Thanks to a long-distance relationship that turned toxic after she got pregnant and moved to be near her partner, Aveline Clarke had to navigate a messy five years in her late 30s. During this time she was trapped personally and geographically with two of her three children, before she could get back onto the path of her life. She introduced – and vigorously refuted – the concept of “spiritual gaslighting,” as in, “you attracted him for a reason.” She talks about how she found the strength and resilience to survive this difficult chapter of her life.

Guest Bio 

Aveline is the founder of Journey Point, where she assists businesses to connect meaningfully with their core customer while helping them to connect with their purpose in business. She is the host of the 6 Star Business podcast, and the Founder and Captain of the 6 Star Community starship that helps guide and empower 6 Star Entrepreneurs to bring their voice, genius, impact and purpose to the world. She’s a mum of homeschooled twin boys, tends to a veggie garden, loves Formula 1 and plant based cooking, and took up surfing in 2021 to surf with her son. 

Her journey has been an exploration of life and learning who she really is, and coming back to ‘self’. Now she gets to share that with others and help inspire them to be more authentic and purposeful in business.

Turning 40 and getting a crash course in adulthood 2.0

In this episode of the Forty Drinks Podcast, Stephanie talks to Aveline Clarke, who shares her harrowing story of being trapped personally and geographically during her late thirties and early forties. Aveline opens up about her relationship with a narcissistic partner, the birth of her twin boys, and the unraveling of her life after moving to be with her boyfriend. She recounts the emotional and financial struggles she faced, including a court order taken out against her by her partner and the subsequent legal battles. Aveline discusses the lack of support from friends and the fickle nature of relationships during difficult times. Despite the overwhelming challenges, Aveline persevered and found strength in personal growth and mindset work. Finally, she shares how she eventually escaped her situation and returned to Queensland with her boys. 

Highlights from the episode:

  • Aveline’s realization that her partner was only interested in control of her and their twins and the unraveling of their relationship.
  • The court order he took out against her that essentially trapped her, and her challenges in the Australian legal system, including a judge who was vocal about making “mincemeat” of her. 
  • The lack of support she experienced from friends and the fickle nature of relationships during difficult times.
  • Aveline coped with her entrapment through personal growth and mindset work, which helped her find strength and resilience.
  • The eventual escape from her situation and return to Queensland with her twin boys.

Aveline’s story is a testament to resilience, gratitude, and the power of choice. If you enjoyed this episode, please rate, follow, and review the Forty Drinks Podcast.

What are toxic relationship types?

Toxic or unhealthy relationships come in many forms and guises. Many times, we begin a relationship thinking the best of our new partner and ignoring red flags or warning signs. In this episode, Aveline didn’t learn her relationship was toxic until she was pregnant and had moved to be with her partner. In a previous episode, Toby thought her boyfriend was being thoughtful and caring when he asked her where she had been or who she had seen that day. She didn’t realize it was the first steps toward controlling behavior. Kari was in a different type of toxic relationship, where she had to make herself small so she didn’t anger her boyfriend, who she later married. Jenny was married to an alcoholic who couldn’t and wouldn’t get his addiction under control. Bottom line: any relationship in which you can’t be your full, true self is an unhealthy one. 

Guest Resources

Aveline’s Free Offer for Listeners: Want to position your business 6 Star? Take the 2-minute quiz.

Find Aveline on LinkedIn

Journey Point website

6 Star Business Podcast

Do you have the Midlife Ick? 

Download Stephanie’s guide to the Ick to diagnose whether you or someone you love is suffering from this insidious midlife malaise.

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The Forty Drinks Podcast is produced and presented by Savoir Faire Marketing/Communications


Stephanie: Hi, Aveline. Welcome to the 40 drinks podcast.

Aveline: Oh, hello, Stephanie. so good to be here. Thank you for having me.

Stephanie: I am so pleased to have you all the way from the Gold Coast of Australia. Thank you so much for getting up early to join me today.

Aveline: And it's a Saturday morning as well, and your Friday night. So let's just put that out there.

Stephanie: We both get a little high five there for me

on the late and you on the early. So

thanks to us both.

Aveline: Exactly.

Stephanie: I'm so excited today because we are going to talk about your crash course in adulthood 2. 0. We're going to talk about spiritual gaslighting. We're going to talk about the storm you weathered in your late thirties and early forties. We are going to cover a lot of ground, but before we jump in, why don't you set the stage for where our story begins. So who were you and how did you get to your late thirties?

Aveline: Oh gosh, Okay. So by late thirties, I'd left corporate, I'd done my corporate gig, done very well, but like many people just seeing the dark side of the corporate and that there was something more to live for and left full of gusto. In my early thirties, I bought into a franchise, I think it was a franchise that was more of a licensee model of coaching sort of model, but I jumped into my own business and it was going well and a couple of years in and I I'd moved States. So I'd left my home state. I had a young daughter and a dog and a cat and off we went and life was pretty good. And I felt like I was living the life that I deserved to live, you know, I was sort of full of that lovely, buoyant energy that you get when you feel like life's on your side. I was living in this beautiful area, my daughter was going to a Steiner School. She was happy. I was getting clients and, naively, had no idea that business was supposed to be difficult the first year that you go and work for yourself. Here I was getting clients and making money. And I was going to the beach every day and most beautiful beaches. And I live not far from Byron Bay. And I was just like, life's really good. Yeah. Life's great. Um, so that sets the scene. I met a guy, one of my clients was a national speaker and was on stage quite a bit, and he invited me to one of his events, on crew. And I thought, great, I get to learn a bit and, I went as crew and one of his other crew members was someone that he'd known for a number of years. And, I guess by association, I made the assumption that this guy was as amazing as my client, right? Because my client had been a friend and done spawning activities with him for a number of years, you know how you just sort of, by association, you make an assumption about someone's quality of character. So anyway, long story short, met this guy and ended up dating him and having a long distance relationship. He lived in Melbourne, I lived up near Byron Bay and that's where the story begins. I continue that relationship until I got pregnant and the relationship continued. Let's say, so when I was, I'm mid thirties,

Stephanie: Mm-hmm.

