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'The first 12 months were horrendous.' Cathrine Mahoney on her very public marriage breakdown.

Experiencing a marriage breakdown is hard enough, but what about when you are married to one of Australia's highest profile sports stars? 

In her new book, Currently Between Husbands, podcaster and former publicist Cathrine Mahoney writes about the challenges of separation and divorce, the early days of solo parenting, and dating in midlife following her 2014 separation from Newcastle Knights halfback Andrew 'Joey' Johns.

Speaking to Mamamia, Cathrine shared that she was inspired to write her new book to help others who are experiencing a marriage or relationship breakdown.

Watch: The Split podcast guides you through your separation and divorce. Post continues below.


Video via Mamamia.

"When my 13-year marriage ended, nobody I knew had gone through divorce," Cathrine shared.

"Of course my friends helped me, but there was no one with experience to say, 'This is going to be difficult, but you'll be okay.'

"I had always loved Helen Fielding's Bridget Jones' books for other phases of my life and right when I was there in the horrors I thought, 'Why hasn't Bridget got divorced?' which is in part why I wrote my book."

"You're going to cry and that's okay."

While Cathrine brings cheeky Bridget Jones inspired humour to her writing, her new book is also full of emotional and honest descriptions of major life events; from the wonder of falling head-over-heels in love, through to the messiness of divorce and post-separation dating. 

"I can't sugarcoat it. Those first 12 to 18 months of a marriage or long-term relationship breakdown are horrendous. You can't fast forward them and you have to just get through them, but just know it gets better."

Cathrine feels strongly about not judging yourself too harshly when you're in the middle of a relationship breakdown. 

"Everyone's different and everyone heals at their own rate, so don't judge yourself. Don't judge how much you drink or whether you eat as much as you should while you're drinking. 

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"You're going to cry and that's okay, too. Louis was five years old when we first split, so I learned to cry after I dropped him at school. Or when I was on my way back from work. You pick those moments where you allow yourself to break down because you don't want to be upset in front of your child.

"I did not imagine I would go into my forties as a solo parent, so it was hard coming to terms with it all."

Cathrine, Andrew, Louis and Andrew's eldest son Samuel in 2012. Image: Getty.

British-born Cathrine met Andrew in 2002 through her work in PR. 

They juggled demanding careers, overseas travel, and intense media scrutiny before getting married in Sydney in 2007. 

Their now 13-year-old son Louis was born in 2009 before the couple initially separated in 2011 and again in 2014, two weeks before Cathrine's 40th birthday.

Cathrine's strong community closed ranks around her in those early days of their separation, while professional support also played an important role in her recovery. 

"I was upset, and I had to bring my circle of friends in close, to help me navigate what was happening. But you don't need to tell everyone everything because you know, we all have those people in our lives who want the gory details and the drama, and you don't need that.

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"I am a big believer in therapy. I did a lot of therapy in my relationship with Andrew and when he was diagnosed with bipolar disorder; the Black Dog Institute were amazing. This time around, I found a great life coach, as I wanted someone who was going to help me move forward in different ways. 

"No one has a seamless divorce, but I feel like I came through it all with a more optimistic and positive attitude because of the work we did together."

Taking it day by day.

After some initial therapy, Cathrine says she focused on what she could control, while attempting to block out the rest. 

"I had the added joy of seeing my relationship breakdown splashed across the newspapers and magazines and it became everyone else's business. So it was empowering for me, with the help of my therapist, to detach from all that noise and judgement and focus on the important things. Mostly navigating everything with Louis and how to manage his care with Andrew." 

Cathrine's good friend, Justine, who had experienced a similar relationship breakdown, gave her the best piece of advice about letting go of control with co-parenting.

"She told me how you can't control what they do with the other parent. What they see, what they hear, what they eat, their bedtime, etc. But she also said that you've got to remember that you are letting them go into the care of the only other person who loves them as much as you do, which helped me to let go.

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"It's easy to forget that when you are trying to detangle as a couple, you still share the love of your child."

Aside from calling on friends and therapists, not judging yourself too harshly and focussing on what you can control, Cathrine's advice for anyone going through a breakup is to navigate the logistics one day at a time.

"Not only is there the emotional stuff to wade through, there are the practical issues that need solving. 

"You need a place to live. You might need to go to Medicare as I did and burst into tears about changing your surname on the card. Then, depending on your situation, you need to chat to a lawyer so you know your rights. But then sometimes you just need to focus on getting up and out of bed in the morning. 

"I often think that if I didn't have my son Louis, I would have stayed in bed a lot more. Having a child means you are forced to keep going because they need to be at school. 

"You just need to focus on taking it day by day."

Cathrine Mahoney now. Image: Supplied.

Looking forward to love.

After the dust settled on the separation and Cathrine got over the shock news that Andrew was dating an ex-Bond Girl (Satsuki Mitchell), she dived into the world of dating as a solo parent. And as she tells Mamamia, she is not ready to give up on love (or sex) just yet.

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"I'm 47 now and I still want to have sex! I am also looking forward to being in love again. As women we want to be honest about all that stuff, we're now in a space where it's okay to talk about masturbating, sex, dating. And you know what - my 'happily ever after' didn't work out, which doesn't mean that I've hung up my two great sex positions and stopped looking! 

"But with dating, everyone wants something different. When your marriage ends, you don't necessarily want to find your next husband. You might just want to have consensual sex with someone or meet a friend with benefits."

The difference now is that Cathrine is in her forties and so much has changed. 

"When you date in your twenties, you can just bumble along with someone for a couple of years, but the older you get, the less time you have to waste, so you don't want to just bumble along!"

And as Cathrine explains, being a post-divorced single woman with a great career is hardly a bad thing.

"I think about how, since the divorce, I have achieved things I never thought I would. I feel so lucky and grateful for my lot and in terms of living without a partner, you have to embrace it.

"All those nights alone when you can watch whatever you want on the television and also not worry about having someone prodding you with their willy while you unload the dishwasher!" 

As a self-confessed romantic, Cathrine says she still believes in love, even if it changes.

Listen to Mamamia's The Split podcast on starting over. Post continues below.

"I think back now on my marriage with Andrew and of those 13 years we had together, most were beautiful. And while it was pretty awful when it all ended, I can see now it wasn't the end of my life as I thought, more just the end of a chapter.

"I also have a wonderful relationship with Louis, having spent so much time just with him. Andrew and I have navigated the co-parenting with flexibility, and it works well for us all. 

"We think he has the best bits of both of us."

Cathrine Mahoney's book Currently Between Husbands, published by Simon & Schuster is out now at all good bookshops.

Feature Image: Supplied.

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