Girl meets boy. They fall in love, get married and live happily ever after.
Unfortunately we all know that life isn’t a fairytale. We get married; we work hard and hope our relationships survive all that life has to throw our way.
But for some, one in three in fact, their marriage won’t last.
For my friend Lisa* her life and her marriage seemed a match made in heaven. But sadly the truth is there was no fairytale.
Lisa met Paul* when she was 18 years old. She was out at a night club celebrating the end of the HSC and Paul knew a friend of hers.
“We were introduced and from that moment on I knew I was going to marry Paul. Everything seemed perfect. He was tall, and had these amazing blue eyes. I was infatuated by him” says Lisa.
That was in December 2002. In March 2008 Paul proposed to Lisa. But during their relationship before their engagement things weren’t all smooth sailing.
“Throughout this time, we didn’t live together but Paul stayed over a lot as I lived right near where he went to Uni”, recalls Lisa.
“My parents were really relaxed and supportive of us doing this. As I was working full time, I was trying to save as much as I could with Paul being at Uni.
“We did break up twice while we were together. Once after we’d been together for 2 years, and to be honest, I can’t remember when the second time was. We also had a break when I went to work overseas for 6 months. We did the long distance relationship, which was extremely difficult and very hard emotionally when I returned. I really don’t think things were ever the same once I got back- now that I look back on it all.
“I kept wondering ‘is this the right person for me’. I went through a stage where I didn’t think I wanted to be with Paul, but was so unsure of a lot of things in my life. My parents had separated a few years before and that took its toll on me. So when I got back, I went into what was familiar, as I felt it would hurt him too much if we broke up. I didn’t consider my own life or my own feelings. I was very protective of him. He suffered Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) and anxiety and I feared for his mental well being as he had a very unstable family life with a mother who was an alcoholic.”
But their relationship continued, even through Lisa’s unhappiness.
“My best friend Cassie* recalls me being in her apartment crying saying ‘I have to end it’. I was unhappy. I knew it. But I couldn’t move on. I don’t know why. I don’t know what I was scared of. 6 months after that night in Cassie’s apartment we were engaged. I don’t know what happened between that time. I always knew I’d marry Paul so I think it was more of a progression of the relationship, rather than something I really, truly wanted and felt loved enough to make that commitment.
“When Paul proposed, I was happy, of course. We had discussed it. I chose a ring. He proposed in Bali. We were young, and I was happy that I was moving into the next phase of my life.
“Looking back I was excited about planning a wedding, and starting a family. But Paul always held me back in terms of doing things with our lives. Perhaps I seemed like I was in a rush but I had been working full time since I was 18, so I was ready to move on. I didn’t have the study commitments for 5 years that he had.”
So on the 12th September 2009 Lisa and Paul said I do, and became husband and wife.
To the outside world, me included, it looked like a wonderful relationship. A beautiful wedding, with pictures to die for. The bride and groom looking happy and relaxed.
Sadly though the pictures did not depict the reality.
“We had a lot of fun together. We were kids. We had fun times which included things like going to Luna Park, going on a picnic in the park, going to the beach or the local pool. But we didn’t go on weekends away to the Hunter for wine tasting (which I would have loved!!); Paul was more into his comics and looking through antique stores on weekends. So I simply went along with his hobbies. I whinged a bit, but it fell on deaf ears so I adapted the mantra ‘can’t beat em join em’.
“After our wedding he held my hand very softly, rarely kissed me, hugs were rare and empty. And I only realised this when I stopped putting in the effort. I had no idea what was going on right in front of me. But it was me that was keeping the idea of “us” together. Once I stopped initiating the hugs, the kisses, the sex…it all went downhill. We had a pretty loveless and lifeless marriage. He would never hug me, he wouldn’t kiss me when he walked in the door when he got home from work. There was little conversation.
By March 2011 Lisa knew the time had come to end her 14 month marriage.
“When we came back from a 3 week overseas trip in May 2010, I thought I was pregnant, I was 11 days late. I was secretly so overjoyed. Paul was not. Quite the opposite. He literally threw a 3 year old tantrum, saying how this shouldn’t be happening so soon, and he couldn’t deal with it. He was stressed with work, but never took action to help himself. He hated change. And this threw a massive spanner in the works.
“So after the episode when I thought I was pregnant, I just knew I didn’t have the love and support structure I wanted, needed and deserved.
“With Paul suffering from OCD and severe anxiety, I always took it upon myself to help him, but at the expense of my own happiness. The thing is I just didn’t realise what I was doing to myself, or how much I had sacrificed for him, with getting little in return- It takes 2 people in a marriage to work, not one”.
Lisa didn’t just throw her marriage away though. She recalls trying to work things out with Paul:
“A good friend of mine gave me a book called “The 5 love languages”, by Gary Chapman. I begged for a long time for Paul to read it. He never did. He broke my heart, and I had had enough of being pushed away every time I wanted, needed and craved affection. I was so tired of (literally) being pushed away. He would come home from work and I’d greet him (usually in the kitchen cooking dinner). I’d go to hug him and he would physically push me off him. It was the most hurtful thing and I dreaded it every night. I went back for the same punishment every night hoping that it would be different. But that night never came”.
“I said to Paul one day ‘I’m not happy’ and he simply replied…’ok’, and changed the subject. I asked him, well more like kept begging him to read this book and he never did. Until I called it quits. He read it in less than 24 hours. I recall him saying ‘I get it now, I know what I need to do give me another chance’, but in my heart, it was over. My mind was willing to give him another chance, but my heart was so damaged, I just knew deep down I didn’t want to prolong what was inevitable.
