Dear Steph – I’m unhappily married and feel trapped.

I am in my 40’s and have been married for a long time and have 2 kids with a man that I don’t think I’ve ever really been in love with. I was treated badly in previous relationships and my self esteem and mental health had hit rock bottom when I met my husband. He was the first person in a long time who openly adored me and didn’t hide me away like a dirty little secret. I didn’t particularly reciprocate his feelings but it felt nice to have someone who I knew would be loyal to me. It was comfortable and easy…but never passionate or electric. We ended up getting married and having kids and my husband has become more and more lazy over the years and I am at my wits end with him. I have to pay for everything and he never wants to do anything with us as a family. If he does come out with us, he just moans and makes the experience un-enjoyable. His temper is awful and he often shouts at the kids and calls them stupid or idiots. He is very rough with them too which is upsetting. I cook, I clean, I take care of the kids and I pay for absolutely everything whilst he sits on his ass doing nothing. He also gaslights me and makes me feel like I’m a bad Mum.
It’s safe to say, I’m not in love with him and I feel extremely trapped. It’s not as easy as just leaving as we have debt and the kids love him to death despite his temper.
We haven’t had sex for over 6 years and if he touches me I get the ick really bad!
Despite all of this, I feel dreadful and guilty for even thinking of leaving.
I don’t feel in a very good place at the moment if I’m honest, which just makes me really alone and sad and even more suffocated within my marriage.

Please help Steph! – Anon Somerset Uk

Dear Anon,

Your situation sounds really hard. I can relate to a lot of what you mentioned about past relationships and feelings of low self esteem. In my experience, it is all too easy when feeling this way, to get entangled in relationships that offer us even snippets of what we have previously been missing. It seems a shame to me that it went as far with this man as getting married and having kids, but you can’t turn back time. And you’re definitely not alone. I know people in ‘real life’ who too, have married for convenience or particularly comfort, especially as we get older and crave the quieter life. The issues are many for you, but the main one I’ve noted is this marriage is no longer making you feel comfortable, nor is it convenient. You mentioned that you pay for everything and I wonder in reality if you might actually SAVE money from not being with your husband. However, I do understand that it’s not as simple as that, when houses, children and debt are involved. I wonder have you ever had this conversation with your husband directly? Does he know you don’t hold any feelings for him anymore? It doesn’t sound as though he’s doing much to change that in any case. Maybe he too is feeling unhappy or unwanted and that’s fuelling his laziness and shitty behaviour. The trouble is though, if you’re not interested in igniting the fire (reigniting seems inappropriate in this case) Then what would your ideal solution be? In relation to the children, it’s really awful to hear that your husband treats them quite badly. You didn’t say how old they were but I’m assuming school age. What’s most concerning is the fact you said he’s rough with them. Without more information I can’t be sure what you mean, but I’m going to assume that you mean physically. This I’m sure, is a major concern for you. The thing on my mind right now when I read this is, firstly, the impact this will have on them long term. By you staying in a marriage with a man who treats your children badly, despite how amazing a mother you might be, there is a small possibility that as the kids grow up and see for themselves what their dad is like (and they likely will, unless he makes any major changes, despite adoring him presently) that they may one day think by remaining in this relationship, that you were complicit in his treatment of them. Forgive me if I have this all wrong but it sounds like you could be struggling to admit how bad your husband’s behaviour is. I say this, because you have already told me all of the reasons why you SHOULD leave. Your husband is lazy, and somewhat abusive to you and your children, he criticises your parenting and makes you feel like a shit mum. I understand you feel trapped, but I can promise you, if you see this through with no intention of pursuing a loving relationship with him, you’ll will only grow arms and legs for the reasons you can’t leave. There is never a right time. Financially there may be organisations that can help. You say you feel guilty, and obviously, I’m only getting one picture here… but it sounds to me like your husband gives you many reasons to leave and NOT feel guilty. I think in this case, aside from his initial enamour of you, he’s not given you much reason TO love him. Do you feel guilt because he took you under his wing at a time you felt vulnerable? If so – that time has passed and it sounds like you’ve definitely paid your ‘debt’ to him. I would first and foremost tell your husband how you feel, who knows he might make the decision for you! That way guilt can be evaded. I wish you every luck in finding the courage to do what is best for you and your children.

