Divorce Club provides support, advice, divorce stories and a community for people starting again and coping with divorce. The main purpose of this site is to help you feel supported and understood. With 250,000 people divorcing every year (and this does not include breakups), you do not need to go through this alone.
Most people have been touched by infidelity in their lives, whether it be directly, or as the family or friend of someone who has had an affair. It is estimated that roughly 30% to 60% of all married individuals (in the United States) will engage in infidelity at some point during their marriage.
Affairs are common and people have been having them for as long as marriage has been around. But the reaction to someone having an affair is often one of harsh judgement.
So if you are having an affair and asking yourself “should I end my marriage?” how do you make the decision?
Where do you turn if you want advice?
Confiding or getting advice during an affair is nigh on impossible because (a) your affair is a secret and (b) the moment you admit to your situation, your confidante will have strong opinions about what you are doing. Even if you speak to a friend who can listen without judging, you cannot really know what the response will be until it is too late, and it is frightening putting your secret into someone else’s hands.
Here at Divorce Club, we neither condone nor condemn people who are unfaithful.
The bottom line is that people are flawed and fallible. We make mistakes. There are so many reasons for relationships to hit a rocky patch and there are so many ways we can cause hurt to our husband or wife. An affair is just one way to hurt someone else amongst others like ignoring a spouse, intimidation, controlling behaviour, taking someone for granted, never prioritising your partners’ needs, addiction to substances, work, the internet… and many other examples.
Given how difficult it is to find a sympathetic ear, you may be feeling very alone and under pressure to decide what to do next. Most people do not intend to have affairs. How or why they start varies massively from person to person, but once an affair is underway it can incite a lot of powerful emotions including guilt, excitement, happiness, a sense of being alive again or ignited, and self-loathing.
You want to keep the good feelings but get rid of the guilt and self-loathing and the obvious way to do that is to leave your marriage because the feelings you want to get rid of are associated with the spouse you feel guilty about and the vows you feel unhappy about breaking.
All the positive feelings are associated with the new person in your life, excitment, connection, intimacy, lust, a sense of you both against the world – star crossed lovers.
So should I leave my marriage to be with my lover or end the affair?
How do you weigh up one against the other?
You and your spouse have history, a connection (perhaps lost at present), possibly children. You may still love your spouse. Yes – it is possible to love two people at once. Before you throw out your marriage, make sure it is the right thing to do. Not because ending a marriage is necessarily wrong (we are the Divorce Club after all), but because you might be ending your marriage for the wrong reasons and come to regret it.
Although a marriage often can’t survive the aftermath of an affair, those couples that do stay together after infidelity often report being stronger than ever before, being more understanding of each others’ needs and enjoying a rekindling of former passion and intimacy. Could this happen to you? Would you want it to?
How do you know if you should leave your marriage?
Try to set aside to do some thinking rather than getting caught up with the whirlwind of emotions. Not easy, but try.
When you think about your spouse or long term partner versus the new person who has entered your life, try to compare like with like. Remember when you first met your spouse, you probably also had strong, intoxicating feelings for them too. Remember what it was about your spouse that you fell in love with. Often people have affairs with people who are a bit like their spouse USED TO BE. Even if your new partner wanted to settle down for a lifetime with you, what would a few years of living together do to your relationship?
Research has shown that of people who marry their lovers after an affair, 75% will divorce. Will you be in the 25% or the 75%?
Think about why you are having the affair.
There are so many reasons to have affairs and covering them all is beyond the scope of this article. But more often than not it is because a certain need isn’t being met in your marriage. Here are a few things to consider:
Were you bored?
Had your sex life dried up?
Were you feeling ignored or neglected?
Did children come along and push you or your spouse away?
Did you ask your spouse for something and have your request denied/ ignored leaving you feeling unloved?
Did you feel unloved?
Did you feel disrespected?
Did you feel like you and your spouse had nothing in common?
Did you or your spouse stop finding each other attractive?
Were money problems causing you or your spouse to pull away?
Was there verbal or physical aggression?
Is there an issue with mental health?
Is there an issue with addiction?
Was there a death of someone near to you or your spouse that caused a rift in the relationship?
Are there overbearing family members that make you feel unrespected or marginalised?
Think about the difficulties in your marriage and try to separate out the things that could be made better versus the things that probably can’t. Ask yourself whether you have given your spouse a fair chance to fix these things. Imagine a future where you were together and things were better. How would you get to that point? Is it possible that you could? What would he or she have to do to to help make it happen?
If you think you may end the marriage so that you can be with the person you are having an affair with think about what needs they fulfil. Do any of these needs overlap with your marriage? If you were to leave your spouse for your new love, are there any needs that might not be met in your new relationship? Very few long term relationships are trouble free. You just have to pick the troubles you are happy to work through!
The honeymoon period goes on and on in an affair, but once you transition from affair to relationship, you have the same difficulties as any other couple. You may even find that you bring exactly the same problems to this partnership because of behaviour that you repeat from your last relationship.
Thinking about children
When you have children in a marriage, the stakes are a lot higher.
Ultimately children flourish best in a stable and happy home environment whether that be a happy marriage or an amicable divorce. An acrimonious divorce is the worst possible outcome for them.
For this reason you might want to think carefully about how much you reveal if you stay in or leave the marriage. For many people an affair is a deal-breaker, the end of a marriage or partnership because of the betrayal of trust and the sheer difficulty of getting over the thought of you sleeping with someone else. Whatever your spouse may or may not have done to make you look elsewhere could be swiftly overlooked as they take on the role of victim. Sadly, society is complicit in this and affairs can quickly reduce two people in a marriage to the roles of villain and victim.
But not everyone thinks in black and white. Some partnerships are stronger than they look and some people have the emotional capacity to work through an affair, taking a long hard look at what has caused the rift in the marriage.
