The end of marriage is never easy and can come as a bolt out of the blue. I have heard from other women how the decision can come all at once often prompted by events that lead us to question our own lives. Donna from the amazing Mummy Central blog shares her heartbreaking but ultimately life-affirming experience of the end of a marriage.
“The beginning of our end, at least in my world, happened at the memorial service of a friend and former work colleague – who died far too young.
As I sat through the tributes to this devoted family man, and heard how much he loved his wife, his soulmate, it occurred to me that I couldn’t say the same of my marriage.
“We’re not like that,” I sighed later that night to my husband.
I waited for the reassurance that we could work on our relationship, that life with two young kids was just dragging us down… but it never came.
“No we’re not. I don’t think this is working.”
My inner voice told me he couldn’t possibly mean it. Not after 19 years together and with two sons in primary school.
“We can think about it and talk tomorrow night when the kids are in bed,” he shrugged.
With my stomach churning all day, I approached him warily the following evening, insisting I wanted to get this chat over with.
I mumbled about marriage counselling, about not putting the kids through a split, about divorce never being an option.
But his determination our marriage was over set off a lightbulb in my head.
“Is there someone else?”
He shifted uneasily, avoiding my gaze. “There’s somebody I’m interested in – but nothing’s happened.”
That’s when the grief and fear swept over me. This really WAS the end.
I met my husband when I was 22. At the age of 41 I wasn’t so much happily married as unable to imagine how to untangle my life from his and survive without him.
Through my tears I pleaded to know who she was. I couldn’t function, thinking it might be someone I knew.
He assured me this was a stranger who went to the same Costa he frequented in the city every morning before work. They’d started talking and…
“Have you kissed her?”
“Then how can you say nothing’s happened?”
He left to stay in ‘a colleague’s spare room’ that night. He said he would give me space and we’d talk the next day. He promised he’d look after me and the kids financially, and we could stay friends.
In the weeks that followed, the journalist in me would reflect on the sort of tabloid headline that could be written about the mess I found myself in….
”Coffee shop tart Costa me my marriage”
But after that first evening, when I put the boys to bed and sobbed down the phone to my closest friends, things began to change so rapidly that I didn’t even recognise this man any more.
When did it all start to go wrong?
That’s what you ask yourself when life takes such a violent turn beyond your control.
It all feels like a horrible nightmare when the person you planned a life with reveals they are actually seeking a future without you.
Where had he gone – the man who adored me enough to propose?
And where was I – that woman who was so sure of her husband’s loyalty? Was he always deceiving me? Had he ever loved me?
He moved into the spare room. It was only Easter and he needed to make arrangements to move out. We agreed to hold off on breaking the news to our two boys until the end of the school year.
Aged just 6 and 9, our sons accepted the excuse that Dad’s snoring meant we were sleeping separately.
Determined to know the truth, I began to snoop. I had never felt the need to before.
But suddenly I felt justified in grabbing his phone when it was unattended, logging into his email because he hadn’t bothered to change the password, looking at the Skype history on his iPad…..
What I found confirmed this relationship wasn’t worth resuscitating, and at the same time shattered my belief in what we’d had.
Pictures of him and this other woman with their arms around each other at the seaside. When had he been away with her? He spent every evening and weekend at home. I had to conclude that he had taken holiday or called in sick from work without my knowledge.
There was video footage of her in her bedroom. She was in a nightdress, sitting up in bed, talking into an iPad. In her thick accent (did I mention she was a Greek student, 10 years his junior?) I heard her say: “He’s allergic to garlic and onions.”
She was describing something my husband – who has intolerance to these foods – would often tell people. She looked happy and excited, to be describing the funny little ways of her new boyfriend to a relative or friend.
Then I found the emails. The receipts for gifts he’d sent her. One order was made while we were on a family holiday. He’d spent most of the time poured over his iPad – even while lying on the beach. Now I knew why.
His Skype history showed a call to her every morning of our holiday – when he’d said he was working on a presentation to give at the office after we got home.
Slowly things began to unravel and I realised this was an affair which had been going on for months. I silently copied all of the evidence to my computer, as some kind of insurance policy.
Relatives and friends were shocked. We had been the boring, stable couple. It turned out he’d shared the news of his intentions to leave me only with his brother, a couple of weeks beforehand – conveniently leaving out the part about the other woman.
For five months we lived under the same roof as a separated couple, dancing around each other. He got into a routine of spending three nights with his mistress (telling the boys he was working away) and four nights with us.
I knew he was looking me in the eyes and lying to me, but I didn’t want to upset the kids any more than necessary.
Just before our youngest son’s 7th birthday, he said he was going to miss the occasion because he was on a business trip to London. His emails revealed a five-day break to Bratislava with his bit on the side.
I begged him not to move in with her straight away, to give the kids time to adjust. He promised to think about it. Days later he was emailing her an inventory of the love nest they were going to share.
He went on to introduce her to the children, before he’d even left our family home.
Eventually I confronted him with his lies. But in a pattern which had been apparent throughout our marriage he refused to acknowledge any wrongdoing, and instead scolded me for snooping. In hindsight, gaslighting had always been one of his favourite pastimes.
And so that’s how it ended. Almost my entire 20s and 30s, loving and trusting someone who turned into a stranger. Our daily family life had taken up so much time and energy that I couldn’t pinpoint exactly when he started to change.
But it was over and the end of a marriage And as the boys and I watched him drive his packed car off down the street one autumn afternoon – heading for his new beginning – I felt enormous relief, mixed with sadness and a little trepidation, that one huge chapter of my life was now at an end.
That was five years ago – and where are we now?
My ex and his mistress lasted only eight months, after they started living together. He met another partner through online dating shortly afterwards and they are still together – although not co-habiting because she is divorced with three daughters.
Although I continue to try to maintain a civil relationship with my ex for the sake of our two boys, it isn’t always easy after the end of a marriage.
The summer after my ex left, I met a single dad raising his two sons alone, and we fell in love. We all moved in together three years ago and now live with the ups and downs of being a blended family (but that’s another story for another time).”
Do you have experience of the end of a marriage? Do you have any advice for my readers who might be going through this right now?
If you would like to share your story about the end of a marriage, please do get in touch via the contact form or email firstname.lastname@example.org