I’ve listed below a charity I found that can help you manage debt upon separation. StepChange.org along with this page on Citizens Advice both have some advice for people whom are in similar situations to yourself, I hope they are useful.

Love and luck, Steph xx

Send your questions or confessions to divamumsteph@hotmail.com and include ‘Dear Steph’ in the subject line. Can be 100% anonymous if requested. Otherwise first name and region will be shared.  

Another new year

Last year I wrote a post titled Unhappy New Year and in short it was about what a shit show 2020 had been for us all. At the end of the blog I gave myself some small resolutions, to be less judgemental and apply less blame, find the positives etc. It wasn’t until I read back over the post that I realised I have achieved most of them. I think my mindset is definitely different these days. Whilst I won’t pretend I’m Lady Optimistic I am more optimistic than the me of previous years. I’m also, so much more self aware. Aware in general. I have therapy to thank for most of these changes.

The first half of 2021 was awful for us. Worse than 2020, tenfold. With me being in a wheelchair, trying to homeschool and work from home, a baby on the way that I wasn’t managing to care for as I’d hoped, gestational diabetes along with other complications made me so unwell. It all felt as though I was on a rapid decline. As Kaiser’s due date neared, my mental health worsened. Most of you know what happened next, but in case you don’t, I was hospitalised and my labour induced after psychiatric evaluation. It was decided that for the sake of my mental health and the health of our baby, he needed to be born.

I’m six months postpartum now and on my road to recovery of perinatal mental illness. I’m working hard to regain my mobility, manage my chronic illnesses, care for a newborn, and five year old, keep house and balance my hormones, oh and avoid covid, there have been many, many, bumps.

However, I believe despite the awful ordeals we have faced, the fact everyone in the house contracted covid over Christmas resulting in a real scare with Kaiser (currently all still positive and feeling really quite bad) as well as living with perpetual lack of sleep, we’ve smashed 2021. As a family we have worked harder than ever, there are broken pieces where we were once whole, and there have been rivers cried too. Our marriage has taken a hit, and parenting two children instead of one has been a huge change for us. But, having weekly therapy, finding a decent medication combination, owning my shit, being brave, digging deep, along with all that mindful bollocks previously discarded as useless information I’ll never need has been put to great, life changing use.

I don’t believe I made it through 2021 on luck or a wing and a prayer. No, I made it through this year with sheer determination, love, and hard mental graft.

Two days ago I was back in the hospital I birthed Kaiser in. I’ve been there only once since I had him, and that was recently to find out I had a tumour (benign) in my left breast. During that appointment I had my mum holding my hand. The second time was two nights ago, alone, with a baby who’d just tested positive for covid along with a husband at home who’d also tested positive so couldn’t be there to support me and our son.

I sat in the hospital room and cried alone, whilst the nurse told me my baby would need oxygen. I cried again when his levels were back up and we were told we could go home.

I’m still suffering anxiety six months postnatal, but most of the time it’s in response to ‘normal’ anxiety provoking situations, like hospitals and poor health. The rest of the time I’m using the tools it’s taken me six months to master, to manage it. I’m trying to show myself compassion and I’m working really fucking hard on gratitude too.

As I write this late at night after finally getting my kids to sleep, oscillating between shivering and sweating buckets with a fever. I decided to think about whether I have any resolutions for 2022, and the truth is I do, but my main and most important one is, I plan to continue to heal. For myself, and for my family. My kids deserve a mum who isn’t falling apart at the seams, and I deserve the love and care I so readily give to others.

If I could give my readers any advice for the new year, it would be that you treat yourself with more kindness.

