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'There is life after divorce – myself and my ex-husband have remarried'

THERE was a time when couples in Ireland married for life regardless of how happy they were together. They vowed to stick with each other through thick and thin and separating or divorcing was seen as something shameful.

Times have changed and while Ireland currently has the lowest divorce rate in the EU, numbers are rising and last year figures showed that almost 90,000 couples had legally separated.

And far from the shame it once brought, many of today's divorcees are happy with their decision, have made a new life for themselves and some are even still friendly with their ex-spouse.

We spoke to two Dublin women who have bitten the bullet, ended their first marriages and are more than happy with the outcome.

Janette O'Rourke lives on the South Circular Road. She has been running Kay's School of Floristry for the past 27 years and during that time got married and divorced. She has two sons – David (23) and Ben (13) – and while she and her ex don't see each other very often, when they do, everyone is very amicable.

"When I got divorced it was quite an uncommon thing to do, but nowadays it's probably easier and more straightforward, it is also more acceptable to say you are divorced and people don't bat an eyelid.

"I married in 1988 when I was just age 21 and my husband was 22. We separated after five years and divorced legally in 1999 when our son David was age nine.

"All my friends were getting married and we had been together since we were 15 and it seemed like the next course of action for us. I know now we were both too young as it is only in your mid/late 20s you start to mature and know where in life you want to go.

"Our separation was extremely quick (in 1994 there was no divorce in Ireland) so we went for mediation services. We were very amicable when it came to dividing up possessions. With the help of my parents, I bought him out of the family home and we both kept our own cars. My mum and I had started the floristry school so I was financially secure and he had his own job. As soon as divorce became legal in Ireland I applied for it and our divorce in 1999 was one of the first in the country.

GRADUATION

"My son is now 23, so myself and his dad have no reason to be in touch with each other on a weekly basis, but we have no issue being together for special occasions.

"David recently graduated from college with a Bachelor of Science degree in Geomatics, which was a very proud moment for all of us. His dad attended his graduation with us and all the extended family and we had a really enjoyable day.

"To avoid divorce becoming messy I recommend keeping the lines of communication open as much as possible and to seek professional advice. It is amazing how everyone you know becomes a legal expert when you are going through something like this. I personally found mediation services very good for help and advice in dividing up possessions, visitation and maintenance if you have young children.

"There is definitely life after divorce in Ireland – both myself and my ex-husband have remarried and, speaking for myself, our marriage break-up was probably the best thing that ever happened for me because I met Tom, my best friend and soul mate and we also now have a son called Ben. We got married 13 years ago on January 3, 2001 in Florida. I was 33 and knew exactly what I was signing up for that time.

"Tom had no issue with the fact I had been married, divorced and had a son. In fact, he had a lot of time for David and vice versa and their relationship has grown into that of a father and a son.

"When I married Tom I decided to keep my own name as I didn't want David to be the only one with a different name, this caused a few issues when travelling on holidays together but all-in-all everything worked out really well for us all."

Lesley Berber lives in Cabinteely with daughters Emma (14) and Rachel (11). The marketing manager for Caterhire and Hireall (wedding and event companies) is currently waiting for her divorce to come through and while she doesn't feel any stigma about her marital status, she did experience a change in attitude towards her initially.

"When I was growing up I had only one friend whose parents were separated and she was definitely embarrassed by her family situation. Thirty years later divorce is very commonplace and many of my daughter's classmates have parents who are separated or divorced. This new trend makes it much easier on the children as the stigma is most definitely removed.

"But there was a marked difference in how some people treated me as soon as I was a separated woman. Not being part of a 'couple' meant that other couples who invited you to dinner parties just stopped – but that said, I wouldn't change a thing.

"I got separated six years ago and my final divorce papers are currently being prepared.

"When I turned 40, I realised that I was not happy in my relationship and felt that if this was my lot as far as marriage went then I needed to get up and go.

DATING

"It's important to accept that not all marriages last and sometimes couples who marry for the right reasons grow apart and their priorities in life can change, especially after having children.

"There definitely is life after divorce for Irish women – I would have been lost without internet dating as not one of my married friends invited me to a party after I separated.

"For a few years I had a lot of fun with internet dating and just over three years ago, I met a virtual stranger for an 11.30am brunch date at The Orchard pub in Rathfarnham. There was something special about this stranger and now I can honestly say that I have met a man who I truly want to spend the rest of my life with. I am thankful for second chances and so thankful I met this very special man.

"I wouldn't change my past, as without it I would never have Emma and Rachel in my life and I am thankful every day for my beautiful daughters.

"The girls see their dad one night a week and every second weekend. In an ideal world I know they would love their parents to be together, however, they have told me many times that they know that I made the right decision and as they get older, everything has become so much easier.

"I feel very proud that I found the courage to take control of this wonderful life that I have been given and that I found the courage to be a single woman with two children to raise.

"I know many women who 'exist' within their marriages – for me this was not something I could live with."

Psychotherapist, Joanna Fortune (left) says keeping divorce amicable is vital and it is important to make plans for the future.

"The key is communication and ensuring you keep and maintain open and as calm as possible communication with your ex, especially if you have children," she says.

"When you have made the decision to end your marriage it is something you have given a lot of thought to, you've been hurt and have hurt each other along the way, but there is nothing to be gained by either of you to continue hurting each other through proceedings, this serves only to make it a more painful, costly and drawn-out process where nobody wins.

"Be honest with yourself as to how you are feeling and how you are coping – or not. This is a huge change, even where you may have initiated the separation. Perhaps you have lost some mutual friends you shared.

TRADITIONS

"If you are not with your children every day you will find you have more time alone and you may consider joining a club, team sport or engaging in an activity and starting to create some new traditions and relationships in your life.

"Try to look forward towards building a new life where you can be as happy as possible and avoid looking back.

"As a family, develop new traditions for you and your children and make them happy and positive.

"Take time to heal and try to be open to counselling – you must see yourself as deserving this time and space to heal and begin to move forward."

For more advice visit www.solamh.com or call 01 697 6568


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