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'A nagging thought just won't leave my head.' The conversation that ended my marriage.

In many ways, I followed the stable, expected path. Had relationships through high school and university. Got a real job, then a real boyfriend, moved in together and got engaged. We were madly in love, and after a couple of years punctuated with many adventures together, marriage seemed the logical next milestone. We stood in front of our friends and family, and meant it when we promised each other forever. He in a sharp tux, me in a gorgeous dress. Much smiling and dancing, obviously it was meant to be. Right?

Fast forward over a decade to the beginning of last year. We have done all the usual, suburban things; bought a house, gone on holidays, navigated our two kids through daycare and into primary school. Then, suddenly a couple close to us announce their divorce.

Following our friends’ split, we have some interesting discussions. We ponder the recklessness of young, idealistic us making huge life decisions based on romance. We agree that if we met today we definitely wouldn’t get married, and probably wouldn’t even date. My husband breezily dismisses any thought of separating, because of the kids you see. However, this lingers in the back of my mind.

A few months on, an upcoming anniversary prompts more thought and analysis on my part. I reflect that my spare time is spent socialising with friends, and not ever with my husband. And it doesn’t bother me. I am aware that it should. Could there be a problem? He suggests a celebration for our anniversary, and I am filled with dread. It feels empty and forced. This can’t be right.

I become acutely observant of relationships around me, and ask some happily loved-up friends and family for their thoughts on the meaning of life and the secret to happiness. The resounding message was to be grateful you’d found the person you can’t live without. This sharpens my growing sense of dread.

A nagging thought kept raising its head. What if I have 50-plus years left to live? Can I do this for 50 more years? Am I really OK with a relationship that is just… fine?

I do some serious deliberating – would I be OK on my own? Could I even afford to be on my own? Was I really brave enough to pull the trigger? What would it mean for the kids? What about all our friends? What about the ongoing financial implications? What if I ended up alone forever? What if I regretted it? I tried to consider the harsh reality of the situation. I decided that it would be an unpleasant process, but what crystallised things for me was the harsh realisation I would rather be single forever than remain in my marriage.

***

It’s Sunday morning, after a sleepless night. Having decided to leave my husband, it’s time to face the problem head on. Once done, this cannot be undone. I feel anxious.

The husband, kids and I are all at home. After breakfast, I boil the kettle and carefully make my last cup of Earl Grey as a married woman. My husband sips his coffee and reads the paper on the lounge, oblivious. I approach him slowly, cradling my tea. I clear my throat and say ‘Hey…’.

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Image via Getty.

Obviously my tone conveys enough gravity that he looks up immediately, I have his full attention.

Now I’m in the moment, I’m unsure how to start. The voice in my head is loudly telling me to just GET ON WITH IT!!

I see his expectant, and slightly worried face staring back at me. A deep breath, and I tell him I’ve been thinking. About us. And we need to talk.

Initially he looks relieved, as though this conversation will be easily dismissed and he can return to the paper.

I sit on the opposite end of the couch, not too close, not too distant, maintaining eye contact and tell him that I think we’re no longer a good match. I ask if he’s happy, if he thinks we’re happy. He says this is what marriage is like, that I shouldn’t romanticise it or expect too much. Things are fine, why am I raising this?

I tell him I’m not happy, that I think we fell out of love some time ago. We agree that we’re best friends. I say that’s not enough for me.

An expectant silence lingers.

Quietly, he admits he’s not happy either. Then emphatically declares he definitely doesn’t want to break up though.

I tell him I think it’s the only way forward.

He suggests separate bedrooms. Have I considered an open marriage? Perhaps a trial separation? Anything but a definite split. Please.

I tell him I’ve considered all these things, and the only commonality between the options is that they avoid the real issue. That we’re not in love. That I don’t want to be married to him anymore.

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Watch: How Chloe Shorten told her kids about her divorce. Post continues after video. 

Through sobs he asks what he did. If there is someone else. Why I’m doing this to him. Why now?

I explain that being housemates and best friends isn’t enough for me. That I respect him too much to let things descend to the point of someone else being involved. It’s really hard to call time on us, because there are so many positives. No-one did anything wrong, but that doesn’t make it right.

In many ways that makes it harder for him to understand, as the catalyst is not immediately evident. He can sense my resolve, and knows that I'm gravely serious.

It’s heartbreaking to see him so sad. I really don’t want to hurt him, though it is inevitable unless I deny my feelings, which would only lead to more hurt in the long term anyway.

I expected to stare into his face every day for the rest of my life. To see his hair grey at the temples and the crinkly smile lines deepen. To enjoy a sneak peek at what our boys might grow into. The loss of that hoped-for future physically hurts, and I am overcome with sadness at what should have been.

He composes himself, and I take a deep, shuddering breath. Now resigned, he says ‘So, this is it’. I nod, and he reaches his hand out and holds mine. We survey each other’s exhausted, tear-streaked faces.

We agree to discuss immediate logistics over the next few days, and to tell the kids together in the afternoon.

I was drained, but relieved. Then immediately overcome with guilt. How could I be relieved when I'd just deeply hurt someone I once loved?

What surprised me most was the inner calm that followed. I didn’t expect a sense of peace amongst the turmoil.

That’s how I knew I’d done the right thing.

Suburban Steph is a 30-something mum raising two boys, pets and plants among the hipsters of suburban Melbourne. Recently divorced. Friend, sister, daughter and closet Bachelor viewer. You can read more from her on Facebook.

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