Aveline: there was all the promises of an amazing life in Melbourne and I wanted to have the fairy tale. So I had this wonderful life and I thought, I don't really want to give it up. I've done everything to leave Melbourne and go have a lifestyle and my own business, but I'd gotten pregnant and I chose a path that I thought was the safest option

Stephanie: Mm.

Aveline: because I didn't want to stay, because literally I was given an ultimatum, I can only support you if you move to Melbourne

Stephanie: Okay.

Aveline: and I thought that it would be too hard to stay a single mum and have another baby and be where I was. I think there was just the fear of social stigma and all this sort of stuff. And I wasn't confident or strong enough at the time to sort of say, no, I'll be fine, it doesn't matter,

Stephanie: Mm,

Aveline: I've been a single mom already, I had a 10 year old daughter at this point. And, anyway, went back to Melbourne and a number of things happened. So there was money because his dad passed away when I was pregnant, so there was inheritance that supported us and beyond, but,that's where things kind of started to unravel really. And at 36, I gave birth to two beautiful twin boys. They were full term, so very healthy, and it wasn't long after that I was breastfeeding them. I mean, I was not happy. I was in a place that I didn't really want to be, moving back to Melbourne, I guess I realized that I was in a tricky situation because I guess the true colors of him came out and then the reality of responsibility, shared finances, you know, living up to one's life, I would say just what we've got to do, what our responsibilities are, and he clearly had not been living up to his own responsibilities prior to that, but I didn't see that. I also didn't have any prior experience dealing with narcissists and I didn't realize at the time that he was one, I just was going through this experience going, Oh my gosh, this is not the man I fell in love with, why am I going through this? That's okay. Hopefully things will change. Hopefully it'll change and I'll stick it out because for me, security was the number one thing. And by the way, I didn't know I had twins until I'd moved to Melbourne.

Stephanie: okay.

Aveline: So that's kind of where it was. I was slightly depressed in the six, 12 months after giving birth, sort of that postnatal thing, but I think it was actually more that I was stuck and the reality of, Oh my gosh, I've effectively walked into a trap, it felt like. And it was really quite awful. We were in counselling, on my suggestion, on urgence, and yeah, it was, it was not good. We went to see a counselor who was actually... she was amazing. I shopped around to find the right person for us, but, the reason I went with her is because she was more than just a counselor. She was a qualified counselor and relationship counselor, but she also looked at things from a spiritual perspective as well, cycles, meanings of things, she brought in different aspects, she had some great tools. And I think it was like our second or third session, he went to the toilet and she said, Aveline, I never do this but,if there's any way you can get out of this relationship, you should walk.

Stephanie: Oh.

Aveline: She said he's emotionally retarded

Stephanie: Oh my God.

Aveline: and he will only cause you pain because of the pain and the issues that he's had through his life that he's never resolved. She said it's too far gone. And I said, well, okay. I was a bit shocked. And then he came back from the toilet, the session continued. That was a bit of a flash, but this is where everything kind of fell apart because he'd actually gone behind my back to a lawyer and taken out a court order against me stating that I was going to kidnap his babies and flee. And I was delivered these papers two days after Boxing Day. He was standing behind me in the hallway. And the knock at the door and they said, are you Aveline Clark? I said, yes and they just handed me some papers and she said, you've been served. I said, what? You've been served. She walked away. Never been served before, I didn't understand. Like what? I opened this envelope and there's this legal documentation and all I can see is a front page with his name and my name. I said, what is this? And he said, well, in all the counseling sessions, you haven't agreed that you're happy to stay here and you just want to go back to Queensland. I said, yeah, because my business is there and I've got clients and I can actually make money. You're not making money. Where's the money? Where's the security?

Stephanie: right.

Aveline: This was the foundation that had fallen out. And he said, well, you don't, I can't... I said, I'm not running away, I've just said that I'm depressed, I'm not happy here. And we can actually make a go of it in Queensland. And due to that, he had hacked into my emails, found some emails between me and my mum and used that as his evidence that I was planning to run away with his kids, my kids. Which is a complete joke when you think I was breastfeeding twin babies that were 14 months old. And I'm sitting there going, what the F have I gotten myself into? It was just beyond comprehension and devastation of two years ago I was happy living my dream life, thought that I was on track and everything was good, thought that I'd found the right guy, but clearly made a naive decision, and I'm now trapped. And that was the start of the entrapment phase.

Stephanie: Oh my god, Aveline, I know that this is audio and I hope listeners could hear my jaw dropping multiple times while you were telling that story. I assume that our jaws dropped in unison. Holy cow. Uh,

Aveline: Yeah.

Stephanie: usually I'm pretty good on my feet here. And we've even had a pre interview. I mean, I'm like stunned. Uh, well, I guess you did save some of the juicy details for our conversation. Oh my goodness. Oh my goodness. Okay. So you did mention to me that you had a very messy five years and you were stuck in Victoria under court orders. So, once you received that package from the knock on the door, where does life go from there? Do you continue to live with him? What were the immediate effects?

Aveline: Well, using all my corporate condition and training and prowess, it was like, okay, well let's sit down and let's talk about this. Let's go through this. What does this mean? He sits down. Well you tell me, do you want to stay here and, and what were his words? Are you willing to stay here and do what I want?

