'There were second thoughts before the wedding.' Why many couples split a year after getting married.

At the age of 20, Brooke Scobie fell deeply in love.

She was in a long-distance relationship with *James who lived in Indonesia, the two of them having first met when Brooke was 18, and he only a few years older.

"Soon after we met, we stopped being friends and became something more. It sounds sad to say but he was probably the first man that was nice to me. So I figured that meant I should marry him," Brooke said to Mamamia.

By 21, Brooke was married. The wedding was quite the spectacle, and looking back on it, Brooke says it was "unnecessarily big". Perhaps too big that they felt as though they had to go through with it. Even if a small voice in the back of their mind was telling otherwise.

"I came from a working-class family and my mum had just got a redundancy. She offered to use that money to give him and I our dream wedding. It was at Luna Park, and it was beautiful and big. I just wanted to be loved. I didn't want to let anyone down and ignored the second thoughts."

But once the wedding was done, the cracks began to widen.

Brooke on her wedding day, and a picture with her dad. Image: Supplied.


"We started trying for a baby as that was really important for his family, but it wasn't successful. Even after fertility treatment and medication, it just wasn't working. That was the first challenge," Brooke explained.

Another source of difficulty was their cultural differences, with Brooke being an Indigenous Goorie person who isn't one for sticking to an 'institutionalised agenda'.

"Growing up, I feel like I was brainwashed in that Hollywood romantic sort of way of thinking - he still cared deeply about the institution of marriage, but for me, I wasn't tied to it. And I soon realised I wasn't tied to him either."


Brooke continued: "The more time that we spent together, the more I realised we were very, very different people. Things went south really quickly. I asked him, 'If we never got married would you still be friends with me?' And he said no. That immediately told me that he didn't like me for who I am."

So Brooke made the difficult decision and asked James for a divorce, much to his shock. She doesn't remember much about that overwhelming moment except for the fact that they split on the day of Prince William and Princess Kate's royal wedding day.

James was a kind and lovely person. Brooke just knew it wasn't right for them. So they took the leap and didn't look back.

*Olivia is someone else who decided to separate a year into her marriage. 

For eight years she and her partner *Jordan were together - in a relationship for seven years and married for just under one year. Olivia had been keen on certifying their relationship through marriage, but it had taken a long time for her boyfriend to feel the same.

"He was a slow mover. It wasn't until I was 30 and he was 31 that we married one another. I didn't love being a bride and we had a pretty casual wedding day. But even before that day, there had been a bit of a niggling feeling," Olivia said. 

Soon into the marriage, it dawned on Olivia that their relationship hadn't been good for a long time. 


"I kept hanging on to it all and telling myself I'd never be able to find someone good again. He was a nice person but I didn't feel loved by him. I ended up kissing someone else while on a work trip and that solidified that my husband wasn't the man for me," Olivia explained to Mamamia. "Turns out marriage and a wedding isn't the perfect bandaid for a relationship."

Watch The Split podcast trailer now. Story continues below.

Video via Mamamia.

So Olivia sat Jordan down and told him exactly where she was at in their relationship. She wasn't happy. She felt they were mismatched. And she wanted a divorce.

But of course, there's a bunch of logistics and legalities associated with couples who choose to split so soon into their marriage.

Greg McLellan is a lawyer from Guardian Family Law, a law firm that he operates with his wife, Roukaya Saraya. And within Australian law, a married couple is allowed to split or separate however soon into their marriage as they wish. But when it comes to divorce, there are a few legalities in place.

"A couple cannot legally seek a divorce until at least two years after the date of their marriage and one year after being separated unless there are special circumstances," Greg explained to Mamamia. "They can forgo the two-year requirement if they attend couple's counselling and the counsellor signs off as believing the marriage to be irretrievably broken down. However, like all couples wishing to divorce, they have to still be separated for at least one year." 


In Greg's years of experience, there are a few common reasons why separation occurs within the first 12 months of marriage.

"From an anecdotal perspective and my time working with hundreds of clients, it's always due to a single catalyst or cause. It's never simply because the parties 'fell out of love' or grew apart. There's an instance of infidelity that is discovered or physical violence that completely severs the relationship," he said.

"I also had a matter where I acted for a wife who was filing for separation within the first 12 months of marriage because the husband was a habitual drug user but had been clean for over 10 years. Within the first six months of marriage, the husband arbitrarily relapsed and everything crumbled down."

In another example highlighting a breakdown in communication and trust, Greg said another case was when the wife discovered that her husband had a major gambling problem and had personal debts in excess of $150,000. 

"That matter was actually incredibly sad. The wife had assets prior to the marriage and the husband sought to make a claim on her wealth. He obviously believed it to be his golden ticket to clearing his gambling debts. The wife ended up giving him $25,000 in cash to settle the matter."


For those who are looking to separate early into their marriage for whatever reason, Greg has the following advice:

  • Identify and communicate the issues leading to separation, in case it's possible to salvage.
  • If the relationship is irreconcilable, don't feel guilty, as it may be the only viable solution - delaying the inevitable will only increase the financial and emotional burden.
  • Anyone advising about early separation should speak to a qualified family lawyer as soon as possible to understand the legalities and financial implications to follow, as well as to protect your assets.
  • And make sure to have a strong support network of family and friends throughout the separation process. 

According to couples therapist and sexologist Isiah McKimmie, a lot of marriages dissipate when one party feels as though they have lost themselves and their identity beyond the relationship.


And in Australia, almost 200,000 people filed for divorce in the past two years, amid lockdowns, a pandemic and all the stress associated. With the impact of heightened emotions in mind, Isiah explained that another factor for disillusionment is how couples argue.

"There's really solid data on what makes a healthy relationship. It isn't what couples argue about. It's how they argue about things and the level of respect during those conversations," Isiah explained to Mamamia.

There are four communication styles according to experts - criticism, defensiveness, stonewalling (where someone shuts down) and lastly contempt, (where someone is nasty to another). 

"Everyone has a different communication style - but if someone doesn't feel heard or understood, that will erode any relationship."

And interestingly, Isiah very regularly works with couples in the midst of planning their wedding - while also struggling in their relationship.

"I'm talking weeks ahead of the big day, I'll have couples coming to me to ask if the challenges they're facing are normal. For most it is, for some there are bigger problems. It's a smart thing to do - because the focus shouldn't be just on that one special day - but the years ahead."


For Olivia, she found love again.

She and her now-husband have been together for the last nine years, married for five, have one child together and another on the way.

Brooke has a completely different view on marriage than her 21-year-old self did.

After their divorce, Brooke was diagnosed with autism and ADHD, learned more about non-monogamy and discovered sexuality wasn't what she once thought it was.

"Now I identify as queer, and that has led me to have a completely different take on relationships, marriage and everything," Brooke told Mamamia.

"Don't get me wrong - I love a celebration of love. But the institution of marriage itself I'm no longer interested in, I don't need the government involved in my love," she said. "I'm happy to close that chapter of my life - the chapter where so many of us blindly go into toxic monogamy. I want love. I just don't need the certificate."

For more from Brooke Scobie, you can follow her on Instagram or visit Awesome Black.

*These people are known to Mamamia and have chosen to keep their identity or their partner's identity private for personal reasons. 

Feature Image: Supplied.

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