couple, I’d missed living in London and the freedom of being single. So while I was deeply disappointed that my marriage hadn’t worked out, increasingly I relished the opportunity to do and be what I wanted. I felt liberated and cut my hair a lot shorter, enjoying the fact that I could just be me without having to consider someone else
Newly single, I joined a choir, socialised and travelled more. I did all the things I’d wanted to do but couldn’t when I was married. I’d always maintained my friendships and I think that’s why I was able to get my life back on track so quickly. And through this process I’ve become much closer to those friends – some old, some new – that have been there supporting me through this.
The first thing I did with my newfound freedom was go to India, a place my ex had never wanted to visit. I was lucky to be financially independent and that gave me choices – and being pretty resilient I had the strength to act on those choices. With no financial dependents to worry about I could be selfish – go where I want, with who I want, when I want to. I’m very open to doing things and now I feel able to just have adventures in ways I couldn’t before. I can go out and stay out late, without worrying about catching the last train home to the suburbs.
“Now I feel able to just have adventures in ways I couldn’t before”
Eventually I’ve come to realise that while I hadn’t been unhappy in my marriage, in many ways I’m much more joyful and comfortable being by myself. I love my girly flat and being back in my neighbourhood. I’m much more myself and love saying yes to things without worrying about someone else, and it’s a joy meeting new people and making different friendships.
The irony is, my ex wants me back. He’s not able to be by himself, says I’m his best friend and he misses our life together. But I don’t want to be in a relationship with him. I’ve lost my trust and respect for him and you can’t have a relationship without that. He says he still loves me, but doesn’t seem to realise what he’s put me through. I forgave him a long time ago but I need to move on. I’m hurt and disappointed but I’m not bitter. I do care about him and want him to be happy, but I don’t need him.
The only thing I miss is physical affection and intimacy, having someone to share the details of my day and my life with with. And hopefully I’ll find that again. I think some friends would feel happier if I were in a relationship. At this stage of life a lot of people aren’t necessarily happy in theirs and perhaps are a bit envious of my freedom, saying “It’s alright for you”, thinking I live the life of Riley. But I’m a glass half full person. I don’t share the bad bits.
“I don’t want to start dating and having someone mould me into a version of me that they like”
I’m not desperate to find someone else though. Although I’d had lots of successful relationship before I met my husband, starting again in your fifties is hard. I don’t want to start dating and having someone mould me into a version of me that they like. But I haven’t called time on love. While I’m not where I thought I’d be in life, I can’t change what happened. I’m just where I am and hopeful there might be room for one more big love.
But right now my life is full and I’m happy, excited about what the future holds and taking any opportunity that comes my way. I’m not naturally selfish but I love the fact that whatever chances come along – work, social, love even – I can just make the decisions purely on how I feel and that’s liberating. It’s something I wasn’t able to do for so long.
Read more on happiness after divorce here.
Pic by Annie Armitage