I have to share a success story. Names have been changed to protect the identity of the client.
James approached me after being divorced for 6 years. He had been with his ex-wife for 25 years, getting married 10 years into that quarter of a century. Now in his mid-50's he felt that his life just had no direction. He had friends and had been in another relationship after his divorce but that had been very on and off for five years and his children didn't like this girlfriend, adding another complication. He had two children aged 18 and 20. James couldn't put his finger on what was missing from his life. He was online dating - meeting several women a week for drinks but no one even shone for him or he didn't spark an attraction in them.
So we got started. James spoke about his life. He had been been with Michelle for 10 years and when she started to make noises about having children, he felt that he should do the right thing and the "let's get married" scenario happened. So they got married and had two children. After a few years of marriage things started to turn stale and James told me that for both himself and Michelle, the excitement had gone he went on to say that he was not sure that there was ever any real excitement. He told me that they were probably both bored. Before children the marriage had revolved around going to the pub and meeting friends, it had always involved other making things more interesting. Michelle started to take her frustrations out on him in a physical manner. Throwing items at him, smashing glasses. It just became very aggressive and after much contemplation James told Michelle that he was leaving her. Michelle went to the local pub, got very drunk, came home and started punching him repeatedly in the face while he was in bed.
From the marriage he walked straight into another relationship with someone he felt was far more exciting. Michelle had been quite plain and down to earth and now he was with Moira. He described her to me as the sort of woman he would never normally be attracted to. She was the same age as his wife but dressed in clothes that his 18 year old daughter would consider to be fashionable. She was married but separated. She had an agreement with her husband that they would never actually legally divorce.
James and Moira went to festivals together and lived a life of being young and free again. It was all good fun but the teenager style of the relationship meant that it was very "on and off too". During one separation period, James discovered that Moira had started using the dating app Tinder, so he joined too. It was all very exciting. Dates several times a week. The up's and downs of dating and that feeling of being 20. Is a relationship on or off. Will she phone? Won't she? James told me that although it was disheartening, it was also exciting and intriguing. Some weeks his relationship with Moira was on and other weeks they had split. They were both dating each other and seeing internet dates. James told me that now looking back, it was all very sad and fuelled by adrenalin and a need for something more.
When we spoke in more depth, James concluded that all of this excitement was just a deflection of looking at the reality. The reality was that he was 50 years old. Divorced with two children who he now only saw every other weekend. He had done what he thought was the right thing to do for his children and given his wife 70% of all assets without going to court. He felt bitter that other men were now visiting his wife in what he felt was still his family home. He had physically built and renovated parts of it. He spoke about one occasion where he dropped the children home after a weekend and there was a strange car in the drive and a mans jacket hanging in the hallway with pens in the top pocket. Although he no longer wanted his wife, he had been eaten up with anger that although he felt that he had done the right thing and ensured that his children's home and future was secure, on the other-hand he had worked hard over the years as a part-time property developer alongside a full-time career. He felt that that's what a real man should do. Why should other men be staying in HIS home? He had got to a point where they had a large home, mortgage free and was now living in a rented studio flat. He felt that ALL women just ended up with everything and the men nothing. These negative thoughts were eating away at him daily and there was no way he could move on.
He met many women on Tinder and other dating sites but the relationships never really came to much and James felt that maybe it was because he was biased and thinking that every woman he met was out for what she could get. He also felt like a failure having given away his home. What did he have to offer? James slipped into a cycle of serial dating during the week, simply meeting different women for a bit of female company and weekends would be spent with a group of male friends cycling to the pub and drinking, maybe going to a festival. If he wasn't on a date during the week he would go to the pub alone, chat to a few people, go home and sink a bottle of red wine.
This life pattern, after finally ending the five year relationship with Moira when he discovered that she was actually in a relationship with someone else, went on for another year and although it was probably fun at the time, James would often think that it was actually a dire and meaningless existence. And that's when he approached me. 6 years on from leaving his wife. James only called me for an initial chat, just to talk through things. He had never had any kind of counselling or coaching before and he is still not sure why he felt inspired to call me, but he did.
It took a couple of weeks to get James's entire life story out and look at why he had made particular decisions on things. What he was good at? What did he enjoy doing? What made James tick? What we established was that work was good and settled, his children were happy and he had done the right thing for them, but James was actually lonely and bitter towards women. He didn't realise that in divorce women have a bad time too. We looked at how his wife felt when he said he was leaving and very swiftly dating someone like Moira. We spoke about how she coped with two young children alone and all their questions and what she would have gone through. Yes. Financilly she was secure, but emotionally? He liked being in that stable relationship of marriage but it had turned sour when he had been ill for a couple of years. It was during this period that he discovered that his wife was very selfish and unsympathetic. This had hurt him a great deal and was the reason he had needed to leave. Going back to his childhood memories we discovered that his wife had become the woman his Mother was. She has become cold and unloving after discovering she had a long-term illness.
James wasn't looking for the endless dates or the pub. He was looking for someone to spend the rest of his life with. So how was he going to establish that? He had probably met nice women on the dating scene but his negative image was a block to him and he would only date during the week when he had nothing better to do. There was no way he was going to put time and effort into dating during "men's weekend time".
James and I spent a lot of time working on what he now describes as his bitterness and anger and realising how damaging this was. When he had a date we would discuss it and really look in depth at the thoughts he was having during the meet-up. When he started to change his habits and look at women in a different way and start to trust again, James started to have more interesting dates and in the end he started dating a 45 year old woman with three children younger than his own. Sara had come through a very bitter divorce where the woman had NOT come out on top. Her husband had not helped her and her children at all and had basically abandoned them. This scenario made James realise that not all women were actually the same within divorce and many actually end up with no money or even without a home.
Not all men were "James's". A year down the line and James now lives with Sara and her three children . James's children get along brilliantly with Heather's which seems to be down to the large age gap between Sara's eldest and James's youngest. Both sets of children have their role in the relationship. James's children enjoy eating out as young adults with Sara and James. There has been no jealousy in the now family of 5 children and James says that he would even consider getting married again. James has a meaning in life and now wants to further build up his career (he has the opportunity to be a Sales Director in the next year or so). He wants to do this for himself and Sara and their children. He sees grand-children in the future and speaks about how wonderful that will be. He is helping Sara on her road to recovery with her ex and and to find her career path again and he has stopped "wasting money in the pub". He is ready to build a future again. He feels great about helping Sara and they both have similar goals in life.
James says "I would never have considered seeing someone and talking about my life to a stranger, but Alison is very easy to get along with and we had a lot of laughter on this journey as I discovered who I really was. At times it wasn't easy as I had to admit my faults too. I had to stop blaming my ex Wife for everything and take some responsibility. I only got married because I thought that's what should naturally happen and maybe she did too. I was too scared to think that I would end up with no one so just went along with what I had. Anyway, I am now extremely happy and looking forward to a great future. My children really like Sara and I'm enjoying having younger children around again. I thought my children wouldn't like the fact that I left them with their Mother and now I am living with children the age they were when I left, but they have told me that they just want to see me happy. They also told me that they are glad their Mother and I divorced as they could always hear us shouting".