Ok so I’ll throw in a few more for good measure… here goes

  • Love the people who treat you well
  • Have empathy for the ones that don’t (unless they’re just c*nts, then fuck them) but try the empathy first. It might surprise you.
  • Stay in your own lane. Comparison is the thief of joy.
  • Tell people you love them, tell them often.
  • Stay in the present, if it’s not happening right now, it’s not happening.
  • Get more fresh air.
  • You don’t need permission to rest.
  • Don’t look back, unless it’s to see how far you’ve come.
HAPPY NEW YEAR FROM ME AND MINE TO YOU AND YOURS XOXO

Married a year, plenty of tiers

Married a year, plenty of tears and even more tiers.

It’s whole year since I wrote about getting married. One whole year since I woke up in a suite bigger than my house, in my favourite city next to the man I now call my husband.

So how’s it going? Marriage. What does it really mean? In all honestly I’m not sure I even know. It’s not what I expected, but I’m not sure what I did expect. Ok I know I’m going round the houses here, but I honestly feel a bit flat.

I love having the same name as my family, I love my husband and I loved our wedding but as far as actual marriage goes it’s been pretty unremarkable.

There was of course the initial wedding hangover, those really do suck. Wedding blues are real. All that planning, and all that pressure for one or in our case two, days.

There’s also the reality that people let you down with weddings. I came away from our wedding party after all the preparation wondering why people behaved the way they did, or why they didn’t bother showing up at all on what was essentially the biggest day of our lives. Of course some people have genuine reasons and I’m a renowned plan canceller myself, so I don’t hold grudges, but it’s definitely one of those things that whittles out the people who aren’t on you’re team, and in hindsight that’s ok. It just took a while to get to grips with.

Then you have the politics of merging families and friendships. You might have gotten away with avoiding most of the people you don’t like up till that point, but a wedding brings everyone together. It’s one of the reasons we got married on our own, so it could just be about us without having to worry about offending someone, people seem to get really offended about weddings that aren’t their own!

There has been no honeymoon period (or honeymoon) because Covid literally started for us as soon as we got back from Ireland. Shaun thinks he had it upon our return, he was in bed for two weeks with a fever and he couldn’t breathe, at the time he was diagnosed with a chest infection, he’s asthmatic so that’s not unusual in winter, but it didn’t respond to antibiotics and he lost his sense of taste for months after. Then after our wedding party in the uk we literally went into lockdown weeks later.

On the plus side, I know we were unbelievably lucky to get married in 2020 at all! With so many having their big days cancelled, and for that I am so grateful. We really did have the best wedding day ever and on a reasonably acceptable budget too.

There was a time, not too long ago where I didn’t foresee a wedding in my future. Yet at the age of thirty one I married my best friend and our dreams and plans of honeymoons and married life went kaput with the rest of the world, and whilst our celebration feels all too soon forgotten, we have memories to last a lifetime.

According to statistics printed in Bride magazine the first year is the hardest and I’m only a year in, but I’m inclined to agree. Apparently this is down to the stresses of modern living, the come down from the wedding and combining finances. But Shaun & I have lived together for six years so I’m not sure all of those are applicable to us. Maybe it is just the effects of covid, or maybe it’s that relationships are hard, and after the whirlwind of weddings and babies comes the real work! Like the realisation you have to put up with snoring for the rest of your lives, or that picking up dog shit in the garden is a way to earn brownie points.

In recent instagram polls I asked the following questions.

1. Is the first year the hardest? 24% voted yes whilst the other 76% voted no.

2. Marriage feels no different from before? 81% voted that this statement is true, marriage feels no different to before.

3. Wedding comedowns are the worst. 85% voted for yes, and 15% voted no, not sure of its relevance but most of the people that voted no, were male.

4. Has lockdown negatively impacted your marriage? Surprisingly for a long while the vote was overwhelmingly, no. But eventually finished on 42% voting yes, lockdown has in some way negatively impacted their marriage.