If this happens to you and your spouse, your affair could actually be a positive turning point in the marriage. But there will be some soul searching ahead and you will probably have to work hard to show that you can be trusted – being open with your communications and your whereabouts accounted for.
Should I leave my marriage? A question too big to resolve on your own?
I can’t emphasise enough how important it is for you to talk to someone if you are weighing up leaving your marriage for someone else. Think very, very carefully who that person is though. Your best option if you can afford it, is to speak to a therapist – either a counsellor, a psychologist, a psychotherapist or a relationship coach. They will keep your information confidential and should not be partisan or judgemental. They can help you explore things that may give you some clarity over whether you should leave your marriage or not.
Divorce can lead to a happier life and give you an opportunity for a fresh start. But divorce after an affair can be particularly acrimonious and have devastating effects on your friendships, family and children. If you leave your marriage for a new partner, the devastation will all be brought into your new relationship so you and your new partner will need to be prepared for a rocky start. The statistical chance of surviving is low and so you stand to lose a lot. Know this and be prepared for it.
If you were hoping this article would give you the answer and instead it’s just given you more questions – that’s because only you can make this decision! But the questions above should give you some food for thought and clarity, which can be deepened by talking to a professional about your dillemma.
Whatever you decide, good luck in your fresh start – either in your marriage or outside it.
The case of Owens Vs Owens could potentially change how divorce is done in the UK. When Tini Owens filed for divorce from her husband Hugh Owens, she did not suspect that her divorce would be one of the 1% that are declined by the court.
Having been married for nearly 40 years, she decided to leave her husband and file for divorce on the grounds of “Unreasonable behaviour”. She cited a numerous 27 examples of unreasonable behaviour but the judge was having none of it. Even more unusual is that her divorce petition was also rejected by the court of appeal who astonishingly said, that her husband’s behaviour was “to be expected in a marriage” and that “parliament has decreed that it is not a ground for divorce that you find yourself in a wretchedly unhappy marriage”.
Tini Owens’ next step is to take her case to the Supreme Court where her lawyers will argue that Ms Owens should not have to prove her husband’s unreasonable behaviour at all.
Hugh Owens does not want a divorce and says that they should be enjoying the last years of their life together, despite the fact that they have been living apart for nearly 2 years.
The grounds for divorce
Under English law, you must be married for at least one year before you can divorce, and you can only divorce for one of 5 reasons:
Separation for 2 years and no party contesting the divorce
Separation for 5 years (no consent for divorce is required)
In the case of adultery and unreasonable behaviour, you must blame your spouse, which means that they are allowed to contest your claims. Most don’t contest the allegations, but if they do, the plaintiff must then prove that their spouse was unreasonable or committed adultery AND that they find it intolerable to live with their cheating husband or wife.
Over half of divorces are sought on the grounds of unreasonable behaviour but over 27% of the plaintiffs admit that the unreasonable behaviours cited were trumped up just to make sure that the divorce went through quickly.
Lawyers and the public want “no-fault” divorces
Lawyers have been petitioning since 1990s for “no-fault” divorces and many other countries including the USA, Australia, Canada and New Zealand all have no-fault divorces.
Resolution, a national organisation of family lawyers committed to non-confrontational divorce, found that nine in 10 family practitioners think the law should be modernised to include no-blame divorces. Margaret Heathcote, Resolution’s national chair, said: ‘It is ridiculous that, in the 21st century, Mrs Owens has had to go to the highest court in the land in order to try to get her divorce. Resolution will be at the Supreme Court next month as interveners, showing our support for Mrs Owens and countless others like her who are either trapped in a loveless marriage and unable to get on with their lives; or forced to assign blame in order to do so. It’s outdated, it’s unfair and it’s time for things to change.’
Another problem we encounter at Divorce Club is that there is a lot of misunderstanding about blame and divorce. Many of our member believe that it is advantageous to be the ones filing for the divorce and thus doing the blaming, as they think that this will make the financial settlement more generous in their favour. This is not true. The financial statement and the custody is separate from the divorce petition.
Our members at Divorce Club also cite how unhelpful it is to have to blame someone at what is already a difficult time. Several members actually reported arguing over who should be filing for divorce and found that it made discussions around financial settlements and custody get off on the wrong foot.
One common misconception that we encounter at Divorce Club is that it is advantageous to be the ones filing for the divorce and so blaming their partner, as they think that this will make the financial settlement more generous in their favour. This is not true. The financial statement and the custody is separate from the divorce petition.
Marriages end all the time and in nearly all cases, both parties are to blame, and at the same time, no one is to blame. The truth is that people grow apart, and that we all have flaws which means that we do make mistakes. The compassionate divorce is one where both can say that they entered the marriage with love and the best intentions, but that the years of happiness are over. A no-blame divorce would make it easier for couples to thank each other for the good times and wish each other luck with the next chapter of their lives.
When Meghan Markle was going through the heartbreak of a divorce, she probably did not imagine that she would marry royalty. Unfortunately the royals are now all taken but there is nothing stopping you from marrying someone better, after all, if the royal family can now accept a divorcee, so can anyone.
A lot of people report making a better choice for the second marriage as they know what they want, and what they don’t.
Here are some others who have made a better choice second time (or third) time round:
After the death of his first wife, Linda McCartney, Paul sought comfort with model Heather Mills. It was soon clear that she was NOT a nice person. All kinds of reports of her bullying and unkindness were coming out from baby sitters, to the charities she worked for. Even the judge at court called her a “liar” and “fantasist”, and then just to help her public image, she poured a glass of water over Paul’s barrister.
