Helping women rebuild their life after divorce
David Clensy meets the twice-divorced woman who is launching a course to help Bristol women bounce back after marriage break-up
IF anyone should know about the potential pitfalls of marriage and the heartache of divorce it's Wilma Allan. The 52-year-old has learnt the hard way that the course of true love doesn't always run smoothly, and with two acrimonious divorces under her belt, she can sympathise with anyone suffering the worst kinds of marriage break-up.
But the mother-of-two also believes that divorce can be particularly hard for women of her generation, who traditionally left the bread-winning role in the hands of their husbands.
"They find themselves single again, but with no real source of income except for relying on maintenance from their ex-husband," says Wilma. "That's not a healthy situation for them to be in."
Wilma found herself in the same situation after divorcing her second husband in 2005 – a hard-drinking Welsh hill farmer.
"I had trained as a secretary, but hadn't had a job since the early 1980s," she admits.
But now, after training as a "life coach", she is launching a course aimed at helping divorced women to find their feet alone.
"I wanted to help other women going through what I had been through, and of course I wanted to develop a career for myself," she explains.
"It's not just about helping women to find the confidence to develop their own careers, it's also about helping them to come to terms with what has happened to them, and helping them as a group, to get rid of the negative emotions that will inevitably hold them back in their future career."
The Beyond the Break Up sessions will be held once a month at Hotel du Vin in Lewin's Mead, priced at £25 including lunch.
"Meeting somewhere aspirational, like this hotel, is important in terms of giving the women their confidence back," she says.
Wilma met her first husband when she was just 18.
"We never got on brilliantly," she says. "It was a stormy relationship and he was very domineering. I left when I was 30, in an unplanned moment when I just stormed out of the house."
Wilma lived alone for four years in a cottage in the Black Mountains, where she met her second husband, a Welsh hill farmer.
"I thought he was totally different," she says. "He wasn't as clever or as calculating as my first husband, but I soon realised he was just as controlling in his own way. I was blind to it at first, but it turned out that the only thing we really had in common was our mutual love of sheep.
"So with two children – a boy and girl who were then just six and three, I planned my exit carefully, leaving with the children one afternoon when he wasn't there."
Since coming to Bristol, Wilma says she has realised that the most important thing for divorced women is to become economically independent of their ex-husbands.
"You can't rely on maintenance, not just because you can't guarantee that you will ever see it, but more for your own self-esteem. You need to find a successful career of your own, and I think the key to that is to find the one thing you really love doing. If you love it, the chances are you will be successful at it.
"I worked as a sales person for a few years, pyramid-selling, and I hated it. I was awful at it. So much so that I went to a coach in order to try to find a way to develop my confidence so I could be a better sales person.
"But I quickly realised that actually I wanted the coach's job. It seemed so wonderful for me to do a job where you can delve into people's lives in order to find a way to really help them to build their future. So that's what I did, I cashed in some Premium Bonds left to me by my father, and enrolled on a training course to become a coach.
"I now hope that, through running these kinds of courses, I can make a living for myself, and also help other women to make that initial first step after going through a divorce."
For more information about the Beyond the Break Up course run by Wilma, visit her website at www.beyondthebreak-up.com. The next session will be held at Hotel du Vin, Lewin's Mead, on November 9.