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TAKING CONTROL OF YOUR LIFE IS BEST WAY TO DEAL WITH DIVORCE; Chat show queen Trisha should know .. she's been through it all.

Byline: By Lisa Adams

SHE'S survived a string of abusive boyfriends, her first husband was gay and her second had an affair when she was pregnant.

But chat show queen Trisha Goddard, who turns 50 this year, has learned how to keep on smiling.

That's why she's been chosen as one of the new faces of Debenhams. The store is launching a first wives club to celebrate stylish and successful women who have gone from strength to strength after a divorce.

"It doesn't help to think all the men in the world are b******s," said Trisha.

"When my marriage broke up, I went through a very short time of feeling like a victim and it was horrible. You need to take back your power and it helps to talk, not just therapy but to talk to friends.

"You need to change your patterns of behaviour to change the type of people you invite into your life and take control."

In fact, just listening to what mum-of-two Trisha has been through you'd be forgiven for thinking it's one of the wilder guest storylines for her five days a week, true-life, confessional telly show on Five.

Now just months away from celebrating her tenth wedding anniversary with third husband Peter Gianfrancesco, Trisha reveals she may finally have hit on a magic formula for lasting love.

"When I met Peter, he had to ask me to put down my spear," she laughed.

"I was defensive and scared of being hurt again. Meeting Peter was about a different mindset altogether.

"We share so much and he's my best friend. It helps to have a man who is not afraid to be emotionally vulnerable. Women can help themselves when they're looking to meet someone by joining clubs and doing voluntary work.

"By doing something they enjoy, they are more likely to meet someone who they'll actually have something in common with. If you meet someone in a nightclub or bar, you're taking your chances."

But Trisha admits it's been hard work fighting free from the insecurities, depression and pain of her broken relationships.

Growing up in Hackney, east London, Trisha's mum was West Indian and her dad was white. He beat her, something which fuelled a decade of trying to seek approval from the wrong sort of men who'd always treat her badly.

After chasing her dream to travel the world by working as an air hostess, Trisha was swept off her feet by an Australian politician, Robert Nesdale, who was 12 years older than her. He promised her a fresh start in Australia and a dream society wedding in Sydney.

Their marriage collapsed after just three months when he showed no sexual interest in her. Back in England, Trisha's sister Linda committed suicide after suffering schizophrenia for eight years.

At one point, Trisha considered throwing herself under a bus and she went as far as cutting her arms.

"I didn't know Robert had died from Aids until afterwards," she said. "I was in another relationship by then and had a baby. It was very traumatic."

But that bright new relationship with Australian television producer Mark Greive was doomed too.

After training in journalism, Trisha's career was really taking off and she was the first black face on Australian current affairs television.

Home life seemed good too after she married Mark and their daughter Billie was born. A fast-paced career saw her go live on air just two hours after giving birth to Billie.

But things started to unfurl when she was pregnant with their second daughter, Madison. She was only eight weeks old when Trisha discovered her husband was having an affair with a researcher. By then ABC's news anchor, Trisha pretended nothing was wrong until one day she swallowed a handful of antidepressants and ended up in hospital. She slowly woke up to life as a single mum.

"There was light at the end of the tunnel but I didn't know it at first," said Trisha.

"Emotionally I was all over the place. What helped me the most when I split up from Mark was having a nervous breakdown. Then I had to get help. I couldn't pretend any more that everything was okay."

AFTER Trisha quit her high-powered job to care for her girls, the smallest things kept her smiling.

"How much sleep did I get as a single mum?" she said.

"I got hardly any but I'd keep my energy up by going power-walking with the little ones. I'd have one of the girls in a stroller and another in a baby harness and off we'd go.

"Even if if was raining, we'd put on our macs and sing 'We are the Goddard girls' as we marched through the puddles to the park.

"It helped to see the neighbours and say hello. The fitter I got the further I'd walk. Although sometimes I thought I was going stir crazy because all I heard was 'ga ga goo'."

Confronting the complex legal and financial problems sparked by divorce was a headache, but it also proved liberating.

"I remember getting in the lift after acourt appearance and shouting 'Yes'," said Trisha.

"Years later when I saw that picture of Nicole Kidman's reaction when her divorce from Tom Cruise finally came through, I understood exactly where she was coming from.

"I knew what it felt like to be in that place. There was sadness but also a feeling of 'Here goes, here's to the rest of my life'. I would rather be separated than in a relationship that's breaking up. All the negative stuff is so wearing.

"As a single mum I could really concentrate on my children. I was a hands-on mum times 12,000."

But crippling debts during three years when she was unable to work left Trisha studying every price tag at the supermarket and scouring Sydney for markets which sold the cheapest fruit and vegetables.

"I came so close to being bankrupt," she admitted. "At first, I had a male bank manager who was less than understanding. But later a female bank manager saved my life by helping me to keep going financially.

"I really didn't have any money. My husband wanted a payout of EUR40,000 which I simply didn't have. Eventually we made a deal that instead of me paying the money he wouldn't pay child maintenance for 11 years." As Trisha got her life back on track, she fell in love with Peter Gianfrancesco, then head of Australian mental health organisation Mind.

After marrying in 1998, they moved to England where Trisha was signed up by Anglia Television as the host of Trisha.

Her children, Billie, 17, and Madison, 13, have a terrific relationship with Peter.

"They call him Pappi, which is Italian for dad," said Trisha. "If Peter hadn't been such an exceptionally good father, things might have been different."

Trisha has a big party planned to celebrate her 50th birthday in December and is rehearsing a hip hop dance to perform with her daughters.

And there's nothing complicated about looking fabulous at 50. She uses sunblock every day, winter and summer, and runs regularly.

She's also working on a fitness DVD out on Boxing Day.

But perhaps the biggest thing which helps keep Trisha's demons at bay is finally finding happiness with a partner who is living proof that not all men are b******s.

All clothes featured are styled by and available from Debenhams. For a chance to win pounds 5000, go to www.debenhams.com

'When I met my husband Peter, he had to ask me to put down my spear'

CAPTION(S):

HAPPY AT LAST: Trisha with second husband Mark Greive, left, and with present hubby Peter, below left; GLAMOUR GIRLS: Debenhams first wives club are, from left, Bel Mooney wearing Star by Julien MacDonald pounds 100, Kirtsen Gronning wearing Red Herring pounds 25, Coleen Nolan wearing BDL by Ben de Lisi pounds 140, and Trisha also wearing Ben de Lisi at Debenhams pounds 100; Trisha wears Star by Julien MacDonald, which costs pounds 140 at Debenhams. PICTURE: DAN KENNEDY DEBENHAMS
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Publication:Daily Record (Glasgow, Scotland)
Date:Sep 20, 2007
Words:1350
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