Now Paul McCartney is with a very successful woman (Nancy Shevell) who does not need his money. They can go on holiday without the entourage of make-up artist, body-guard and random-friend-from-Tenerife. The best part of all is that his children like her and so he has since been spending more time with them.
Petite Desperate Housewives actress Eva Longoria, is now on her third marriage, and each husband has been better than the last: The first marriage was to some little known TV actor (Tyler Christopher). Her second marriage was to a French professional basketball player Tony Parker. Her most recent marriage is to a media tycoon (José Antonio “Pepe” Bastón Patiño). Each marriage has lasted a little longer. Her current marriage is about to celebrate its 4th anniversary and Eva is about to have her first child. Let’s hope it’s three times a charm
Martha Dandridge Custis and George Washington, 1759
So technically Martha Dandridge was not divorced but widowed. Nevertheless, she did remarry the fabulously wealthy founding father George Washington to become America’s first First Lady. Not bad going!
John Lennon and Cynthia Lennon
Cynthia was with John before he was famous and in her biography recounts that she found his transition to fame challenging. She wrote about his alleged drug and alcohol fuelled behaviourt, he was also abusive and cheated on her with many other women. So while her second husband was less famous, it sounded like divorce was for the best.
John was already seeing Yoko when he divorced his first wife Cynthia in 1968. Cynthia actually discovered their affair when she returned home and found them both in their robes. For his part, John married someone quirky and arty and was inspired to write some of his best music.
Born in the USA rock star Bruce Springsteen met Patti Scialfa in a bar in the 1980s. Patti was an accomplished singer song writer in her own right and was in the band E Street Band. The actually toured together, and according to Bruce’s band member, were about to become a couple when Springsteen was introduced to a model called Julianne Phillips. She acted a little too but was mainly known for being Springsteen’s wife.
Two years later, Springsteen came to his senses and got together with Patti and they have been together for over 30 years and have 3 children together. They have supported each other musically and are both in the Rock and Roll in the Hall of Fame. What a talented couple!
Tina Turner may have thought she had hit the big time when she married music mogul Ike Turner, but this relationship was notorious for its turmoil. She was beaten, cheated, abused and eventually found the courage to leave. She famously had no money whatsoever from this divorce despite being one of the most famous and brilliant stars of her time.
We are glad that she found love. She is now in a couple with an immensely successful music producer Erwin Bach worth £50,000,000. They were together 27 years before tying the knot in 2013. In this time he helped her feel loved, get over the abuse she suffered and feel happiness again. They are Simply the Best!
We hope that these stories give you hope that you can do better second time round with all that valuable knowledge and experience from your first marriage.
The photo for this articles is By Mark Jones – Cropped from Flickr version: https://www.flickr.com/photos/rambomuscles/27537241539, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=65635766
Drinking during your divorce is a common coping mechanism but while it offers momentary release, it’s not a good way to go. Alcohol is a depressant and drinking too much impacts health, energy and mood for the worse. Coping with the stresses of divorce is made many times worse when hungover, exhausted or low.
There are many other alternatives to drinking to help calm your mind including exercise, meditation and seeking out art and culture. But let’s face it, sometimes you just want an easy fix.
So here are 7 things to reach for when you want a drink but don’t want to take yourself down. Grab a glass, take the weight off and chillax…
1. Monte Rosso Spritzer: £2.55 per 275ml, Ocado
Monte Rosso is a sparkling drink in the style of a classic Italian aperativo. Although it is fruit based, it has botanicals to give it a bit of pep and some bitters to give it a bit of interest and sophistication.
2. Seedlip Garden 108: £26.00 (currently on special for £22.00) for 70cl, Ocado
Seedlip is the best gin alternative we’ve tasted. Designed to be served with a mixer (tonic/ soda/ bitter lemon) this is a complex and peppy drink with a blend of botanicals that gives it complexity and interest. The 108 version is the most gin like but there is also a spiced version for a more clovey, wintry drink. It is priced like a gin, so it’s not a cheap alternative. But if drinking less at home is your aim, this is definitely one for the drinks cupboard.
3. Sainsburys Low Alcohol Cider: £1.10 for 500ml
It genuinely tastes like cider – a sweetish cider but if cider is your tipple, this will absolutely do the trick. Made by Weston and Sons in Herefordshire, who know their stuff when it comes to cider. There is a tiny bit of alchol in this (0.9% vol)
4. Bees Knees Sparkling: £3.50 for 75cl, Morrisons
A refreshing and finely balanced non-alcoholic drink combining sparkling fermented grape juice blended with green tea. The green tea adds dryness and balances the sweetness. Wine is always particularly hard to replace but this version makes a good fist of it.
5. Erdinger Alkoholfrei, 0.5%: £1.29 for 500ml, Morrisons
Erdinger is a wheat beer and one of the good ones. It has a strong wheaty taste and while it cannot completely escape the slightly tinniness of alcohol free beers, it does actually have an enjoyable taste. B12 and folic acid have been added to create an isotonic drink that theoretically help to support the immune system, a healthy healthy beer!
6. Sainsbury’s Low Alcohol Czech Lager £1.00 for 500ml
Light-bodied with bitter hop notes and a fresh finish. Chill it down well and if you find yourself wanting to reach for a lager, this should satisfy the urge. The taste is fresh and crisp, slightly hoppy but not too intense, so those wanting a lighter beer will find this perfectly acceptable.
7. Eisberg Sparkling Blanc: £3.99 for 750ml, Waitrose Cellar
Eisberg have been going strong since the ’80s. While alcohol free wine rarely lives up to the expectation, this one is certainly a bit more satisfying than most. With citrus and peach flavours, the fizz makes it one for the summer nights.
We know about the physical health benefits of exercise. We also know that exercise as simple as walking helps with mood.