Stephanie: Oh! Mm

Aveline: I said, I'm sorry. I said, we're meant to be a team, a partnership. We need to also provide for our family. If you can't provide for the family, then I will. I have my business clients sitting there waiting to go. My clients are all located in Queensland. I'm depressed here. Let's give it a go up there. He said, no. I said, so what's it going to take for you to drop these court orders? He said, you have to promise and sign that you're going to stay here. And I said, where does Jade go to high school? My daughter. Cause this was the summer, just after Christmas, four weeks, five weeks before she was due to start high school. She had nowhere to go and she wasn't enrolled in any school and he couldn't answer me. And I said, where can she go? Because previously she was enrolled in a private school that he had promised that she would be able to attend. And now there was no money and he wasn't earning enough. And so put it on him.

Stephanie: Right.

Aveline: Where's money coming from? Couldn't answer. So he walked out of the room. And that was it. That was the extent of the conversation. There was no working through anything and there was nothing reasonable about it. There was no compassion, there was no emotion, all he wanted was control. Regardless of the pain, the awkwardness, the inappropriateness, regardless of anything else, he just wanted to be in control. And to the outside world, he wanted to appear as being this amazing father. And look at me and my two prized possession twin boys. So one of my daughter's school friends, her father was a lawyer and he came over and chatted to me, saw the papers and gave me some initial advice. He said, look, you have to appear in court, there's a court date. I said, but we're living together still. He said, well, you need to figure out what... so very quickly it was, no, you need to leave, like this relationship is over, we've got no way to reconcile and sort this out, then clearly it's over and if you're taking me to court, then, that's it. And he did it at a time when not only was my daughter due to start high school, but the lease on the house we were in was due to run out as well, two days before my daughter was meant to start high school. And ironically, it was the day before the court date. So I had three big events within three days at the end of January. I think court date was first, the lease was the next day, and then the day after, my daughter was due to start high school. It was like WTF? What am I going to do?

Stephanie: Yeah.

Aveline: Where am I going to live? What's going on? It was that awful. I rang, I looked at housing for women, you know, social housing and the support structures in place that were just not there. I could take my twins, I couldn't take a pram, if I wanted to go into emergency housing, I couldn't fit anything more than just a bag. And it's like, well, how do I, that's not going to work. So there was all of these things, I had to find a lawyer obviously, I couldn't turn up to court without a lawyer, and I had to figure out how to pay for it. My mom offered to support me financially for that initial lawyer. Anyway, had to go to court. It was awful. The judge was just, sometimes I think judges have bad days like we do, and let's just say I think I got the judge on a bad day, and that was just an interim hearing. Then we had to go back for the proper full two days in court, three months later. So the interim outcome of that little initial court hearing was that they wrote up some orders to state what the deal was and there was some orders written and when I attended court, what had happened in those four weeks was my mom took my daughter and actually they went and moved to Queensland or to Northern New South Wales and put my daughter into high school. I got her in and she started high school. And it was one of those kind of crazy situations, we moved out of the house, my neighbors helped me. I had one neighbor looking after my babies, another neighbor was helping me pack a van. This was all when my ex was out of the house and we had to do it in stealth mode because he was collecting evidence for the court stuff and he was doing everything he could to try and make a case that I was running away with his kids. And of course I couldn't run away with his kids, it just didn't make sense. So I had to accept that my daughter was going to be away from me.

Stephanie: Did he expect you to continue living with him?

Aveline: Yeah, he did. Yeah, with no security, he couldn't explain how the money was coming in, how we were going to live, where we were going to live. He'd effectively gone through an inheritance in a year's time.

Stephanie: And he didn't work?

Aveline: Well, he had like his own business, but it wasn't really making any money. And, yeah. So after that interim court hearing, which was kind of like an hour in front of a judge and then the judge then gives orders and says, here's some interim orders before we go to final trial and because my case was a kidnapping - that's what they call it, it's a kidnapping - they rushed the final trial. So instead of it being like six to eight months later, which is typical court times, they scheduled it for March, it was only two months later because apparently I was a flight risk. Yeah. No money, no support, twin babies on the boobs, and apparently I'm a flight risk. Anyway, stayed and just got through it, with support of neighbors and, uh, I lost friends. And this is another thing, you know, you go through life and especially in your thirties and you have all these friends and it's amazing how fickle and how life works. I got to see another side of humanity during this period, because I lost some friends, people that I thought were my closest friends, people that I'd shared lots with, our kids had played together, we'd helped each other out. We'd had drinks, you know, all that stuff

Stephanie: Yeah.

Aveline: literally walk away because I was in a dire circumstance. And they walked away. Sorry, can't help you. I don't think that I can be a supportive person to you at this point in your life, never heard from them again. One of my closest friends, her mum had passed just a couple of years before, she was an only child, her mum was very wealthy. She'd gotten all the inheritance and her friends were lining up for money, basically, and she was supporting a couple of her friends to study and all this sort of stuff. And then I hit the skids with this situation. I never asked her for money. I didn't ask her for anything except, could you write a statement for me to put into the court? And she told me she couldn't help me. And I said, literally I'm homeless, I've got to find somewhere to live and she couldn't help me and then withdrew her friendship. So, I learnt that people, ugh, people's versions of friendship are very different to mine and I learned that you can't trust everybody. The world isn't kind in general and sometimes things happen to you. You know, I had a couple of other people go, Oh, you must've attracted this. You must've attracted this to your life. It must be some kind of spiritual lesson. No, no, it took me years to accept that it wasn't a spiritual lesson, I did not attract it. There are things that just happen to you and you've got to figure your way through. And this was one of those times,

Stephanie: Right. And that's the spiritual gaslighting you mentioned, that whole concept of, it must be for your benefit in some way.

