'I've finally filed for divorce – but I'm still trapped in the house with him'

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A decade ago when I was in my mid 40s, I decided that I wanted to get out and meet new people, so I went to a ballroom dancing class. One guy a few years older than me caught my eye almost straight away - he was tall, dark, handsome and seemed like the outgoing sor  that I go for. We started dating and a year later decided to get married. He moved into my house and at first everything was going really well. Both his grown-up children and mine supported the match, and we were very happy. 

It only took a couple of years for the cracks to begin appearing. But lockdown has finally put the nail in the coffin of our eight year marriage: last month, I began divorce proceedings. 

I had occasionally thought of pulling the plug before, but being trapped in the same home has left me no option - seeing nothing but his many flaws, day in and day out, is something I can no longer do. I’d usually vent to friends over a drink, but there is no way of even getting the slightest shred of space from the situation. Every time I see him it’s as though my hopes and dreams are shattered all over again, made yet more awful by the fact he is refusing to move out, using the rules on not swapping households as proof he should stay put.

The problem seemed small at first. He was much less adventurous than I had thought, content to only ever be watching TV. It was up to me to book all the holidays and activities as he grew lazier - the dynamic of our relationship turned from husband and wife to mother and son. I felt like I was looking after a truculent teenage boy.

A few years ago I addressed these issues with him and he said he would change. Then I found out some things he’d been hiding from me: he’d spent his pension lump sum without telling me, which meant he couldn’t retire when we were planning. I realised I was much less financially secure than I thought. 

All he has ever offered is excuses, and promises to ‘take more initiative’ were never kept.

Filing for divorce is not the easiest thing to do at the moment, but after more than a month of lockdown I could take no more. I talked with a solicitor over the phone, and dropped off documents for her (at a safe distance) last week, then told my husband.

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He was completely distraught and started behaving worse than ever. However, neither of us can get out of the house and do anything about it. I would give anything to be able to stay with my son or daughter, or pop to the pub and offload to a friend, but I’m trapped in the house with him. 

There are only a few things I can do to feel like I’ve separated from him: I’m lucky to have a spare bedroom, so at least we don’t have to share anymore. I have also stopped cooking for him, which is a start and I have a decent-size kitchen, so we can steer clear of each other when we use it.

But everything else is the same as before. I still have to clean up after him, including decontaminating the house when he comes back from work, which is often late at night. It’s making it really hard to move on. 

I feel like I’m in my own personal hell and all I can hope for is that lockdown will be lifted soon and he can move out while we continue divorce proceedings. I should have my liberty by now, but I’m more stuck than ever. 

As told to Helen Chandler-Wilde

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