In fact if there was a daily pill that you could reduce your blood pressure, reduce your risk of cancer, diabetes, heart disease, improve your sleep and help you lose weight…… we would all be taking this pill. This pill is exercise.
If that was not enough encouragement, there is now research showing that it also helps your brain. A lot of people talk about how a nasty breakup really affects their thinking to the extent that it is hard to work or concentrate on anything. We have looked at the research to show you 5 important facts about exercise and the brain to try and encuorage you to get active again.
You can start exercising and find improvements at any age
Young adults who were split into two groups where one ran for 30 minutes and the others did not showed, a significant improvement in visuospatial memory and mood.
A study of all the research, covering over 2000 adults of different ages found that processing speed, memory and attention improved with exercise. .
It has also been shown to help you think more flexibly. This might be a useful skill to help you think in a more positive way about the change in your marital status and embrace your future.
You do not have to exercise for hard or long – Moderate exercise is the name of the game
Researchers looked at all the studies on exercise intensity and cognition and found that exercise in moderate amounts and in moderate intensity was all you needed for improvments in well-being and thinking skills.
What is moderate exercise? According to the research, it is activity which is burns of 3 to 6 times more energy than when you are sitting or walking very slowly. This will vary from person to person depending on age and fitness. In general terms, this could include a hike, heavy clearning (e.g. vacuuming or washing windows), doubles tennis or slow bike ride (10-12 mph). Intense exercise jogging at 6mph, singles tennis, carrying heavy loads or shovelling.
The exercise should also be around 3-4 times a week for 30 minutes according to Professor Wendy Suzuki
Exercise can help prevent Alzheimer’s disease and dementia and turn around some declines in cognition
Exercise seems to strengthen areas associated with dementias including Alzheimer’s disease. This means that if you do have the misfortune of dementia, it will appear later and progress more slowly as the areas of brain associated with these conditions are stronger.
Dementia is not the only condition that causes a decline in thinking, moderate heart failure and depression can also lead to reduced cognitive ability. Given that divorce can lead to depression, you may have noticed your own thinking getting slower, finding it harder to concentration or remember things.
Exercise can improve your brain cells and connectivity
As mentioned above, certain areas associated with memory become stronger and actually increase in volume, such as the hippocampus and prefrontal cortex.
Last year, a break through study with mice gave us an even deeper understanding of how exercise affects the brain. The brains of inactive mice were compared with the brains of mice that were made to run for a week on the wheels in their cages. The brains of the active mice had more new neurons that were better connected and more developed. Many of these neurons were in brain areas linked with thinking skills such as memory and that are associated with dementia.
The effects of exercise can be immediate
Exercise releases hormones such as dopamine, serotonin and noradrenaline which can improve mood. However, research shows that chemicals can also improve focus, our ability to shift attention, and our reaction times. These effects can last for over 2 hours. For these improvements to be more lasting, one needs to improve cardiorespiratory functioning (which you can do through….exercise of course!).
So if you can do one thing which will make you feel better right now, just go for a moderate walk around the block and feel the benefits.
It is also good news to know that you can hate exercise such as the gym, running, swimming or anything that makes you sweat, and still experience improvements, as moderate exercise is really not too demanding. So find something which can make you move….at least moderately.
Sex is one of the most defining features of a marriage and yet it is also the one people most often struggle to talk about which can leave many people wondering what is a “normal” amount of sex in a marriage. There even seems to be contradicting beliefs and actions around sex. A recent survey from the Observer found that 69% of married people felt that you could have a happy marriage without sex. However, other research shows that difficulties with sexual relations is the most common reason for infidelity in both men and women.
In this article, we consider how important sex is, some of the issues that can lead to sexual dissatisfaction and some tips about whether or not these difficulties can be overcome.
How much marital sex is normal?
We all accept that sex will diminish from those heady first days where you could not get enough of each other. This is because our bodies produce more testosterone in the first couple of months which then tail off leading to a reduction in libido.
The next sex-killer is the baby. A survey from Netmums found that a whopping 80% of women reported having less sex. As much as you may (or may not) have enjoyed those early years, there is no doubt that the sheer exhaustion means that the only thing that couples think of when they see a bed is how many hours sleep that they can have interrupted.
So what does the research say about the diminishment? A study published in the Archives of Sexual Behaviour actually found that the amount of sex that married couples have has declined from 10 years ago. Married couples are having sex 16 times less a year and now have a sex an average of 51 times a year. The decline has been attributed to the increase in competing activities meaning that we might prefer a Netflix session rather than a kinky session.
What is the optimum amount of sex?
The actual amount of sex that correlates with happy marriages is once a week according to a study of almost 30,000 Americans. More sex than this did not necessarily lead to an increase in happiness. Although weekly sex is associated with greater happiness it is not necessarily the cause of more happiness. It is possible that happier couples simply want to engage in more intimacy. In fact, one study found that when they asked couples to increase the frequency of sex, led to a decline in the wanting and enjoyment of sex.
The other factor to consider is whether your sex drives are compatible. A British study found that 15% of men and 34% of women said that they are not really interested in having sex. So having mismatched libidos is not an uncommon scenario.
“The early part of our relationship was practically entirely spent in the bedroom. Over the years, the sex became less and less frequent and I accepted this as normal” says Justine, 46. “This has made me feel totally unattractive, I miss the playfulness of sex and I miss the sex itself. I sometimes wonder whether I can deal with this for the rest of my life?”
Another issue can be about the type of sex which you both enjoy and what turns you both off. Reema noticed that her husband had more ‘kinky tastes’, “At first I thought it was quite fun to push the boundaries of my sexuality but then his desires were just too extreme. I tried to compromise and try things, I went to a sex club and tried to ignore the things he was saying during the sex. The more he pushed, the more I began to dread sex and so the less frequent it became. I wish he had been honest from the get go about what he wanted”.