Aveline: Yes, exactly. No, no, it wasn't, but it woke me up. It woke me up to the reality that not everyone has your back. And sometimes a stranger can be more support than someone you thought was one of your best friends.

Stephanie: Yeah. Yeah, I was just reading, there's an advice columnist in the Washington Post that I love, and was just reading one of her columns today or yesterday. And it was that same thing. It was like, weddings and deaths, you will always be surprised at the people who show up. And the people who don't,

Aveline: Oh yeah.

Stephanie: the people who think you can count on and you can really rely on, sometimes, a lot of times, they're the ones who are going to hurt you the most. And the people who you might think are casual friends or on the periphery of your life, or like you say, even strangers are the ones who are going to throw you the lifeline that's going to help save you.

Aveline: Yeah. Yeah, absolutely. And it was a friend of my dad's, like an ex business partner of my dad's from 30 years before who ended up offering me somewhere to live. I lived in a hotel for a week.

Stephanie: Wow.

Aveline: Like a motel like literally just trying to, yeah, get through, there was just nowhere else to go. And with no money, I was fully dependent on my ex and then waiting for government support, oh yes, the joys. And trying to figure that out was really, really hard.

Stephanie: Oh no. So you ended up being someone who needed the assistance of what we call here the welfare system.

Aveline: I was a hundred percent dependent on welfare. Moved in with a friend of my dad's for a little while and up until what they call final trial, which was in the March, and I had been trying to see my daughter with cheap flights, you know, the 40 dollar flights and stuff like that, I'd been trying to go and see her a couple of times just because she was settling into high school.

My interim orders were written in a way that my lawyer's advice was, yes, you're able to fly, it's all fine. There was technicalities, but I was able to do it. I was like, okay, cool. And I learned that lawyer wasn't great And this lawyer told me to stop breastfeeding and I

said, what? And he said, Oh, it'll be good for your case. And I found another lawyer and thank goodness I did. When you go to final trial, you need a barrister. I became very educated in the legal system, the lawyer interprets the law and gives you strategic advice and does some level of work for you on a legal basis. A barrister is the one that represents you in court and converses with the judge. So I needed to have the right sort of barrister. This lawyer that I met was actually someone who understood me because she also had twins, she also went through a similar situation with the father of her twin girls 10, 12 years before, that actually caused her to become a lawyer. So she knew my situation and she was strategic, she was sharp and she knew how to do this, but she said to me from the start, I'm not going to sugar coat anything, this is a long game, and you're in for the hell of a fight and this is not going to be easy. The barrister she got, I didn't meet until the day before trial. So it was Friday, I was due to go to trial on Monday. I was going to fight it, I was intending to go to trial and fight and plead my case to be able to relocate to Queensland and have access for the dad and all that stuff, like do it properly.

Stephanie: Can I ask you a question? Cause I need some context here. What is the distance between where you were in Victoria and where you wanted to be in Queensland? You said something about a flight, so give me a sense of how long it would take you to drive or,

Aveline: Okay. Two, 2000 kilometers.

Stephanie: Okay.

Aveline: And so this is the crunch point. It's the Friday. I get a call from this barrister who's going to be representing me on Monday. And it's the first time I've spoken to her. She's a lovely lady and she's got my documents, right? She's reading through them. And she's spent a day reading through them already. And she asked me some preliminary questions and then she said, I have to be honest with you. I'm actually really concerned. I said, what do you mean? She said, I've read your documents and I realized when I was reading your documents that I recognized your case. And I recognized it because in chambers, that's the rooms in the back of the court where all the barristers chat and meet, they all connect and talk about their cases. She said, we've been hearing about this case for a few weeks and the judge that you saw at your first hearing, who's also going to be there Monday, has learnt that you've been traveling and the barristers have been talking about how she's quite scary, this judge, and how the judge is planning to make mincemeat of you to make an example of you to stop people from being flight risks and kidnapping their children. But more than that, she's really angry because somehow the judge read the documents and from whatever my ex had put forward as well, and seen that I'd been traveling to visit my daughter and because of that, she felt that I had disobeyed her orders. So the interpretation of those first interim orders was clearly muddy and my first lawyer had seen it one way, but apparently it was not that at all. So in other words, I was not supposed to travel at all, or maybe once or twice, but anyway, she said, in all honesty, if we were to go to trial on Monday, you will lose. She said your case has been talked about throughout chambers with all the other barristers, and I just realized looking at your documents, that it's you and I've got your case. You've got no way of winning. We can go to trial if you like, but you'll be made mincemeat and it would go on record and it might be really, really bad for you. I mean, how much worse could this get?

Stephanie: Yeah.

Aveline: And I went, okay, what do you advise? She said, we'll speak to your lawyer, but I recommend that we go in on Monday and we agree to settle. I said, what does that mean? She said, it means we don't go before the judge and have a trial. It means that we tell the judge we're going to negotiate out in the meeting rooms, and so we settle. I said, what will that mean? She says, it means that you'll be settling and agreeing to whatever your ex wants. I was absolutely beside myself.

Stephanie: I'm beside myself and it's more than a decade later. I'm speechless.

Aveline: It was like life had dealt me not just one bad lemon, but a bag of bad lemons. Like, how could it be this? I'm not a bad person. I'm trying to do the best for my kids and I'm a decent person and I tried to make things work with my ex. Do you know what I mean? Like, why did it, why, why am I here?

Stephanie: It's like you were in bizarro world, like the upside down or something like, like, yes means no and no means yes. And how do you even find yourself in these situations?

