Love leap 2: My great escape

Mired in a failing marriage, Clare Cranbruck struggled for years before eventually finding a way back to herself


Love leap 2: My great escape

We’d married young. I was 21. I was reeling after the death of my father and on a drunken night out, I grabbed hold of Jim, an Irishman with shark-blue eyes, an actor. He asked me to marry him after three short months. It felt wildly romantic.

When he went to drama school, I was happy to support him financially. I was a journalist with a job on a magazine; I worked hard and earned good money. Jim would work intermittently. Actors can be self-absorbed, but Jim suffered from bouts of depression too, which could make him negative and insular. All we seemed to talk about was him, his next job, his problems.

Even when he was on top form, our lives were always based around Jim’s acting jobs. I wanted to have a baby, but he never felt ready. I did end up pregnant, but had a miscarriage. I remember calling for him from the bathroom. He went out. He was ‘too depressed,’ he said to deal with it.  

We eventually had a beautiful little girl, Charlotte. He loved her, but didn’t like the responsibility of fatherhood. When he did earn money, he’d buy himself a fancy electric guitar. I had to support us financially as well as emotionally. I struggled and sought counselling. Over time, I realised we’d created a fairly toxic dynamic. As long as Jim was the star and I was the adoring supporter, all would be well. There was no room for me, or my needs, never mind our daughter’s.

Married for 10 years, I asked him to come to counselling, to discuss how we might change the dynamic. In the first session, he drummed his fingers on the arm of the chair waiting for me to finish. Then he started talking about himself. Endlessly.

With a start, I realised I was so bored of his self-obsession and lack of awareness. I also felt slightly appalled at my own lack of self-awareness that I’d allowed myself to put up with it. What was I doing? I remember leaning over in the session, kissing him goodbye and walking out halfway through. I wasn’t sure, but I think I heard the counsellor clapping. 

I started to ask questions like: what do I want? What do I need? I swapped babysitting sessions with my friends, went to inspirational talks, signed up to a creative writing course, applied for a promotion (which I got) and took up yoga. I put all the energy that I’d put into supporting my husband, into supporting myself – and my daughter. I started writing my novel, living my dreams instead of championing Jim’s.

Three years on, I’ve got double the energy I used to have and I wake up excited about the day ahead – I literally sing in the shower. I lost myself for a decade and I’m so delighted to have found a way back to myself. I have divorced my husband, but I’ve fallen in love with my own life. 

Photograph: iStock