Other common reasons for not wanting sex
The lack of interest in sex should always be explored with a therapist as they might be other reasons underlying the loss of libido.
A study on the libido of tens of thousands of people found that lack of interest can be due to:
Not enjoying the marital sex
Not feeling emotionally close
Not being able to talk about sex
Bad sexual experiences in the last year
Problematic beliefs around sex (e.g. it is sinful)
Early sexual experience were also important at influencing women, but not men’s, interest in sex. Women who had poor early sexual experiences, for example, if they felt pressured or out of control in when they lost their virginity, had lower libido. On the other hand, performance anxiety is something which troubles men more but not women so much.
All of these difficulties (bar poor health) can be addressed with the help of a skilled therapist. A therapist might also help a couple explore difficult sexual dynamics:
“After the birth of my first child, my wife was often too tired for sex. When I tried to be affectionate, she would pull away thinking that I was initiating sex. After a while, we would sleep back to back and there was no kind of physical affection, let alone physical intimacy. We began to feel very distant. A therapist helped us slowly introduce physical contact and rediscover our physical relationship. The talking also meant we felt emotionally closer”.
How to manage a lack of intimacy
As therapists, we always suggest the following to couples with sex difficulties.
Talk – This will be the most important factor to determine whether or not you can resolve it. Plan a good time to talk about this (not when you are in bed having just been rebuffed or having done the rebuffing). Ahead of this talk think carefully about what you want, what you do not want and where you can compromise.
Listen openly – You will need to be mindful of feeling defensive during this conversation. You might have to admit that you have not made efforts to help sexuality, watching too much TV or maybe not taking care of yourself. No-one is saying that you need to be a model but self-care is a form of loving yourself. You especially need to be open if you are giving similar messages to your partner.
Be patient – First you will need time for the less keen partner to understand what the block is. Secondly, you will need time to re-build the intimacy.
Ban sex – Sometimes this issue of sex can become so emotive and contentious that it is helpful to ban sex altogether. While this might sound counter-intuitive, knowing that sex is off the table can allow intimacy to increase.
Gradual approach – Once sex is off the table, you can safely get more sexual. Discuss what the first steps to intimacy might be. It might be starting off with a romantic dinner, showering together, a quick kiss before you go to work. It might feel awkward at first but it will get easier. That is the point.
Explore and compromise – You will both need to explore what you can compromise and tolerate: how much/little sex, what sex acts etc. Remember, you are both allowed to want things and if over this exploration period, you will learn what it is you can or cannot live without, or what you are prepared to tolerate to keep your partner happy.
Have fun in other ways – Research has found that doing any new activity, and particularly playful ones can rekindle intimacy. Basically, any activity that promotes laughter is likely to ease the tension and lead to openness. So go to see a comedy night, go bowling, go to your local mini golf…. the opportunities are endless.
If you can’t find this balance, it might be that you cannot continue as a couple but at least you know you will both have done everything possible to make it work.
Benjamin (name has been changed) was new to online dating after a messy divorce. He had plucked up the courage to invite a lady out and had picked a nice bar to meet her in. “At first I just thought she was just late, then I started to worry that something bad had happened to her. After waiting nearly 2 hours, he left the bar worried about her safety, a bit self-conscious for siting alone for so long and thoroughly disappointed that all that effort had come to nothing. Benjamin asked the lady to let him know she was alright but she never answered, and shortly after, he was blocked from communicating with her. “I was shocked”, Benjamin said, “I was the one who had been treated badly and yet instead of an apology, she was the one blocking me!”
Benjamin was the victim of a 21st centuary dating phenomenon known as ‘ghosting’. This is where someone you had previously been in touch with just stops returning any communication with you. This can even happen to people who are in relationships. What is more suprising is that this is not a rare phenomenon and that there is a whole raft of bad dating behaviours that were not around before online dating. For example, people might be sleeping with several people, people lie about all kinds of things and cancel dates moments before meeting.
Rachel New, a London Dating Coach and member of the Divorce Club, was fed up of this type of rude and hurtful dating etiquette and so has just published some new guidelines on dating.
“Many people are frustrated by what they see as a lack of respect by online daters. Members of our Divorce Club are often shocked when they start online dating for the first time. There are so many unwritten rules about dating, and many of them seem to suggest it’s OK to treat each other worse than they would if they met face to face,” says Rachel.
“But there are lots of decent people out there, hopefully including you!” Rachel believes you can make your dating more efficient by signing up to her Code of Conduct by putting it on their dating profiles, to signal that they want to treat people well online. Then other decent daters will be more likely to message them and they’ll both be able to make the process of finding a date more efficient and pleasant.
“It’s up to us to challenge the bad social norms of dating that have gradually emerged,” Rachel insists. “It’s not about being holier-than-thou, but saying we want to try to improve things.”
Rachels dating nicely code includes the following:
Treating people online as you would your friends
Being honest with facts and photos on your profile
To formally end online conversations rather than just disappearing
Try not to cancel online dates, especially on the day
Not to manipulate the other person into bed
Let people know if you do or don’t want to see them again
Not to date other people if you have agreed to be exclusive.
Read Rachel’s Dating Nicely Code here and spread the word!
If you are left scratching your head as to why your marriage ended, we have trawled the media to find out the weirdest reasons for divorce. We hope that you will feel better reading about how someone married a person much weirder than your ex!
They weren’t what they seemed
Two stories from Saudi Arabia are of men who divorced their wives just days after their wedding, because they saw their new brides without their make-up. But perhaps the worst story is of a Chinese man who is alleged to have divorced his wife of several years upon learning his wife had had major plastic surgery. He had never suspected that her looks were not natural until they had a child and he found that the child looked nothing like either of them. He confronted her and was horrified to learn the truth.