Aveline: It was beyond me. It took me a couple of years of almost every day, just learning to somehow just accept and move forward. So yeah, Monday morning we settled and the orders we had to negotiate to a point. He had a barrister, my barrister, they run in between the two rooms and backwards and forwards for about four hours until we finally agreed and some of it was ridiculous, some of it we had fought back on, but effectively I was not allowed to leave Melbourne. There was a distance, I think it was 30 kilometers, of the Melbourne post office in the CBD, so a 30 kilometer radius, I was only allowed to live within that. And this is a big city and 30 kilometers radius, it's suburbia. And, I'm like, how the hell, where the hell, you? know, where am I going to live?

Stephanie: Right. Cause I can imagine that's also probably among the most expensive real estate in the city.

Aveline: Most of it, yeah. Yeah. So, it was awful. And in that moment, it felt like these two barristers were deciding where I was going to live. And they were literally going so you need to tell us now which suburbs, here's a map, where do you think you're going to live? I said, why is this relevant? Well, we need to get the agreement of the other party, so we need to work out where you're going to look for a house. Where are you going to live? I'm like, wow, they're now dictating where I'm going to live. Oh, this one would be okay because then the distance between you and the boy's father would be less and then the travel time would be less. But I think this would be a better place here. It couldn't be more out of my hands.

Stephanie: Yeah.

Aveline: No autonomy to do anything. Oh, not only am I trapped, you're going to tell me where I'm going to live. So I looked at the map at this point. I sort of had to take control and I went, well, what about right there? And they said, Oh, that looks like it's right on the 30 kilometer edge. I said, I don't care. That looks like that's a new area, right? It was one of those fairly new suburbs with new housing developments. And I was literally on the phone on the internet, looking up rentals as we're in the negotiating room and seeing what the prices of houses were. And I went, well, this is a new area, there's cheap houses, that's where I'll have to go. Where's the cheapest housing in that 30 kilometer radius?

Stephanie: Right.

Aveline: And that was it. It was kind of like my future was sealed and it was all decided by barristers, the welfare of my babies, where I was going to live and that I was stuck, how often they saw their dad, everything was out of my decision making. It was taken away from me. And it was the most, ah, look, the words escape me. It was just shit, basically. It was awful and no wonder that I was sort of quite depressed for quite a while.


Stephanie: I'm having a hard time comprehending how your ex's story became the truth and your story became not even relevant. How does that even happen?

Aveline: This is what I was asking my lawyer and she said, Aveline, you have to understand that there are cycles in the family court system. I said, what do you mean? She said, well, the pendulum has swung back to the men, so the courts will give the men a lot of leeway, but like that everything has to be equal. So even where there's a hint of a mother doing something that's not, in their eyes, what they want, they'll give the father everything. So it was a period where they were coming down hard, not only on relocation, so my case was considered a relocation case where I wanted to fight for a relocation,

Stephanie: Mm hmm.

Aveline: and, obviously I didn't get a chance to fight for it, but, it was about the father's access, so they didn't care about anything else. This is one of the failures of the court system. It doesn't look at psych safety, bullying, anything like that, the safety, it's like, no, it's just the father, you know, is he, is he healthy? Does he work? Okay. Even if he doesn't work much, that's okay. It doesn't matter how much money he's got. He's still got all the rights and you mother, just because you want to have a life and earn money and, be happy and, live in a different place, no, we're going to penalize you and we're going to keep you stuck, then you can stay here. It doesn't matter if you're depressed and the world's against you and you've got no support. That doesn't matter. They don't look at the context, anything like that. Yeah, it was a very, very difficult, like you said, like another world, like topsy turvy ascendant sort of experience. And it was exactly that for those few years. And there wasn't many lights in those few years except for my boys.

Stephanie: Oh my God. I've been speechless through much of your story. People who listen to this podcast know that I'm usually much more conversational and I'm popping in and we're telling stories and I just am, I'm on my heels. I'm, I'm, I can't, I, I am, uh, I'm so proud of you for surviving this. I have some questions. So, did you get the rental in that place?

Aveline: Mm hmm. I did. Yeah.

Stephanie: and this negotiated settlement, was it indefinite? Was it open ended? Were there any junctures at which you could renegotiate?

Aveline: No, that's not written into these orders. So the orders were written, the boys were 14, 15, 16 months old, 17 months old at this point, when they were written and they were written up until they were five. They were very detailed. Basically it's like, this age and this date, the shared access, it will be like the mother drops them off, the father has them for three hours, meets back at this point. You know what I mean? it's very detailed. And then up until they go to kindergarten and then it was, I think they were written til they were five and then it did say at this point, they need to be renegotiated

Stephanie: Okay.

Aveline: for schooling.

Stephanie: Okay. So they were just under two and you did have a juncture point when they turned five to I don't know what

Aveline: Yeah. Good. Yeah.

Stephanie: So what did you do for those couple of years? How did you survive? Did you work? Did you find a job? Did you go back to corporate?

Aveline: Um, no, I had my kids. So I started working back in my business, previous clients just suddenly came out of the blue, oh, can you just help us with this? Can you help us with that? Yeah, sure. And I could do that around the boys. When I put them in daycare, a couple of afternoons, a couple of half days a week, on the advice of my lawyer, she said, you're going to need time to yourself. You need to give yourself some mental space. And I was like, no, she said, Aveline, go and find a childcare center that's the cheapest one that you can afford. And I did that and it was very helpful. I was on welfare. I didn't get any child support from their dad for the first 18 months because his income was so low. And so there I was paying out for the boys. Oh yeah, this is what I mean, the justice system it's not really that just.

Stephanie: And it sounds like you had primary custody and he just had visitation.

