The decision to go file for divorce followed some drama. I was receiving so many threats about being put to shame. I was not exactly sure what for. I do remember having to set up financial endeavours in joint names so as I began to come to ‘my senses‘, I request a dissolution of all these. I decided to seek help with a getting a legal separation and subsequently, a change of name. Within two months of the estrangement I had reverted my documents to my maiden name including the certificate for the then, imminent master’s degree from the City University.
What seemed like an impossible task, ‘getting heard’ in my relationship seemed to happen so suddenly: after a few changes in my own self-perception and behaviour.
At the request of the other party, after I moved out of our home, we began to attend counselling sessions. It seemed at first that boundaries were being established and we were going to move forward with salvaging the marriage. At the second session, we were reminded that the purpose of the meeting was to find a way forward but it seemed bitterness played a huge part of the conversation since after so many years of ‘not being heard’ I did not really know how to communicate what I wanted. More drama. More talk about what had gone wrong and that was it, at least from the counselor’s point of view. The third time we came back for a session, the counselor wasted no time in announcing that we need not bother coming anymore as he did not see any real desire to move forward. It was a waste of time…
He advised me to seek counsel from the lead woman pastor figure. I did as instructed and explained what had happened to deserve my audience with her. She promptly promised to calm me back after our discussion but I do not believe the phone call ever got through to my phone network till today. I forgot to add that the word divorce came in to a conversation that happened after our third failed counselling session. Why? It knocked me for six as they say, as I was speechless when the words from this not-so-surprising-at-this-time request began to register.
My thoughts were: What? How come? How is that a solution? Really? Is that what this is all about? A whole maze of confusing words, images flashed before me. It took me a while to respond as I think I had my mouth open… After I recollected my thoughts, I asked for some time to think through the request, a valid one, since I had to drive back to pick the 3 beauties on my usual school run.
Another sleepless night. Not sure what conversations I had with God that night as I was still shocked at the turn of events. You can imagine what it was like to feel the rug was being pulled out from under your feet or your world has just dropped.
I remember at some point coining the phrase, “stop the world, I want to get off”
Thankfully we had a lawyer in the family, nothing like the ‘my cousin Vinny fame but a more experienced one in these legal matters. He knew someone who could provide some help. That’s how the divorce journey started. It seemed I was going through the motions at the time, just following one instruction after another from the legal person. My youngest was about 2 and a half years old making the oldest just over 6!
How did I get here though? A divorce? Is that not the one thing other people did when they did not want to work things out. Maybe that’s where I was. Anyhow I had to either go back and ask for a consideration for the children, save the marriage or go ahead with the separation.
After a few more phone calls with repeated requests for the same thing, I came to a firm decision: go ahead and file for a divorce. Now at least, I would get some sleep at night and know that I tried to salvage things as best I knew. A few appointments with the legal representative got things moving but I was unprepared for the reaction at the other end. It seemed that they had not bargained for the realities of a divorce and were surprised that I was even proceeding to file first.
At that time, I felt that I was close to losing my mind. Starting the proceedings would give me some peace about finding a solution to the matter. I can’t express how thankful I am that my mum was here. She took us in and played a part I never imagined existed. While I was trying to figure out the next steps, sadly, I lost my dad. Another blow!
You know they say, troubles happen in threes. Was there another disaster looming to compete the triad? Well, I don’t remember the third, sorry.
We had to travel to Nigeria to hold the burial rights for daddy and I decided to use my maiden name on my documents to fuel further shock about my intention to depart from the relationship.
The ceremony for daddy was comforting and I was surrounded by the extended family so I had a good support system. I had planned to travel with the young children but the drama surrounding parental custody, residence and court orders proved deterrent enough to warrant me opting for them to stay with a family friend.
More drama at home in Lagos and questions to answer as to why I was separating from the marriage. In a culture where divorce was greeted with comments “what?” “that’s the effect of the culture abroad” “not allowed” “you stay there and make things work” it suggested that you had to die there if necessary. (My perception anyway)
Funeral was over and after a few failed attempts at a family discussion about the relationship over in 🇳🇬 Nigeria, it was beginning to hit home; this was actually happening to me. Me. No one else. Not somebody over there. Me. Just me. I flew back to London earlier than other family as I was so eager to hold my kids again. So glad to see them after the “excitement” over the travel arrangements without them, I was grateful that they were with me. The battle over the residence of the kids was just getting started. We had a few court appearances before it finally settled in favour of the children staying with me. Those days, it felt like I was in court for one thing or the other, a never- ending case. I think one of the circuit judges once remarked, “I have made a ruling on this case before…” or something to that effect.
What a total waste of time! I would write reports, after reports, go over events in my head, and try to articulate an accurate account to make a case as to why I thought the kids were better off with mum. The legal team put me through the paces, helping we wrote coherently and supporting me during the case. I do however remember the melodrama surrounding one of the first hearings where my defending counsel did not show up in court! I was open to ridicule on that day as my defense looked weak if not for the intervention of the court based Citizens Advice bureau case-handler who stepped in to provide moral support. My mother was amazing! The kids were settling and forming a bond with her as I went about trying to gain some sort of financial independence to prepare for single mum hood.
Maintenance payments arrangements were getting complex by the minute as negotiations fell apart before they were even started and I resolved to not pursuing this as it involved so much energy I not to mention the pursuing. The phone calls in those days were many and came one after another from a private number. I began to recognise a pattern to their timing and frequency so I decided not to answer the calls. Of course that turned out to be a stupid decision when the hospital daddy had been admitted at wanted to get in touch with me, to inform me dad had taken a turn for the worse. They could not get hold of me!
So somehow they got contacts for another member of the family who then scolded me for not being available to answer hospital calls. It was fear again. I was too scared to take phone calls just in case I did not want to hear threats, accusations and more.
That phase passed and I became stronger after making some decisions and taking small steps.