“Thousands of pounds for a piece of paper…”

Cynics have often voiced this opinion of the value of marriage. And in a bitter irony, you could say exactly the same thing about divorce. Only the signing of the papers takes place without ceremony and the cost is counted in far more than pounds and pence.

I always wanted to get married. I’ve always had a strong sense of the importance of family and for me, marriage was an important step in becoming a family. I don’t presume to judge how anybody else chooses to live, but it’s important to me.

And everything about my wedding was wonderful – the stag do (a world title fight, naturally), the honeymoon (Las Vegas – and an early act of self-sacrifice in forgoing the opportunity to be part of the crowd for the fight scenes for ‘Rocky Balboa’ which were being filmed on day 1 of the honeymoon), and, above all, the wedding day itself.

Sound advice from friends helped to create the perfect day:

  • the day goes quickly, make sure you take it all in
  • in talking to all of your guests make sure you don’t spend too much of the day away from each other
  • select the menu yourself instead of offering options; it will save you having to chase people up for their choices (soup and chicken – you can’t go wrong)

Of course, there were ‘moments’ in the planning stages (the usual, you know, arguments with family about guests), but all of that was forgotten about on the big day.

Sunday 4th December 2005.

It was, well, it was perfect. Everything I could have hoped for and more. And, as a music lover, of course, the soundtrack had to be perfect. And so it was.

“Do you believe, that there’s someone up above?
And does he have a timetable, directing acts of love?”
(Pulp – Something Changed)

Our first dance. A song from one of my favorite albums, released a week before we met and a soundtrack to those early days; a song quoted in her first Christmas card to me.

Perfect.

Fast forward, Tuesday 5th August 2014.

“When we woke up that morning we had no way of knowing,
That in a matter of hours we’d change the way we were going.”

The day began as a significant day for me – a year to the day that I had returned to work after my second bout of severe depression. I was completely unprepared for the significance that the date was about to assume. A date that would mark the beginning of a very different life. The date that ‘Till death do us part’ became a hollow echo from the past, empty of the promise that it once held.

The date that my marriage died.

The truth is that my marriage must have been dying long before that. I didn’t see it. There had been warnings but somehow I really hadn’t faced up to them. In some ways I guess I couldn’t face up to them.

I was blinded to my wife’s unhappiness, blinded by my own belief in what marriage is; by my belief that my marriage would be for life; by the rock-solid conviction that now we had children, nothing would tear us asunder.

I was wrong.

And only realizing that fact once it was too late is one of the hardest things I have ever had to face.

Yes, there are regrets. But at a distance removed from that time, it is easy to look back at what could have, perhaps what should have been. Whatever led us to that fork in the road – at that time and for reasons I will probably never fully understand it determined that our futures lay apart.

Our sacred lifelong bond was broken. And it couldn’t (wouldn’t?) be repaired.

I don’t know the official date that my marriage ended, the date that the decree absolute was passed. It doesn’t matter. My marriage died the day that my wife told me that she no longer loved me. At least, that’s the day it died for me.

But my belief in marriage never died. Marriage was never a piece of paper to me. I still remember taking my vows, how deeply and sincerely I meant them. And being married – after 10 years together – meant something. It felt different. It felt special. And in marriage I believe that love isn’t just a feeling – indeed, at times it may not be a feeling at all – it is a daily decision to face life, to navigate its peaks and valleys, together.

In the end, our decision was to divorce, a decision that I had never thought either of us would take. I have to take my share of the responsibility for that, and there are two things that stand for me as lessons that I will take into any future relationship:

  1. Without open, honest and regular communication the foundations of a marriage are unstable and prone to damage during the storms that will inevitably come, however strong the marriage may seem.
  2. In becoming a family, don’t neglect being a couple.

“Where would I be now?
Where would I be now if we’d never met?”

For most of us, any contemplation of this question on our wedding day leads us only to this day, the happiest day of our lives. Wherever we would be it wouldn’t be here, and here is the only place for us to be.

Upon divorce, the question inevitably leads to an altogether different form of contemplation – at what point in our journey could we have taken a different turn? A turn that would have avoided the signpost to divorce? Or perhaps a turn that would have steered us away from this sudden adversary disguised as the person that joined us at the altar?

But that path leads us nowhere for, once in our lives, that person was everything we wanted. And while acutely and painfully aware of what we have lost, we must not lose sight of what was gained; not only in joining together, but in facing the challenges of breaking apart.

 

Matthew Williams is a single father to two children. Check out Matthew’s blog – Love, Laughter, Truth. His blog is inspired by his rollercoaster life following depression, divorce and introduction to the weird – and sometimes wonderful – world of dating.