Who ever said beauty on the inside was more important?!
Size does matter
In 2007 it is said that a Nigerian woman divorced her husband because his penis was too big. They did not even manage to consumate the marriage! She described the experience of trying to have sex as “a nightmare” – bit harsh for the poor guy, no sex, divorced and a savage put down!
My wife is evil
Literally! An Italian man tried to divorce his wife as he believed she was possessed by the devil. He claimed that since 2007, he had seen her do unnatural things such as odd body-stiffening and strangest of all, he alleges to have seen her levitate. The judge did grant a divorce after several attempts but reassuringly refused to blame the wife. She is still out there and as far as we know, has not been exorcised so gentleman beware and women, beware of this Italian man who is also still on the loose. Not sure who is worse?
The Trump Card
American woman Gayle McCormick,left her husband after 22 years of marriage after she found out he had plans to vote for Trump. Gayle was not the only woman who cannot stand political differences, former White House Communications Director Anthony Scarmucci’s wife divorced him as soon as she found out he was going to work for Trump. Seems like that comb-over and small hands (and questionnable policies) do turn off some women.
One woman in the US filed for divorce just 2 months after their wedding. The reason: he forgot to update his status to Married. Sound strange? Apparently not: Recent research found that 1 in 5 marriages end in part due to questionnable activity on social media! So make sure you’re careful when you go through your profile and start defriending, editing and deleting or you could get unfollowed in a major way.
What’s that smell?
One woman divorced her husband because he didn’t shower for 8 weeks. You think that’s bad? One Taiwanese man divorced his wife this year because she only took a bath once a year!
I wouldn’t bet on that…
A Russian man used his wife as the stake in a poker game. Yes it was this century… Sigh.
He lost. When his opponent turned up to claim his “winnings”, the wife unsurprisingly lost it and filed for divorce.
Ironically she ended up falling for the man who had “won” her in the game of cards.
It’s me or the dog
In Romania, a woman divorced her husband for feeding all the stray dogs in the neighbourhood. It was OK when he started saving scraps of food for the odd one or two dogs but by the end of the marriage they were eating the couple out of house and home. When she realised the house was out of food (again) she filed for divorce.
… or cat
Similarly, an Israeli man divorced his wife after the 550 – yes that’s right, 550 – cats she had adopted got a bit much.
… or camel
A man in Saudi divorced his wife because she said she preferred her father’s camel to him. I guess he got the hump…
Well, he is kinda cute…
In India, a woman divorced her husband because he wouldn’t let her watch soap operas. Also in India a man divorced his wife because she didn’t enjoy rom coms. It’s pretty unusual for men to be that committed to a romantic comedy but to divorce over it? Apparently, he viewed it as a sign that he was not compatible with his wife.
Yum yum in my tum
A man in England divorced his wife for “maliciously and repeatedly” serving him a dish he hated: tuna casserole. Two things: (a) that sounds rank and (b) it’s not the 1950’s – maybe cook your own dinner…
And finally… a sticky situation
Also in England, a women filed for divorce because her husband had not spoken to her for 15 years. He had communicated with her, but only by Post-it note.
This week I paid a visit to Hatton Garden to sell my wedding ring. Hatton Garden is an unusual place; it has something of the mysticism and untrustworthiness of a Moroccan souk about it. The jeweller in the first shop that I went in to refused to answer any question other than with another question. “How much do you want for it?” he said, and then when I produced a figure, he replied, “Do you really think anyone is going to buy a second hand wedding ring?” I looked around his shop, which was full of second hand wedding rings with price tags on them.
“Would you buy a second hand ring?” he quizzed, head to one side.
“Umm…’ I said.
Unsure of how to answer this question I feigned interest in the contents of his glass cabinet, all the while thinking that If divorce wasn’t failure enough, going to Hatton garden to flog one wedding ring and coming back with two would really seal the deal.
“Can I just say something?” the jeweller said. “Do you mind if I say something? You need to sell that ring a.s.a.p. For your own psychological health. I know you want to get the best deal for it, but trust me, it’s not worth it.”
I was taken aback at the mention of my psychological health, which most people understood was in a box marked ‘Fragile.’
“I might put it on the internet,” I ventured.
He looked up at me with the anger of a belligerent father. “Why are you trying so hard?” he bellowed.
“I think you’re overestimating how hard I’m trying,” I said. “This is the first shop I’ve been into.”
“You’re attached. Trust me. But I’m telling you its not worth it- don’t count the pennies.”
Am I attached, I wondered like a doubtful Buddhist? “I’m attached to coffee,” I said. “I don’t think I’m attached to the ring.”
“Well I’ll swap you a latte for it then,” he retorted.
We were like tweedledum and tweedledee. But actually, such ludicrosity makes perfect sense in a place like Hatton garden.
Here’s the thing about diamonds: before 1870 diamonds were scarce, found only in India and Brazil. In 1870 huge diamond mines were discovered near South Africa and the British financiers quickly realized that the price of diamonds depended almost entirely on their scarcity. Investors merged their interests into a monopoly De Beers Consolidated Mines, Ltd., who made sure not to let their diamonds go the way of gold and silver and fluctuate in price in response to market conditions by coming up with a brilliant marketing ploy: Diamonds are Forever.
I E –don’t resell them
So what do you do in a place like Hatton Garden, that relies both on the sentiment attached to diamonds to flog them to the new customer for a great mark-up, whilst keeping a grounded foot in the reality that diamonds do actually have a resale value in order to get stock? Simple: the jewellers do business with you whilst making you feel desperately guilty about it.
Hatton Garden is a perfect place to end a marriage.
