I divorced my man after 20 years – it's better than plodding on with a bloke whose weekly highlight was a chippie tea

A NICE house, three wonderful children and a loyal man who had devoted 20 years of his life to me. What more could a woman possibly want?

Fun, freedom and the power to do what I want, whenever I want — that’s what.

And it is exactly what drove me to throw in the matrimonial towel after two decades.

Forget the seven-year marital itch, it’s the one that happens at 20 years you need to watch out for.

Once I had made the decision to bail out of my marriage, then came the dilemma.

How do you tell your husband of 20 years you want out? No matter when you say it or how you say it, you know it’s going to hurt.

Like ripping off a plaster, I wanted the split to be quick and as painless as possible but in the end I did it completely the wrong way.

When Robert* asked me what I would like for Christmas, I said I wanted a divorce.

The fun, spontaneity and conversation had gone, and I didn’t want us to become the type of couple who simply tolerated one another.

REPETITIVE DRUDGE

Nor did I want to be the woman who stays in a marriage just because she is terrified of shattering the family unit.

It wasn’t a spectacular bust-up; neither of us had an affair and there were no blazing rows.

My marriage to Robert ended simply because life had become a repetitive drudge. And now, having just turned 51 — and being single — life has never been better.

I had wanted better for Robert too.

I didn’t want him to become a man whose highlight of the week was nipping to the shop to buy a newspaper.

I broke up our family for both our sakes.

And it seems we’re not the only ones who realised there is more to life.

Countdown’s Susie Dent and her husband, teacher Paul Atkins, called time on their marriage recently, while Tory MP Michael Gove and his wife Sarah Vine have also split after reportedly “drifting apart” — with both those marriages being around the 20-year mark.

Data from the Office for National Statistics show that more people divorce in their 50s now than they did in the 1980s and 1990s.

I was approaching my 50s when doubt started to kick in — 18 years into my marriage.

CRAVED INDEPENDENCE

Faced with spending my old age with a partner whose idea of date night was doing the weekly shop together, I began to ask myself, “Is this my marital lot?”

When I first met Robert I was 24, a single mum to my four-year-old daughter Tessa* from a previous relationship. Robert was five years older than me.

There was an instant attraction and eight months on, he proposed.

I said no as I felt it was too soon and I wanted to be sure he was The One before letting him into our lives.

We finally tied the knot six years later.

Robert was a great dad to Tessa, now 32 and loved her just as much as Jasmine* now, 21, and James*, 19, who came along after we wed.

While I loved raising the children, asking Robert for money to pay for a loaf of bread while I was on maternity leave didn’t sit well with me. Even then, I craved my independence.

We had a good life with family trips camping in Norfolk or cottage holidays in France.

Although our lives revolved around the children when they were younger, as they reached their teens they needed us less.

If I suggested: “Let’s go to the coast for the weekend,” or “How about trying a new restaurant or a different takeaway?” it fell on deaf ears.

The spark we once felt being in each other’s company fizzled out and, for me, it couldn’t be reignited.

While I was frightened of losing the person I had vowed to stick with in sickness and in health, I feared we would become nothing more than habit.

And as the years passed intimacy fell by the wayside too.

I agonised for months about telling Robert our marriage was over, before finally plucking up the courage in October 2018.

He was shocked when I blurted it out and felt it was a slur on him.

I explained it would be the best decision for both of us and I wanted him to stay part of my life — only not as husband and wife.

We talked for hours  . . . was it “worth” getting divorced? Could we afford it?
And, what if we could just hold out a bit longer until the kids left home. We could enjoy more quality time together.

We plodded on, living under the same roof to see if we could salvage our marriage, but in March last year, I admitted defeat and Robert moved out.

Even our two children who still lived at home agreed it was for the best.

The three of us are living in rented accommodation after selling our family home.

Once the divorce is finalised, I plan to buy somewhere new.

It will probably mean I’ll still be working — as an office manager — when I’m 70, but my new-found freedom is worth working my fingers to the bone.

I can go out with girlfriends on a whim, book impulsive weekends away and I am answerable to no-one.

Friends tell me I have balls to call time on my marriage after so many years — others are surprised it lasted as long — and although I still have moments when I question my decision, I know deep down I made the right choice.

*Names have been changed.

Time to take stock

ONCE a couple’s children have grown – around the 20-year mark – it can be a time to take stock.

Ammanda Major, Head of Service Quality and Clinical Practice at Relate, says: “While some couples like the humdrum of a routine because it makes them feel safe, for others it isn’t enough, and they look for an escape.

We see many couples in therapy who feel they are staying together for the benefit of the kids and once children leave home, the focus then returns to the relationship.

“Couples can often regenerate a long-term relationship, but the key to doing that is effective communication.”

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