Aveline: YeahThe other thing I should mention is when I spoke to that barrister, the Friday before the Monday trial, she said, if we go to trial, because of the anger that the judge has about your situation, there's a risk that she might take them off you

Stephanie: Mm hmm.

Aveline: and give them to the father. And given what I've read about in his documents, what he's submitted in his affidavits, I wouldn't be surprised he would fight for that. And my lawyer had said the same thing. So could he look after them? No. But that doesn't matter. He's a narcissist, he just wanted control. Anyway, back to your question. Yeah, no, I was not really supported at all and got by on welfare, plus, getting some clients in as well and just working around the babies, which is what I could do. I had a couple of very close friends during those years that sort of saved me one in particular, who would ring me every day and make sure I was still with it. It was hard. It was very hard.

Stephanie: Was there anything that you were able to do for yourself that you think helped you make it through that period that must have felt so hopeless and pointless, other than your babies?

Aveline: Yeah, I did some personal growth. I felt like I was I was taken out of my happy life and plunked into this very gray abyss. It was pretty much like being in jail,

Stephanie: Yeah.

Aveline: a few more freedoms, but not much. And so I thought, well, it's a period that I need to just go within. I'm a searcher, I'm always educating myself and I just started learning. I looked at my mindset and because there were periods where it was very dark and I didn't want to be there, so I went through some personal development around mindset and looking at my mind, because I knew that if I didn't, then I might sink further down.

Stephanie: When you say you did mindset work, were you reading books? Were you finding things on the internet? How did you do mindset work?

Aveline: Good, good question. I did a bit of research and there was a couple of people I respected, I guess, from my former life, just a year before and I'd sort of look them up and then they start talking about mindset and a bit more about how we program the brain and so I went back to people that I trusted, and then I sort of went from there. There was a couple of books I bought, and then there was an audio program and then I was able to buy on a payment plan, this brain retraining program. I got it from someone well respected and it was kind of cutting edge,it was about reprogramming the limiting beliefs or the negative thoughts, and trust me, I've got plenty, but back then it was huge.

Stephanie: Well, and I could imagine that the actual details of your life were reinforcing most of your limiting beliefs. You'd think, well, I can't do that and then you'd look at your life and go, Hey, look, it's true. I can't do that. Right? I'm really amazed. I hear lots of stories of people having challenges in their life or having periods of messiness. And some people who had to burn down most of their life in order to start over again. I have not yet heard a story about somebody who got stuck in a topsy turvy land and became a prisoner for a number of years.

Aveline: Yeah.

Stephanie: This is a new story for me.

Aveline: I just want to say, I didn't know if I was going to get out.

Stephanie: Right. That was exactly where I was going next. Because, at that juncture when they turned five, you don't know if things are going to magically go your way or if they're going to continue along the same trajectory that they've been on. So, tell me a little bit about those couple of years. Your ex, how much did he see the kids, did he have them for weekends? Did you have time off?

Aveline: So there was the daycare, couple of days, and then he got them on our orders, so at each birthday, he gradually got a bit more. So at the age of three and a half, he got them for an overnight.

Stephanie: Okay.

Aveline: And, then he'd get them for like three hours on a weekend, that kind of thing. It was a bit more, a bit more, right up until they turned seven was 50 50. What was written in the orders was up until five and then, but it was basically giving him a little bit more at the fourth birthday and then at the fifth birthday. He'd get them for two nights a week I think at that point. And it was very clear, I'd drive them to his house, leave them, or we'd meet in a car park somewhere, it was all in the orders. And my lawyer said to me, Aveline, we wait, we sit and wait. And literally there was a period of like almost a year where I never spoke to her because there's nothing to do. I can't do anything.

Stephanie: Right.

Aveline: I just have to stay here.

Stephanie: It's just steady on. Yeah.

Aveline: Yeah. Yeah. Pretty much.

Stephanie: Let's just jump forward, tell me about when they turned five.

Aveline: Actually, they were four and a half and what happened was, a few things, I was in contact with my lawyer, like when they were three and three and a half. And she'd said to me, this is a long term game. She said, there are a couple of ways we go. The thing is, if we try and go back to court, you're going to get the same judge. For whatever reason that judge has got it in for you. You're not going to win.. Then she rang me up one day and she said, Oh, guess what? We've got a glimmer of hope, there's been this new division in the family law courts for relocations and they've got a new system in place to try and help the relocation cases. So what they've done is they've put two judges on this and there's a process you put your name in a waiting list, but basically it separates out the relocation cases from all the other, family law cases, that way they can get through them and the good thing is you would get a different judge and she said, I know both the judges and they're fair. So we looked at this and we were preparing to apply for a relocation case where we would have to go in front of a judge and plead our case to relocate. So we were preparing this and I think the boys were just turned four when this happened, and then literally, I think it was like a month later, the boy's dad moved house. So we were always prepared that if at any time he screwed up or slipped up or made a mistake or broke the orders, we could then file to say, ah, he's broken the orders, we are now applying based on the fact that he's broken them, these orders don't apply, we want new ones. So a month later, literally I get notice from him that he's already moved house and he's moved to another part of the city that would require an hour's drive, in peak traffic, an hour and a half's drive to take the boys to him. My lawyer went, beautiful, we've got him. First of all, he made a mistake. He actually didn't tell me beforehand. He told me after the fact. Second of all, he didn't consult with me or consider the impact on the kids. So the kids would be sitting in a car driving for long periods, et cetera, et cetera, and the impact on me. She said, this is enough for us to file in the court now. There was a couple of other things, and it just felt like at the start of that year that I don't know, something energetically felt different as well. Okay, I'm going to bring something really woowoo into this. In the February, it was my birthday and my close friend had bought me a session with an astrologer who sort of does some psychic medium work and astrology. She's based in the U S and this woman is in her sixties and she was basically an astrologer to the stars. And I had this session and she asked me have you got some kind of legal thing going on? I said, yes. She said, well, everything's lining up for you. This year's your year. I said, can you give me more detail? And she said, well, what I can tell you is there's a window, there's this just a very defined window between which it looks like if you were to go and do legal action, it would be in your favor, and she gave me the dates. I think it was like March and May or April or something, just the two month window. And then later on she said, are you planning to relocate? I said, no, I'm stuck at the moment. She said, I see you moving interstate in July. I went, oh. And that, okay, you know, we can hold on to these things, but it really gave me buoyancy of hope. Right. And I kept it all to myself. I was like, my gosh. And then I'd speak to my lawyer and everything kind of lined up that we were going to file this application in the court in the window that she said, and I kid you not what the astrologer said to me was bang on.