If I were a Muslim man I would choose Heart of Hatton Garden to call the triple talaaq leaving my ex to take a lonely stroll to the nearby Bleeding Heart Yard. For ring flogging, however, I might advise another in my situation to try the Internet. (Then again, I tried that with the wedding dress. I got back an offer for the full asking price, along with a request that all I need do first was transfer £500 into a Western Union account. I decided not to go with that particular buyer, figuring that there were plenty more phish in the sea.)
Diamonds are just one part of my wedding paraphernalia: there are also framed photos, DVDs, copies of the invitation and the menu, an assortment not unlike the contents of my bag after a trip to Harry Potter world. Why had we scrimped on the wedding fridge magnet?
Apparently by the time I get dementia, the people from the wedding DVD could all be made into holograms that I can interact with on repeat. Holograms, non-biodegradable cake toppings….its not just diamonds that are forever.
What is gaslighting?
Gaslighting is a tactic whereby a person makes your doubt your sanity by causing you to question everything.
You may not realise immediately if someone is gaslighting you because by its nature, it is a slow method of undermining your confidence. The end goal of the gaslighter is to make you question yourself so much that you are totally dependent on them.
Justine remembered how she once bought a bag of coal into the shed and then it suddenly was not there. Her partner denied that she had ever brought it in. “Why would he lie?” she thought.
This pattern continued over the next years: she would be sure she heard something or had done something, and her partner would refute there being any sound or adamantly claim that she had not done what she thought she had. She began to fear that she was losing her mind and certainly felt that she was forgetful and ditsy and was grateful for the reliable lover who she thought could be trusted to set her straight.
Gaslighting can happen without you realising
Gaslighting can sometimes be extremely subtle. A partner can make you doubt your friendships by pointing out their flaws or make your see your friends in a less favourable light.
Nisha recalled that her ex-husband would gently question whether or not her friends were actually that kind by pointing out every flaw and evening inventing things that had never gone one. After Nisha and her ex-husband had been on a couples night out with some friend, she recalled him saying:
“Did you have a disagreement with your friends? I overheard them whispering about how they didn’t want to invite you out tonight. I wasn’t sure whether or not to tell you?…….I just want what is best for you….”.
Slowly Nisha became increasingly isolated as she began to withdraw from friendships, and as she believed that no-one liked her, she became more and more dependent on her husband.
Where does the word “gaslighting” come from?
The term ‘gaslighting’ comes from a 1938 play by Patrick Hamilton in which a woman is made by her husband to believe that she is imagining things such as the flickering lights. It was then more famously an Oscar-winning film called ‘Gaslight’ which wonderfully portrays the eroding of the victim’s confidence in her own reality and sanity.
It is not a formal term from psychiatry and it has now begun to be used more widely. For example, some people use it to describe a partner lying about a specific thing such as having an affair. In this context the cheating partner might accuse their partner of being paranoid or jealous. Some people say that this is a form of gaslighting as the liar is undermining their partner’s correct instincts.
In my opinion, the crucial difference perhaps is that the philandering partner is not trying to destroy their partner’s sense of reality but instead trying to get away with their affair. Either way, the victim will feel self-doubt but if someone has questioned you in all areas of your life, you are more likely to come out worse.
Can men be the victims of gaslighting?
Most of the examples of gaslighting which you will read about show the women being manipulated. It can, however, also happen to men in exactly the same way. There is some emerging evidence of cases of women that women who gaslight men by saying that the sex they had was not consensual, which make the men doubt their entire integrity and ability to read these intimate situations. Once again, the victim finds themselves grateful for having such a tolerant and forgiving partner.
It is hard to know the proportion of men who are victims of gaslighting as it is often under-recognised and under-reported like much of the domestic violence towards men.
The three stages of gaslighting
There are three stages to the process of gaslighting: idealisation, devaluation and discard.
In the idealisation stage the victim is whisked off their feet as the gaslighter projects an image of themselves as ideal partner they have been searching for.
The devaluation stage: the victim goes from being adored to being incapable of doing anything right. They put up with this as they want to return to the bliss of the idealisation phase and they cannot imagine someone who had been so kind can turn.
The discard stage is the final chapter where the victim is dropped – this often happens simultaneously with the idealisation, or grooming, of the next victim.
8 Common Signs that you are being gaslighted and what to do about it.
1. You begin to doubt yourself
If the other person denies your reality frequently, you will inevitably begin to doubt yourself. Initially, you might doubt your memory as your partner denies you having said something or denies saying or doing something. In extreme cases the doubt can extend to what you hear or see.
The doubt grows, as initially the gaslighting will be subtle and will be over something forgettable. It is your word against theirs and you likely doubt yourself as you do not expect someone you trust and love to lie to you. However, if you find yourself questioning things regularly, this is not normal and talk to someone about this.
2. Your partner frequently denies having said or done something.
If you do find this happening frequently, start to write notes down after important conversations. Be careful about challenging your partner though if you do catch them out as this might lead to them getting very angry. See the next point.
3. When you try to challenge your partner about something they said or did, or criticise them in any way, they get annoyed or try to shut you down.
Anger is an effective way to shut someone down. You generally want to avoid conflict with someone you care about. Therefore if your partner gets angry or upset if you confront or challenge him, over time you are less likely to do it.
Another way of shutting you down, is to divert the conversation or argument by blaming you for some other past mistake. Alternatively they might say that there is no point discussing it as they cannot remember. All of these are ways of continuing to deny your own experiences of your reality.
4. You begin to think that you are over-sensitive or paranoid.
When you get upset with your partner or question them, they might also try to shut you down by criticising you. Two of the most common ones are:
(i) that you are over-sensitive and therefore they deny your right to be upset about something
(ii) that you are paranoid in questioning them. This might occur if you question their friendship with members of the opposite sex or where they have been. Once again, this is preventing your right to have a doubt.
