My parents’ divorce was unexpected to all those who existed in the orbit outside their marriage.
To the outside world, theirs was a relationship full of commitment and respect. Mum and Dad enjoyed a marriage signposted with cutesy traditions; weekly trips to the local market, cooking dinner together, and nightly chats around the dining table were fixtures in our family life.
They enjoyed 30 joy-filled years before they parted ways. Well, “joy-filled” to the people on the periphery, at least.
For the two people inside that marriage, there was one issue that was carving out a hole. Day by day, week by week, the rotting of their union spread from the middle. Like poison, it branched out from the core to the extremities until the whole thing became a cesspit of tension and discontentment.
Only then did my siblings and I learn that my parents’ marriage was a hollow facade – a shell of children and nostalgia and not much else.
By the time Mum and Dad announced their “surprise split”, my sisters and I were adults, on the cusp of leaving home for the thrills of travel and career. We sat around the living room, shell-shocked that our father was beating us to the chase.
I’ll never forget what my mother said mere minutes after my dad walked out: “Do any of you know where the passwords to our bank accounts are? I don’t know how to get into them.”
At the time I thought that, perhaps, Mum had a bad memory. Too many bank accounts, too little time to remember all the lengthy usernames and passcodes, right?
My mother had gone decades without knowing how much money they had. Despite being the main breadwinner, and working full-time, she had gone years without access to her own paychecks. She had handed over financial control to my father, completely and naively, year upon year, until he turned to her one day and said, "I'm done with this marriage".
Why? Because she simply took no interest in what her money was going towards - she believed my father understood matters of finance better than she ever could.
"What was I supposed to do?" she asked us when we looked at her incredulously. "Your father was always better with money than me."