When I asked that final question, I had an influx of messages about how people were finding their spouse’s overwhelmingly irritating, but they by no means were filing for divorce. I think this is what resonated with me. This last year Shaun and I have probably argued more, spent less quality time together and just generally pissed each other off more than ever before. However we’ve also been there for each other and so despite feeling like I want to kick him in the dick, I’m still very much grateful that I have him to lean on. I definitely don’t regret getting married.

Usually we’d spend our anniversary weekend, which is also my husband’s birthday, in Ireland. But with Lockdown that’s not possible. Instead I’ve been frantically Pinteresting date nights at home and first anniversary present ideas. When all I really feel like doing is hiding under the covers covering up that 2020 Xmas and New Year bulge. I’m also pregnant now so there won’t even be any champagne or Guinness!

Despite all of this, I know with a full heart we are lucky to have each other and the fact we’ve survived this year at all is a blessing, the fact we survived it together was dedication.

It’s not your wedding.

I’m getting married, to my best friend, in January. We gave ourselves 6 months of planning only, and here we are 3 months into this planning and of course stressed beyond belief but equally excited.

I decided to do a little research for this blog by speaking to ladies who are already married about the things that stressed them out the most during planning, and the majority of answers were the same. Friends or family (or both) who didn’t fully support them. Mother in laws being too interfering, some even said their own Mother’s drove them mad. I feel lucky I’ve not encountered problems with either Mum or MIL both supportive of our decision to go away and get married on our own. Also on the list of things causing chaos was sweating the small stuff, colour schemes, and table decs etc and this I really relate to. I’ve collated some of the answers I collected and added in some of my own experience so far to create this blog but the disclaimer is that not everything I’ve written is from personal experience even though most of it is written in first person narrative.

Everyone has their ideal day mapped in their minds. It’s something we are programmed to dream about since day dot, or at least it was if you grew up female in the 80s/90s. When I first started envisioning my wedding it was a lavish affair. But, that was when I was imagining marrying someone else, who paid me zero attention so the only way to draw any would of been to make myself centre of it. Don’t get me wrong every bride deserves to be centre of attention on their wedding day, but what I mean is, during that relationship that would of probably been the only time I was centre of his anything unless it was amidst a screaming match.

Now I’m marrying my best friend and I’m always centre of his world, and him mine. He is a douche bag, who infuriates me with his horizontally relaxed ethos and lack of ability to make a decision, but he also puts up with me and my unhinged personality so I’d say we balance each other out. Yin and Yang if you will.

When we got engaged it was special. As you imagine it should be, a Christmas affair in a lovely stately home style hotel, with a roll top bath and hot tub on our balcony. When we eventually made the decision to get married two years after our engagement, it was special on another level because we both decided there and then that we wanted it to be just about us. There was no pull as to who wanted what, because we wanted the same thing. So when we tell you we’re going away to get married on our own, We’re not inviting you to give us your opinion on why we should do it differently. In fact the first time I heard ‘I wouldn’t do it like that’ (and believe me I have heard it, more than once) I was quite shocked and remember thinking, good job it’s not your wedding then love!

Wedding’s are occasions that vary in design, expense, cultures, lavishness and numbers. They are unique to two people who have chosen a way they wish to cement their love. Sounds cheesy but that’s the long and short of it. Let them have it their way. Weddings are important and the fact you’re being invited to share in celebrations with people, means they think you’re important too! One of the common themes these brides found when planning was, they were made to feel guilty in some way for some of their choices.

I thought before writing this that it would go without saying, to not to make the bride and groom feel bad about their decisions. Whether it be because they haven’t managed to organise their hen and stag doo around your family holiday. Or because they have chosen a main course you’re not keen on for the wedding breakfast. Or because their dream venue isn’t somewhere you’re able to get to on foot. Your mum is moaning auntie Doris who’s 86 (and whom you haven’t seen for 20 years) won’t like the music you’ve chosen for the first dance. And why haven’t you invited your dad’s cousin Jeff and his wife, just because you don’t see them ever doesn’t mean they wouldn’t want to come. So you’ve invited that person but not that person?

