Having decided what to do about Clara (deets to follow, but suffice it to say for now that I’m going to take away the one thing she cares about: her work), I feel much calmer. My chi is returning to a more balanced state.
Don got back yesterday evening, so I decided to have an early night, thereby thusly avoiding the necessity of seeing him. I slept deeply, for the first time since this hell emerged on Sunday.
Awaking clear-headed today, I set about finding myself some support. The wise women of the Real Singapore Expat Wives FB group pointed me in the direction of a network for trailing spouses going through this awful awfulness, and so this morning I attended a meeting offering practical and emotional guidance. OMG there are a lot of us!! The room was full. I thought it was just my torment concluding that expat marriages suck, but it turns out that I am spot on.
The facilitator was very nice. She’s a therapist – but not a patronising hypocritical Clara-type therapist, I hasten to add – who has been in Singapore for yonks. She went through a messy expat divorce herself, so she (unlike Clara!) really knows her onions.
“Welcome, ladies… and gentlemen. Good to see you again and I see some new faces. I’m sorry to see you in a way, because it means you’re embarking on what’s likely to be a difficult journey… But I’m also glad that you made it here today, that you’ve reached out. So I’ll do my best to share with you what I’ve learned from my own difficult journey, and we are all here to support one another.Part of what makes this so hard at the beginning, I think, is the shock, and the torturing self-questioning, “How did this happen? How did I get here?”… We are rarely objective about intimate relationships, including marriage, so if things unravel, there can be a deep sense of shock and denial.Even in a good enough marriage, there may be days when we look at other people’s relationships, seeing theirs as better, and ours as lacking something by comparison. But the breakdowns and adultery that have brought us all together today can happen to anyone. We can’t control the people we love. And the point is, in a loving adult relationship, we don’t want to. We certainly don’t want to have to feel that we need to.”
She said that there’s a mounting body of evidence* to show that expat life plays havoc with existing marital problems and also creates new ones because of the strains put on the relationship.
She talked about an article in the WSJ Expat blog, quoting it to say how some people approach the decision to move abroad when their marriage is facing problems: “To have a totally new experience in a totally different culture – maybe this will turn us around and change the situation.”
Then when it goes wrong, also from that article, “If you live abroad and your relationship breaks apart, you lose much more than just the partner. It’s everything – because you went that far for him.”
How truesome!! We all agreed with that, and my heart totes went out to the other women (and the two guys, but less so). I thought my life was a mess, but some of these women are going through even worse stuff. Husbands telling them to leave the country even though it’s their home; or preventing them from leaving and imposing that everything, including what happens with the kids, is going to be on his terms; or that they won’t support the wife despite her having been out of the job market for years raising the children, and not being able to get a work permit here. Argh, the list goes on and on.
My head was spinning by the end of the session. It was a welcome relief when the facilitator told us her own story of how she made it through her divorce. She mentioned a writer called Martha Beck, and read out a section from a piece on recovering from heartbreak. I’m not really there yet, I guess, because I’m still figuring it all out. Like I said, I know what to do about Clara, but next on my list is Liz, the woman who has stolen my husband. Then, of course, there’s Don himself. That’s the hardest part.
Plus at the same time, I have to get my head around what I want to do. And what I actually can do. Hmmmmmm. Maybe that’s the hardest part.
Resources For Expat Trailing Spouses Facing Marital Breakdown
- Network for trailing spouses going through marital breakdown in Singapore, contact via email here
- Expat Stuck Mums Facebook Group
Counsellors and Psychotherapists:
- Stephen John Dale
- Glenn Graves, see also his article Surviving a Split
- Rachel Upperton, SACAC
Kennedy Chamorro, A. 2013, Own Your Financial Freedom: Money, Women, Marriage and Divorce, Marshall Cavendish International (Asia) Pte Ltd, Singapore.
* Yvonne McNulty, associate faculty member at SIM University in Singapore, (2015) “Till stress do us part: the causes and consequences of expatriate divorce”, Journal of Global Mobility, Vol. 3 Iss: 2, pp.106 – 136
Found at: http://www.emeraldinsight.com/doi/pdfplus/10.1108/JGM-06-2014-0023
From the abstract: “Findings demonstrate that expatriate marriages end in divorce for two main reasons: first, a core issue in the marriage that exists before going abroad (e.g. alcoholism, mental health problems) and which continues while abroad; and second, when one or both spouses is negatively influenced by an expatriate culture to such an extent that a form of “group think” results in polarizing behavior that is counter to how they might behave “back home” (e.g. infidelity, sexual misconduct). The consequences of divorce for expatriates are immense and include bankruptcy, destitution, homelessness, depression, psychophysiological illness, alienation from children, and suicide.”