5. You begin to struggle making decisions or doing things you previously felt confident about.
As you begin to doubt yourself, you will inevitably find it harder to trust your own mind and abilities. You might find that instead, you defer a lot to your partner to decide or start spending long times checking over things. This will actually make your confidence worse as you get less used to make decisions on your own.
What you can do instead, is spend time writing down what the decision is, and why you are making it. This should help you see the logic of your decision. If you still need a second opinion then speak to someone you trust (other than your partner) such as a friend, work colleague or professional, and explain your decision making process to them and ask if the process seems logical.
6. You are always apologising to others
The loss of confidence in yourself means that when there are situations where someone has made a mistake, or someone is upset, you will automatically assume responsibility and apologise.
If you notice yourself doing this, hold off before apologising and think whether it is your fault, or whether there is a misunderstanding. Sometimes it can help to re-imagine the situation if it were happening to other people rather than yourself. This can give you a fairer perspective.
7. You stop seeing friends and family
Sometimes, a gaslighter will want to isolate you from friends and family so that you are more dependent on them, and to prevent other people trying to confirm your sense of reality by telling you that you are justified in thinking or feeling a certain way. This might happen by them turning you against your friends or by making you think that they don’t want to be around you.
Another tactic is for the partner to be annoyed if you have to see your friends or try to talk you out of it. Over time, this means that you will have gradually fewer interactions with others who can give you that sense of confidence.
If you notice that you see your friends far less than before, try to reach out to them again and organise regular meeting with them alone. Whether or not your partner is gaslighting you, it is important to have some space from them.
What to do if you realise that your partner is gaslighting you.
It is unlikely that you will have an epiphany where you realise that this is going on because it is such a gradual process that to realise it’s happening is an equally gradual process. To really know for sure often takes time as you slowly amass your evidence.
You are also likely to love and feel dependent on your partner so it is a massive shift to go from caring deeply about someone, to considering them a threat to you.
At the point you do realise it or suspect it, the first thing to do is to consider your safety. The more extreme the gaslighting, the more dangerous that person is likely to be. Sudden confrontation is unwise if you suspect your partner is dangerous. Instead, you might prefer to leave the home and go somewhere safe such as a local refuge or a friend or family’s home.
It is important to speak to someone who you trust and tell them what is going on. Any domestic abuse helpline will take you seriously as will a qualified clinical psychologist.
Family and friends might make you feel paranoid as they might question whether this actually happened: sometimes the partner will have charmed others. You must still try to open up to them too as you need to end your isolation and dependence. Just remember to start by telling them, “I need you to listen and not question what I am about to tell you because I have been doubting myself for a while and I need you to believe me”
Ultimately, you cannot be with someone who makes you doubt yourself to such an extent. A partner should make you feel confident. Anyone who undermines you in this way should have a limited influence in your life (and none at all if you can help it). Therefore try to find a way to leave the relationship safely and to rebuild your confidence (which can take some time).
Are some people more vulnerable to gaslighting?
People often want to know who is vulnerable to gaslighting. The truth is that most people would be susceptible to falling for someone capable of gaslighting as people who do it work out what kind of partner you want, and what relationship you want and they pretend to fit the bill.
In addition to this they whisk you off your feet. Therefore they seem to be the man/woman of your dreams who adores you: who wouldn’t fall for that?
Dr George Simon, author of ‘Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing’ writes that the person who falls for a gaslighter normally has 2 key traits:
Concientiousness – People who do the right thing and therefore are trusting of others as they assume everyone is as conscientious and moral as they are
Agreeableness – You want to treat people well and for everyone to get along. Therefore you do not bring up subjects which can rock the boat if you can avoid it.
Dr Simon also said that he found that many successful and intelligent people could be vulnerable as they have firm ideas about what they want and therefore it is easier for the gaslighter to fit into that mould.
Finally, if you have been in an abusive relationship or grew up seeing one parent control and dominate the other. This is because abusive patterns might seem normal and because you might find them strangely comforting and familiar.
What kind of person gaslights others?
There is very little research which can confirm the exact traits of someone who is gaslights their partner. However, what seems apparent is that they share many of the traits of someone with a Narcissitic Personality Disorder which is a recognised condition.
The individual with a narcissitic personality disorder will have such a fragile self-esteem that they need to feel superior to others by self-aggrandising or by putting others down. Their self-esteem is also so vulnerable that they will try and manipulate and control others so that they reduce the risk of being rejected. Therefore they might have affairs, so that there is always someone better to move on to, and/or try and make you totally dependent on them.
How to recover from having been the victim of gaslighting.
Once you have recognised this toxic dynamic, you are on the first step to recovery as you now know that you are not as mad/bad/paranoid as you thought you were and can begin to trust your own instincts and perceptions again.
However, despite this awareness, you cannot regain your confidence if you are still in a relationship with the person who is gaslighting you and so you MUST leave them, no matter how much you love them or how much they promise you they will change.
The next stage will be rebuilding your confidence in yourself and others. You could do this by keeping a diary of all the positive things you have achieved and all the positive interactions you have had with others. Surround yourself with people who you find supportive and can give you that much needed ego-boost.
Dr Robin Stern, author of ‘The Gaslight Effect: how to spot and survive the hidden manipulation others use to control your life’, talks about avoiding power struggles. These are interactions where you feel someone is trying to prove you wrong or persuade you do something you do not feel like doing. She suggests instead, responding with silence or by asking for time to think about the situation for yourself. Then write down your thoughts about what you want to do or what you think and if necessary, check them with someone who is not going to listen to your thoughts rather than tell you what to do.
Access a therapist who can also help you to rebuild your confidence and think about how you can better protect yourself in future relationships by understanding what led this horrid relationship to take a hold in your life.
Get back in touch with that gut instinct of yours and learn to trust it again.