Nikki is 44 and a single parent to her 15 year old son and twin girls aged nine. They live in the South West of England with their dog, Sidney. When her marriage broke up unexpectedly and under difficult circumstances, she needed the support of friends and family to help her find her strength.
Not coming home
My son is from a previous relationship and was three years old when I met my ex-husband and father of my twins. We were together for 12 years and married for six years. One day, he went to his job and never came home to us, only letting me know by text that he intended not to return. The next day he rang me to tell me our marriage was over. He took nothing with him and walked away leaving behind every personal belonging he owned apart from his mobile phone and his wallet.
There was a history of money problems and my ex had racked up debt over the years. On that day he left, I found evidence that and had being lying about how much he was getting paid, earning about a third more that he had told me. I was already paying for most things, and we’d been struggling for years, so this was a huge shock. I also discovered he had been unfaithful.
Each day that went by seemed to fling up more questions and add to the trauma I was feeling. This was made worse by my ex’s refusal to face me or tell me what had gone on. Up until a week before he left, he was texting and ringing me frequently throughout the day to say how much he loved me.
The day he left was a Saturday and I was back at work on the Monday morning. I made my manager and colleagues aware of my situation and continued to work for nearly two months before I completely broke down one day at work and was then signed off for a month. I was signed off over Christmas and this helped sort out the most difficult of times. My family were wonderful and I would not have got through this without them or my friends.
I knew that I needed to focus on the practical issues and also get some legal advice. I have an excellent family and circle of friends and their support kicked in immediately. One friend, in particular, was there with me the first 24 hours and I have no words for the way in which this helped.
Other friends offered practical support such as coming round to help care for the children. It was the practical issues which caused a lot of problems to begin. I was not only working full-time but caring for three children on my own and having to sort out school drop-off and collection as well.
To date my ex has refused to sit down and discuss anything with me other than his contact with our children. He has regular contact with the twins, although he has nothing to do with my son (his step-son). The children have managed extremely well and I hope this is something to do with the way I have managed the situation. Their father told them over the phone that he would not be coming home. The children have many questions and sometimes struggle with what has happened. I struggle to understand it too.
I had to go through the CSA for maintenance payments due to my ex’s considerable debt issues. However, the payments are based on his basic pay and not on the overtime and bonus payments he receives.
I found Gingerbread whilst trawling the net for information and support groups. I felt very relieved and comforted by the site and by some of the information and comments I came across. I am comforted also to know that I am not alone in my plight and nor am I by any means in one of the worst situations as there are others out there who have far worse circumstances than myself.
I have returned to work and things are much better. I have routines in place and organised support, and the children and I are enjoying life and looking to the future. There have been real challenges though. My father has been seriously ill with cancer. Then there was the worry that we could lose the family home because of debt. But my hopes for the future are good.
Facing the truth
One of the best things about being single is that I don’t have to put up with all the compromises I realised I had been making for years. It is strange how we become blinkered in our efforts to keep others happy. I realised that I walked on eggshells around my ex and did not challenge the things I should have challenged. I settled for a mediocre life because, deep down, I did not want to face the truth.
I hope that by sharing what I’ve been through I’m able to help and encourage others who are just starting out walking through the foothills of single parenthood. My words of advice for others in situations like mine are not to give those who hurt you the opportunity to see your pain. Save this for those people who have your interests at heart. Let the pain and emotion come, even if it feels overwhelming. You will feel so much better as a result. And get out and about. Meet new people and do something different on a regular basis. It will help.
For detailed step-by-step advice on everything from benefits and tax credits to childcare and your wellbeing, read our guide to separation.