Stephanie: Really?

Aveline: We filed in the court, everything lined up, we got the papers in and we got a date, which was only four weeks later. So we were still within this window. We appeared for this interim. You go in for these interim hearings, the boy's dad turned up and he's supposed to submit papers to respond, right? That's the way all these things work, one party applies, the other one responds with a counter response. And that goes before, the judge. He didn't respond. He turned up by himself, he had papers all over the floor and the judge told him to go away and sort his papers out. We had to go back the next day and he ended up with a lawyer. And, he was all over the place, he wasn't able to provide anything. The judge then said, I'll give you two weeks. And they'd already read all mine and the barrister had already laid out the facts and his barrister was standing there and couldn't really respond. By the way, this is brand new judge. They looked at all the facts, the boy's age, the fact that I had done my time being a perfect model mother. My daughter was still interstate in high school, living with my mom, her grandmother, all this stuff. And I could just tell from the few words that that judge said, I thought, oh my gosh, I might actually have a case here. He was saying something positive about me, he wasn't coming down on me. So in those two weeks, the idea is we wait for him to put his papers in. And my lawyer got a call from his lawyer to say, he won't be submitting. They asked for another week. That's right. They asked for another week extension. And we already put forward a proposed access orders, like from the age of five onwards with us relocating. We'd already said, this is what we want, here's our case, so it was up to them to respond. Then we go back to court and let the judge decide. What happened was they capitulated. He didn't have the money to go to final trial, I knew that, but also because of that, and because of the situation, I guess he was the one in the weaker position.

Stephanie: Mm hmm.

Aveline: And so they settled with us. And I'll never forget the day my lawyer rang me and she said, Are you ready? Are you sitting down? They've agreed to settle. You're going home. And, not only that, the date that I could leave was four weeks or six weeks after that, and it was in the July. It was the exact window that the astrologer had said you were going to relocate. I gave me four weeks, I packed up my car and my boys and we drove home.

Stephanie: Oh my god.

Aveline: It was unbelievable how quick that period went between the window of being able to apply and then me leaving, it was like four months. It was just, oh my God, and all of a sudden it was over. It was over.


Stephanie: And how old were the boys when you left?

Aveline: They were almost five. Yeah.

Stephanie: So you were stuck in this state for three and a half years. Well, essentially the better part of five years.

Aveline: Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. Exactly. So you can probably understand why I don't care to fly back there ever again.

Stephanie: How did your daughter do during those years?

Aveline: It was tough, I visited her as often as I could. And when the boys had time with their dad, like for a holiday, like three nights or something, I would spend that time if I could with my daughter. She was very loved, she knew I was there, we talked all the time and, my mum looked after her really well. And look, she had moments where she was, crying on the phone to me and she missed me a lot, obviously, because we were so close. It was very hard, it was heartbreaking in the first couple of years. She had some very good friends, that she met at her school. It was a really good school and she's still friends with them today. She's got these amazing friends, but she's an amazing girl. I carried a lot of guilt.

Stephanie: Mm hmm.

Aveline: but you know, I look at her now and she's good.

Stephanie: That's good. That's good. When we first connected, you said something about this period in your life, and this is essentially your 38 to 42 ish, So, hello, happy 40th birthday. You called it a crash course in adulthood 2. 0.

Aveline: Yeah.

Stephanie: I'm not even sure this question seems right, but let me ask it this way and see if we can get there. How was adulthood 2. 0 different for you than adulthood 1. 0 minus the drama of the situation you were in? What was different about being a younger woman and then being a woman, in her late thirties and early forties dealing with some major life complications?

Aveline: The difference for me was that I was far more aware and awake to the realities of life. Adulthood. 1. 0. in comparison, I was naive.

Stephanie: Mm hmm.

Aveline: And assumed that life would always work out because I was a good girl, right? That was the program, that's what I'd been fed as a younger girl. And then adulthood 2. 0 showed me that life actually doesn't work that way.

Stephanie: How does life work instead?

Aveline: Sometimes life happens to us and not necessarily for us. And that's the reality. And not everyone has your back. And it's up to us to grow up and be responsible for ourselves. And eyes wide open, right. Not going into something with assumptions and hopism that, Oh, if I hope then it'll be okay. You know, I guess it was just a slap in the face, in a lot of respects. As an adult 2. 0, I'm far more deliberate, I'm far more conscious, choosing not only, who I spend time with or what I do, but where I live, I live in the most wonderful place, I'm really happy. And who I choose to partner with has been a very, conscious decision. And it's forced me to wise up, wise up, yeah,

Stephanie: Do you feel like it's turned you into a pessimist?

