I had been married 30 years when I separated from my husband in 1992. The reasons for splitting up after such a long time are complex. I come from a very strongly Catholic family and I married someone from a very strongly Catholic family. I grew up in an environment that was in many ways essentially happy and healthy, but I can see now that it was very rigid about behaviour, sexuality, marriage - life in general. As a little girl I was taught that marriage was a sacrament, a commitment for life, and through my adolescence and young adulthood I never questioned that.
When I married, I was in my early thirties. I was a professional woman, I'd been to university and I was a qualified teacher and lecturer. I married this nice, simple guy and I had very strong ideals about marriage. I realised very early on that it was a disaster. I was very proud - young people often are - and I didn't want anyone to know I'd made a mistake. It may sound dramatic but I felt as though my heart had been broken and, after that, nothing mattered. We'd had a lovely daughter and I tried to conceal from her that there was any unhappiness in the relationship.
Then the feminist movement came along and I started to read new books and talk to other women, wonderful women, normal, ordinary women - most of my friends up to then had been Catholic and I'd moved in such small circles that I couldn't believe non-Catholics could be so nice. It was a slow metamorphosis for me. But I finally began to believe that I deserved better. I was intelligent, articulate. But I was so bound and hamstrung; it takes ages to move from such an entrenched social environment, discover yourself, and work out what you as a human being could expect when you'd never thought you were entitled to much.
When I decided to leave my husband, he had said he thought we should get a smaller home. I told him that if we sold our home I wanted my own house and he could have a house of his own. He said we should go for counselling, which made me snort; I'd been dragging him there, kicking and screaming, for years. We went, but it was evident there was no hope; I sorted out the financial side and divided up the furniture. It was a pretty lonely old thing. If you decide late in life that as a human being you are loveable, you deserve happiness, and you decide to try to change things, people think you are very odd indeed. I had to exercise great courage. I found I was a person, I was unique, I had some great friends and I was entitled to some happiness. It took ages, but the freedom and liberation I've experienced are indescribable.
Do I regret not doing it earlier? I don't let myself think about that. I never say "if only". I've learned to look back and realise there were some good bits, I made good friends and that helped to keep me human. My friends counterbalanced my husband's negativity - his non-cooperation, his not caring.
After the separation in 1993, I bought a little house and a car, and I found teaching work - I have to work hard. I can't afford to get all gloomy about having no money to do this or that. I've always loved travelling. When I was married, I saved enough money to go on long trips, and it did a great deal to loosen up my self-confidence, self-knowledge and self-belief - the tight band I always had around my head went away. Since the separation, I've managed to save enough to travel all round the world. It's part of recovering from the grief at separation - any separation is always accompanied by a deep sense of loss.
I'll be 70 in a couple of months, though I don't feel it. I'm hoping to keep my physical fitness for a bit longer. I don't worry about being lonely - in fact I need my solitude. I've got a student who lives in my house - initially the arrangement was a source of income but now I know her well, she's a friend and I've stayed with her family in Japan. My social life is quiet, I don't have many male friends. I would like a male companion but I think I might have to do without that.
I feel privileged and fortunate. I've had guts and courage to do what I've done - that's not being conceited, that's how it is. I'm still working very hard at life.Reuse content