‘Divorce is never a pleasant experience. You look upon it as a failure. But I learned to be a different person once we broke up. Sometimes you learn more from failure than you do from success.’ Michael Crawford
Women want their fairy-tale ending. We believe that once we find our mate that the last line of the story will read: “and they lived happily ever after”.
It’s not our fault either. We are prone through Disney movies to expect nothing less. To get whisked off our feet, to fall madly in love, and we plan to stay that way for the rest of our lives.
Imagine ending up in southern France living your ‘happily ever after’, experiencing your dream life with your partner. There you are sipping champagne and sampling oysters on the white sand beaches of the Med, skiing powder snow in the Pyrenees Mountains, or renovating your traditional village home; when you are completely sideswiped by divorce and everything goes awry.
Expats have the added weight of trying to adapt to their new country, all while they experience normal issues that arise in any marriage. They also have the added pressure of assimilating to their new culture, and learning a new language at the same time. They deal with unlimited amounts of frustrations without a support system in place to help them through it. They then put all that pressure onto their spouses while trying to cope.
Seasoned married folks know the truth. Relationships take hard work, and compromise. Even with the best of intentions, in the best situation, over 50% of marriages fail.
For us, early on in our expat life, it felt as though we had striped ourselves down to nothing. No friends, no family, no jobs, and no life yet. From this base point, within our relationship, we could easily see where our strengths and weaknesses lie. From here we had two choices. We could either become stronger in our marriage, by learning how to rely on each other, and build our new expat life together or we could build resentments, blame one another for our limitations and split-up. I am certain moving to a new country, even in the strongest of relationships, is difficult on any marriage to weather.
So what happens when your world shatters during your expat life?
Meet Honor, a freshly single gal that finds a way to make lemonade out of lemons. Going through a heartbreaking divorce while keeping her gite-rental full and raising her daughter.
My Expat Life Interview Questions
Who are you? My name is Honor Davis Marks. I am a mother of Holly a 13 year old, who was born and bred in Kent but lived for 20 years in London. My career spans from kissogram girl to IT and Banking Recruitment Consultant (I was good despite not knowing a thing about banking or IT!) to running a silk loungewear company to launching a life laundry business! (www.lifelaundress.com)
Why did you move to France? Good Question – actually I didn’t want to- nor did my ‘ex’ husband. He wanted to go ‘anywhere but France’. I loved my chi chi life in Battersea but he wanted more autonomy, blue skies and to build something for us. The compromise was southern France for the sun, and his parents were nearby just in case we needed help with stuff in general and our then 4 year old. I spoke schoolgirl French and it wasn’t far from home (and my now late mum).
Did you do anything since moving to France that you never would have expected? Everything. My life took a very different path from city girl with everything at my finger tips to rural village girl who literally had to get her hands dirty helping her builder husband renovate our filthy barns. Living or more appropriately ‘camping’ in a dark dank kitchen which despite bleaching beyond belief, we had to cover it in sticky black plastic to be able to use. We had open fires because the central heating was inadequate. I had to make local brand new friends, which is a bit of a numbers game. There are so many things that I would never have expected to do since moving to France.
Did you experience culture shock? Yes! But had I moved from cosmopolitan London to a small rural village in the Yorkshire Dales I would have experienced culture shock too. My high heels had no place here, nor the designer bags, nor, at this time, an entrepreneurial spirit (although the area has moved on since then).
Tell me how your friends stood by you.
It’s at times like this when you find out who your real friends are. At the beginning I was overwhelmed by the support of everyone. However, not one friend turned his or her back on me. They kept me standing up. They kept me breathing. Even friends who I didn’t realise were even such good friends, flew over to be with me. I have people who would send me daily messages on Facebook, (private ones!) just to check up on me. As time has gone on, they are still here for me. Although it has also made me work out who are good friends and who are acquaintances. Actually it’s been a good sort out. Proudly, I have not made enemies (I think!) and the ones that are stuck in the middle between us – well we just tread carefully and time will sort that out.
Living abroad, Facebook has also been a lifeline keeping in touch via messenger or just little messages. I have also used it to reach out to people in similar (and often worse) positions than myself. I offer my support. Not in a ranting and moaning sense but more in the asking logistical questioning sense. There are a lot of VERY strong women out there.
It makes me feel empowered, inspired and determined. Also I am hopeful and excited to see what the future will bring because as history has already shown me, you never know what is around the next corner. So I keep myself open to opportunities, I network (I always was a network queen).
What do you do for a living? I run the gites that we built named Maison de la Roche.
What did you do to integrate with your community? For a while not so much as we were so busy with our renovation but having a little girl at the village primary school helped and I organised play dates which was seen as quite unusual as all the children here would be looked after by grandparents and just see their friends at schools and birthday parties. Since my husband and I have split I have made more of an effort (he barely speaks the language and isn’t a social butterfly like me). I have managed to develop more friendships with the French, go to far more local fetes and frequently support my local tapas bar run by a local ex rugby man. Now that is integration!
Tell me something special about the Languedoc that most people don’t know? There is so much more than people realise here. You have the beaches, and mountains. You can sunbathe and ski. There are so many castles and the nature is amazing from flamingos to kangaroos. And it is the biggest wine producing region in the world.
What is the worst thing about being an expat? Missing your friends and family, Indian takeaways and not fully understanding the culture and language but that is also the best part.
What is your favourite thing about being an expat?
Learning a new language, culture and leading a challenging life.
What is a myth about your adopted country?
No myth – all those rumours are true!
What advice would you give other expats?
Don’t come here thinking it’s a dream, that life will be easier, and that the sun shines all the time. It becomes life, with normal ups and downs.
What are you currently working on?
Building my business and adding on values to ensure that people come here and fall in love with this place and leave with happy memories.
I am determined to keep these gites operating because they are my daughter’s home plus our income. Not sure I could go back to being a kissogram girl!
I am excited about my business getting stronger and more successful in spite of my unexpected life plot twist!
Ferrals les Corbieres is a commune within the Aude department of southern France, and close to the city of Narbonne.
Closest attractions are Carcassonne City a UNESCO heritage site where Walt Disney got his inspiration for his film openings, and Minerve the village that clings to the gorge located in the heart of the Minervois wine region. The closest beaches are in Gruissan, located on the edge of the Parc Naturel Régional de la Narbonnaise en Mediterranee. A quick drive brings you to Lake Homps and endless bicycle paths along the Canal du Midi.
If you wish to book this beautiful rental during your vacation in southern France, please contact Honor at Maison de la Roche Contact Link
or follow her on Twitter or Facebook !!