Aveline: For a while I was, but I think part of the personal development I went through, I realized that that would keep me trapped and not allow me to let go and move on. I can tell you that there has been positives from it because I chose to take positives from it. Not because the positives just came out of it, right? And this is what I mean, adulthood 2. 0 taught me that everything is a choice, everything's a choice, and we're accountable to these choices. I chose to be in that relationship. I chose to move to Melbourne to have those babies, I could have chosen to stay behind, I could have chosen to stay here and separated and had those babies myself and look what I would have missed out on. I don't know how it would have turned out but everything is a choice and I can choose to be a pessimist, or I can choose to find a reason for being here, and I think that's what being in that alternate reality for those four years really showed me was I need to find a reason for being here and choose to focus on that. And that's what I did. So a lot of mental toughness, I had to develop a very strong consciousness.

Stephanie: Yeah. When you say you needed to figure out your reason for being, was it anything beyond, and not that I'm minimizing, but beyond just your children? Were there things that, for yourself, that you looked for out of that situation that you thought, ah, this is, a purpose, a reason to be, a reason to go on.

Aveline: Yeah, I did. I knew that I had more to give, and I had to figure out where, what, how much, all that kind of thing. I knew that there was an element of healing I needed to go through. Didn't know how long that was going to take, but I needed to be more consciously aware of what I needed for me and not just my kids. That was the other thing it gave me, that I needed to be not so selfless because being so selfless and giving just to my children all the time was actually depleting me.

Stephanie: Right. So you moved back to Queensland. Were you able to reignite your business?

Aveline: Yeah, I did.

Stephanie: So now you're back in the place you wanted to be and with the business that you had started so years earlier and that at the beginning of the story, you said was almost like a fairy tale, right? You've got this beautiful life and your business comes easy and how does it feel to get put back in that place after you've gone through everything you've gone through? Does it still feel as sweet? Does it feel sweeter?

Aveline: Sweeter. Yeah. The first year I think I was just healing. I spent a lot of time sitting at the beach or walking in nature, just feeling the sun on my skin and just letting go. There were times where all of a sudden I just burst out in tears and there was just so much releasing. It took a while. It really did. There was so much gratitude for being here and I knew that I was home and nothing was going to take me away from here again. And I have to tell you a little, a bit of irony, so we did move with the orders of access for the boys and their dad, he started flying up here to see them on his access and he would rent a car and a holiday house to have them for the four nights a fortnight, but when they turned six, the orders gave him more time because it was working towards 50 50 when they were seven and he ended up moving here

Stephanie: Oh my God.

Aveline: Yep. And he's still here.

Stephanie: There's only one compound word in my head. We would need to bleep it. I do my best swear too, terribly on this podcast so that most people feel welcome here. But everybody should just know that it starts with an M, there's an F in the middle, ends with an R. And, uh, I'm pretty angry about the whole thing.

Aveline: Yeah. Yeah. And the money, I can only guess what he spent, I know what I've spent on legal fees the last 10 years.

Stephanie: Right, right. And you had offered him this exact situation at the very beginning.

Aveline: And when he got here, he found a job in exactly the field that he had always worked in. He was a ski professional instructor and he ended up working for a company, selling ski travel holidays. The two things he did with sales and ski and he found a job down the road from his house.

Stephanie: Do you think there's any way that he's come away with any lessons or is he too obtuse for that? Yeah. Okay. I mean, you know, and well, okay. Steph, don't say those things. I am just amazed at your resilience. Did you have any idea how resilient you were?

Aveline: No, I didn't think I was, I thought I was very weak.

Stephanie: Yep. Occasionally I will say that stories are harrowing and this one left me speechless a number of times. Lots of times I like to join the conversation and share some of my own stories, as a way of relating and, I'm sorry and very thankful that I'm not able to relate to your story of being trapped in topsy turvy world. I know that the whole spiritual gaslighting piece of, you attracted him for a reason, I get that that's a terrible way to look at things. Are there things that continue to emerge for you as lessons or just anything that is emerging for you, as you get perspective and more distance from it?

Aveline: I have to say just the perspective is a good thing. I think what comes up for me is just more gratitude and the ability to relate and empathize with other people. This year I took on a project with guy who has set up a podcast and it was about people sharing stories of adversity. And I've hosted those, so I'm able to hold the space for other people sharing their stories of adversity in a really safe, open, balanced way without getting freaked out. There's not many stories that I've heard that don't shock me, and that I can't provide some emotional foundation for someone to be able to share that story. So it's given me that perspective, I think, and just one of gratitude and also just, yeah, often I sit back and I'm just really grateful. I mean, he's still not, we don't have a relationship, it's still quite not too good, and my boys don't want to actually see him, but, there are positives and more positives is that, look, my boys are amazing boys as they're growing older, they're turning 13 this year

Stephanie: hmm.

Aveline: and, they're very intelligent and wise and I guess I'm seeing them deal with. They didn't know what went on. They just hear snippets of little bits, but they're working through who they are and figuring out what's right for them. And I see them now, they're so grateful for me, for their life and I can only see more positives in the future.

Stephanie: That's amazing. I'm thrilled that we end the story on positive notes. That you're feeling good and grounded and positive and happy and the boys are emerging as fantastic young men. I'm glad the story such as it is, such as our story is, ends in this place. And, I'll be thinking about you for a long time, I'll be digesting this story. I really am so grateful for you to be so generous with your story and so open with me and with my listeners. I think this is yet another example of the transition that people go through between this, your word naive adulthood and a second adulthood that's much more intentional and thoughtful and built to suit us perfectly rather than following blindly in the should steps. So, thank you so much.

Aveline: Thanks, Steph, for inviting me and creating a space for me to feel safe enough to share. It was very natural and I enjoyed being here. Thank you.

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