“Paul knew I was unhappy. He used to literally push me away when I went to kiss him, and I used to say ‘if you keep doing that you’ll lose me’. At first it was in a joking way… then as it got worse, I became serious and it was the centre of our arguments. Every day this would happen. Every day he would apologise, and every day I cried myself to sleep.”
So despite her best efforts, sadly Lisa knew the time had come to walk away from the marriage.
“It was my decision to end the marriage. I knew deep down I had to. I deserved a better life and relationship. I started counselling and my therapist told me I had been ‘emotionally abused’ for the good part of 6 years from our 8 year relationship. I then when into a bit of a spiral of blaming myself, asking the questions of: ‘How could I’ve been this stupid’, ‘Why did I do this to myself’ and ‘I should have ended it and never gotten married’.”
Despite everyone’s initial shock at their separation, Lisa’s family and friends were of great comfort.
“At first, my Mum in particular was very shocked. In fact, most people were. On the surface we were the perfect couple. I never confided the true depths of my unhappiness. So when some facts came to the surface, I had a great support from my parents and my closest friends.”
“Paul’s family on the other hand were extremely difficult. His mother made my life miserable. She was a very nasty woman and I’m very glad I no longer have to deal with such a spiteful woman.
“Paul and I no longer talk. Our unit we purchased together has been sold. We don’t have mutual friends. I have no interest in his life. I don’t Facebook stalk him. I couldn’t give a damn what he does with his life. He denied me so much affection and I have no feelings what so ever for someone like that in my life. He sucked the life out of me; I gave him so much in the time we were together.”
Of course after a journey like the one Lisa has been on, the word ‘regret’ comes to mind. But Lisa’s view on this may surprise you.
“I don’t regret it. Well, I do, but to emotionally and mentally survive it, you can’t regret. So yes, it’s a learning curve. The hardest part was to actually make the decision to leave. My therapist told me that I was going to take a risk. I was risking living my life miserably, having kids and then eventually splitting up. I knew this was the case. So with that clarity, the decision became easy. I went to a psychic; she was amazing and confirmed so many things in my life. She saw a happier life and no, it wasn’t with my husband.
It was hard to see his reaction. He didn’t take it well but at the same time, when you REALLY love someone, you fight and fight and fight for them. Paul never fought for me, which confirmed in my mind I was making the right decision.”
So at the tender age of 26, Lisa was now a divorcee. Far too young to spend the rest of her life alone, but getting back in the dating game was a scary thought.
“I was definitely hesitant about getting back in the dating game. I went out a couple of times with friends and I had a lot of fun. But I had a friend, Chris*, who I knew for a couple of years, who asked me out for dinner one night, not long after Paul and I split. While it was quite soon after we separated, it was the male attention and company I needed, as I’d been denied such attention for so long. We have been inseparable ever since.”
I ask Lisa if she thought she’d ever get married again.
“At first I said no. Then I was asked a question ‘Would you have children out of wedlock?’ The answer for me was very quickly and simply, no.”
So after a whirlwind romance with her new beau Chris, filled with love, happiness and all the wonderful things a relationship should be, Chris proposed to Lisa in December 2011! Just 5 months after they first started dating!
“Chris is a wedding photographer. Actually, he was MY wedding photographer. Weird, and kind of strange, and no, we were not eyeing each other off on my wedding day. We got along really well, have a similar sense of humour and we genuinely enjoyed each other’s company. So much that Paul and I were invited to BBQ’s with his family a couple of times. We were just young people that got along well. Nothing more.
“In February 2011 he invited me to the Blue mountains for the day. He was scouting for some “trash the dress” locations. It was then that I confided in him how unhappy I was. He could relate. His marriage of 10 years was also falling apart. We built a really strong bond, still just friends. We were good company for each other to get through such a hard time in both of our lives.
Since Chris and I shared our first kiss he hasn’t stopped kissing me and hugging me and showing me affection and love ever since. Life with Chris is exactly what every girl should experience. Passion and love every day, without fail.
I know now that I had to marry Paul to meet Chris.”
And with Chris comes his 4 year old son Nathan*.
“We have Nathan 2 days a week”, says Lisa.
“I thought it would be hard emotionally, dealing with this. But it’s great. It’s challenging with Chris’s ex wife as she is very protective, but I cut her the slack as I’d be the same if another woman was looking after my child. Nathan is a great little boy and we get along very well. Being a step mum I’m sure will have more challenges once Nathan is a little older. But for now, we are just enjoying the growth and development stages of a 4 year old.”
“At a recent BBQ with friends, I was chatting to one of my girlfriends who had (finally) split with her (toxic) boyfriend of 5 years, and after topping up her own glass of moscato for about the 13th time, she said “ I just never thought I’d be 27 and ….SINGLE.
“To her, single was the enemy word. My response? ‘I never thought I’d be 28, divorced and married for the second time to a guy with a 4 year old’. Shit- I had said it out loud!
“But that’s my reality! And I wouldn’t change a thing.”
So with all Lisa has gone through I ask her, her views on marriage now.
“It’s funny, there are two words. Wedding and marriage. Last time I had a wedding. This time I got married. I wake up every day loving life. Someone once told me that when you first get married, if it’s not the right one, you concentrate on what you can get out of that marriage. The second time around, you concentrate on what you can bring to it. I bring to Chris exactly what he brings to me. A life of love. Full stop. LOVE. I never thought love and passion like this existed.
“The saying ‘it’s as good as when we first met’ doesn’t apply to us. Our saying is ‘it gets better and better everyday’.
“I never thought I could love someone more and more each day, but every day I wake up, I feel more emotion, more love than I could possibly imagine.”
Thank you so much Lisa for sharing your story. Wishing you a lifetime of love and happiness with Chris.
*Names have been changed.