Don’t make the happy couple feel awkward for not inviting the boyfriend or girlfriend you’ve only been seeing for 5 weeks, or your child. Because there are probably 30 other short term boyfriends and girlfriends not invited and 100 other kids staying with babysitters.

When asked how they came to choose their preferences of not inviting these people the common answer was along the lines of: It’s not because they hate your kids, it’s more likely to be because they don’t want you to have to be a responsible parent at their party.

It’s not because they don’t like your new partner: it’s probably because they don’t know them and by inviting them they may have to sacrifice inviting people they do know and love for affordability or space reasons.

So they haven’t put on a coach for you to get home. Sorry about that, the money has probably gone on welcome drinks instead, or maybe bridesmaid dresses, or wedding favours. It’s one day in their lifetime (and yours) you may have to spend a bit more than usual on getting to a gathering they’ve organised.

Another common denominator amongst things that upset the bride were, bridesmaids moaning about their dresses, guests not bothering to R.S.V.P (it’s stressful when we don’t know average numbers) and people being too casually open when giving their opinion on your choices.

You don’t like the colour scheme, has she not seen Wedding House? Gold doesn’t go with pink for goodness sake. The wedding dress isn’t something you’d be seen dead in, and what do you mean she’s doing her own makeup? ON HER WEDDING DAY? You wouldn’t do it like that would you? Maybe you’re already married and you did it differently, or maybe it’s not what you’d choose for your upcoming nuptials but this day, this day your friends’ have chosen, gone to great lengths to plan and invited you to share, it isn’t your day is it?

Maybe, like me, you’re a bride who’s a bit disappointed in the groom’s lack of interest in colour schemes and balloon arches, and you can feel bridezilla creeping in as the date draws nearer…. I mean for fuck sake can you just paint some pine cones and help me! A friend of mine recently said to me in a bid to chill me out, that maybe it’s because all he’s interested in is making you his wife and shouting about it with a toast of his favourite tipple. (What a lovely way of looking at it.) He’s marrying you, try and remember that!

According to the women I asked there is never a day where a woman feels as insecure yet equally as confident, as that of her wedding day. I may change my opinion post wedding as mine hasn’t arrived yet, but how I feel now as a bride to be is more on the insecure side and it doesn’t help when I have everyone asking me if I’m on a diet for the big day, no I’m eating my way into my dress thanks, fuck off.

If your a friend of the Bride’s she may be feeling like this too. Don’t add to her rollercoaster of emotions by giving your opinion about her choices unless it’s helpful, or she asks for it. To say you don’t like the bridesmaid dresses she suggested for you is not only in bad taste but it’s also not about what you like. Unless it looks atrocious because it doesn’t fit or it’s totally the wrong shape for you, the colour and style doesn’t have to be yours, because it’s not your wedding. A bit like when she gives you 3 months notice for a dress fitting you can’t make and you’re compelled to tell her you’ve had to ask your mum to have your kid for an hour or you’ve taken a half day at work. She doesn’t need to know that and deep down you know she’d do the same for you without making you feel bad about it. Have you ever heard of groomsmen moaning about the dates of the suit fitting, or the colour of his cravat? She’s chosen you to be part of her big day because she loves you, and because you love her you’ll let her have what she wants for one day in her life. She’ll return the favour for you, because that’s what friends do.

Weddings mean different things to different people but to everyone I’ve asked they’ve all said important things for them were having their friends and family celebrate with them, and loving the person they were marrying. They all said they wished they didn’t get so irate about flowers and table plans, but put their foot down about the things that’s were important to them. They just wanted to have fun and realised nothing small mattered on the big day.

Newlyweds want you to be sincere in your presence. They want you to get behind their marriage and root for them! Cheer from the sidelines and pat them on the back in taking the next step with their relationship. They’re in love, so help them celebrate that by being their cheerleader. Even if on your day your dream is as different to theirs as land is to sea. For just one day be part of someone else’s dream.