Welcome to our series, The Divorce Diaries. In our past instalments over the last few months we’ve covered everything from the effect of lockdown on divorces to whether they’re contagious and have now spoken to dozens of women – including one whose husband announced he was leaving her to have an open relationship with a 19-year-old and another who was quite literally ghosted by her own husband.
If you have a topic you’d like to discuss, share your thoughts, experience or advice about, drop a line to [email protected] with ‘Divorce’ in the subject line. All stories that are published will win a Dermalogica BioLumin-C Moisturiser, valued at $119!
This week we speak to Amanda* whose lockdown began with one hell of an announcement.
When news broke that there was a Covid-19 case in the community and a press conference would be happening later that day, Amanda asked her boss if she could leave work early.
Surely it wasn’t good news, she thought, and this time she wanted to be better prepared for a lockdown.
She packed up anything she could think of that might help her work more efficiently remotely and headed straight to the mall to pick up arts and crafts supplies, a few jigsaw puzzles, activity books and a pair of noise-cancelling headphones, while she frantically tried to get hold of her husband. When he didn’t pick up, she figured he was frantic at work – the last time we’d gone into lockdown he’d been in the office right up until the last minute possible.
She picked up the kids from after-school care and went to McDonalds on the way home – “Might as well have a treat while we still can,” she thought.
But as she headed home and rounded the corner to the street they lived on, she was surprised to see her husband’s car in the driveway.
She was even more shocked when she got inside and discovered her husband, Brian, was in full flight, packing a suitcase.
“My first thought was, ‘This is crap timing to be going away on a work trip,’” she tells. “Which – if my memory serves me correctly – is what I said to him, or I asked him to put it off, in case we went into another lockdown – which looked bloody likely – and then I wouldn’t want to have to work and look after the kids alone.”
But, instead Brian said, in a few short, sharp sentences that he wasn’t going away on business. Auckland would be going into lockdown for at least one week – realistically it would be longer – and he couldn’t hack it.
“It seemed like such an overreaction,” says Amanda. “I mean, we didn’t even know what was going to happen! I think he said, ‘I cannot take another lockdown in this place. I was furious. None of us wanted to go through a lockdown, but what, he wanted to run away and be on his own and leave me to look after everything?!?”
Brian told her she wasn’t listening properly and that he wasn’t just “taking a holiday” – he was leaving her, leaving their marriage. “I can’t do another lockdown with you,” she remembers him saying. “I’m not leaving for lockdown, I’m leaving for good.”
He’d rented a place short-term, he said, and hurriedly went around the house getting his stuff together, while Amanda watched on in disbelief and horror. Before she knew it, he’d loaded up the car and hugged the kids goodbye and left without saying goodbye to her.
Shortly after came the confirmation of what Brian had heard – the whole country was going into Level 4 Lockdown for a week. She let the kids watch a movie before she put them to bed and then – finally – allowed herself the time to try to take in what had just happened.
“I was in shock, massively,” she says. “I couldn’t digest it. I figured he’d change his mind – plus, surely he couldn’t have managed so quickly to find a new place to live where he could stay during lockdown. I thought he’d be back by morning”
But after a sleepless night, the next day it started to hit home that Brian had left her, and the kids, at the worst time possible.
“I called my parents that afternoon – and then my best friend,” she remembers. “Both of them said something along the lines of, ‘I’m coming over now!’ and I had to remind them that they bloody couldn’t, because we were in lockdown!”
It’s now coming up on three months since Brian walked out and Amanda has had next to no contact from him – except through a lawyer who has recently been in touch
“He’s spoken to the kids once the entire time,” she says. “I honestly can’t believe it. He’s completely disgusted me.”
Brian has family outside of Auckland, who used to visit them fairly regularly and they’ve called to talk to their girls – but it’s been very awkward. “They don’t know what to say when I ask them if they know what’s going on, or why Brian left, or why he won’t see his daughters.”
Amanda says his departure came as a huge shock because she was unaware that their relationship was in trouble. “Last lockdown wasn’t exactly fun, but I didn’t think it was that bad,” she says. “I have wracked my brain the last few months, as you can imagine, and all I can think of that’s been different over the last year is that he has seemed more stressed at times, but I thought it was because he was working longer hours and it was work-related. Whenever I’d ask him what was wrong, he’d just start complaining about work, then trailing off.”
“Now I can’t help but think he’s having an affair,” she says. “I spend an unhealthy amount of time thinking about it – whether he’s holed up with some woman in there. Maybe the idea of not being able to see the woman he was having an affair with for a while was too much, so he decided to be with her instead.”
Whatever the reasoning, suddenly having so much time to think (between trying to home-school her two daughters, work remotely and look after the house), all while being isolated from her friends and family, has been driving Amanda around the bend.
“I can’t wait for lockdown to be over so I can actually hug my friends again, but I’m also scared of what my new reality is going to look like,” she says.
Amanda has been through the wringer this lockdown – but she’s not alone. Like last year, lockdown has proved to be very trying on relationships and we’ve now heard from several women whose partners got up and left abruptly during lockdown. For many relationships, the stress of lockdown can be an enormous strain.
If you, like Amanda have gone through a split and want to get it off your chest and share your story, please email us at [email protected]. All details can be kept anonymous if you wish!
*Names have been changed