Welcome to our series, The Divorce Diaries. In the past ten instalments we’ve covered everything from the effect of lockdown on divorces to whether they’re contagious and have now spoken to dozens of women – including one who discovered her husband’s affair during lockdown and another who found out her husband had a vasectomy and didn’t tell her – even after they’d been trying for a baby for a year.
This week we spoke to Kathryn* who separated from her husband two years ago, when he dropped a bombshell – and then she discovered there was a hell of a lot more to the story…
It had been four-and-a-half years since Kathryn* and Tim’s wedding day, and they decided that it was finally time they took their honeymoon.
They’d spent a couple of nights in a hotel in town after the wedding – a gift from his parents – but had figured that a proper holiday could wait. They were far more focused on saving up to buy their first home, which was also their motivation for doing their big day on a relatively small budget. But now, nearly five years later, they’d bought the house, created a tidy savings account to start a family with and decided it was time to book a holiday before it became more difficult to travel with a young child or two in tow.
They’d booked their flights, taken a month off work and had been firing off emails to one another with links to different hotels or activities they could book in. It was an exciting time.
Then, while taking a coffee break one afternoon, Kathryn spotted that a hotel they’d dreamed of staying at was having a flash 24 hour 50% off sale – and, miraculously, it was over the period they’d be in town. She sent Tim a flurry of emails and texts and said they’d have to book by the end of the day. “Let’s do it after work,” Tim had replied.
But when Kathryn arrived home, something was immediately wrong – her husband wasn’t excited. She found Tim wringing his hands, pacing in their kitchen.
Instead of joining her excitement and booking in the final part of their dream honeymoon that evening, he told her that he was leaving her and wanted a divorce.
“I can remember that bit really clearly,” tells Kathryn. “Everything after that is a blur, but I can picture his face and how nervous he was. I was so, so, so, so shocked, but I know I asked him why and he just said, quite coldly, ‘because I can see that I’m not in love with you and this marriage is not going to work out.’”
Kathryn was distraught. She’d gone from planning a honeymoon and family, to sleeping back at her parent’s house in the same double bed she’d slept in as a child.
“I think that was one of the hardest parts,” she says. “I’d gone from having this very adult life and planning on being a parent, to suddenly feeling like an absolute child again. It didn’t feel real.”
She couldn’t make sense of any of it – neither could those closest to her. One night her mum asked if it was possible there was someone else in the picture, how quickly it all seemed to change. “I said there was absolutely no chance,” tells Kathryn. “There was no way Tim was capable of doing that.”
To make matters worse, things started to feel strange amongst her friends. She had a tight core group of girlfriends, with a wider group of friends who she used to see quite regularly. She noticed on social media that there seemed to be a lot of events happening which she hadn’t been invited to.
By now it was only a month after the split, and she wasn’t sleeping well – she was really just focusing on putting one foot in front of the other each day. She figured she probably wasn’t the best company at the moment and it might feel awkward for some of her friends who considered Tim a good friend now too – but it still felt really upsetting.to be left out. There were some friends she’d only seen once since the break-up and she felt hurt they weren’t being more supportive.
“I felt like I really was thirteen again one night when I saw a group of friends were all out together and I hadn’t been invited and I burst into tears on the couch with Mum,” she recalls. Her mum gently suggested that it was perhaps possible that she was feeling a bit paranoid and out of sorts since the split, and that if she had a catch-up with her best friend – who also hadn’t been at the event – that it would likely put her mind at ease.
So she fired off a text to her friend, who came back suggesting that she come over for breakfast in the morning.
When she got there her two other close friends were there.
“Again, it’s a bit blurry but I remember my best friend looked so tired and nervous and said they had something they needed to tell me and it was pretty bad.”
One of her closest friends, Gemma, told her that another one of their friends – someone Gemma went to university with – appeared to be in a relationship with Tim.
It was a friend who she knew pretty well – she’d been to her 21st, her 30th, they’d been bridesmaids together, caught up for coffee. She’d been at her wedding.
“I think I laughed it seemed so insane to me,” tells Kathryn.
But Gemma went on to tell her, as gently as possible, that she’d been out with that friend the night before after she’d invited her to a 30th and at some point Tim had turned up. They were obviously trying to act like nothing was going on, but they weren’t particularly good at faking it.
Kathryn couldn’t believe it. She tried calling the friend, and Tim but no one picked up. She kept trying.
Then, one day she did something that felt completely out of character. “It was the same week that we should have been on our honeymoon and I just wasn’t sleeping or eating right or anything,” she tells. She needed to know what was going on. So, she took the afternoon off and went to where her friend worked to confront her – only she wasn’t there. The receptionist said she was on leave.
She was on her way home and called her friends to fill them in – only Gemma seemed to have some news of her own. “She said she saw something strange, and didn’t know if she should tell me or not, but that perhaps it was better coming from my friends.”
Gemma had been included in a ‘close friends’ group by the friend on an Instagram story. She’d taken a screen shot of it, and noticed it had been deleted quite soon after.
It was a video following a man – who looked a lot like Tim – into the hotel that Kathryn had so nearly booked.
After calling around some mutual friends, they discovered that yes – Tim had still gone on the honeymoon, and he was there with Kathryn’s friend.
“I ended up going to the doctor to get something so I could sleep,” tells Kathryn. “It was the worst pain I’d ever been in.”
When they got home, the new couple told everyone that they’d only started their relationship after the marriage came to an end. And she just happened to have a few weeks booked off work, so they decided to go on holiday.
“It was complete bullshit and I know it,” says Kathryn. “How do you suddenly go on a romantic holiday with someone you’ve only been dating a handful of weeks?”
And even if their story was true, Kathryn couldn’t get over the fact that they would go to the exact same holiday spot. “It felt like more than just rubbing salt in a wound. Tim was tight, so I don’t buy that he would have paid full price for that hotel. My gut says they booked it during that half price sale day. It makes me sick.”
Kathryn says the two years since have been incredibly hard and she’s lost a fair few friends. “It was too awkward for some people, but it showed me who my true friends were.” And although she calculates she’s spent close to what she would have on that honeymoon now on therapy, it’s been a good investment.
“I’m in such a better place to where I was two years ago,” she says. “I do still feel a great deal of anger from time to time – Tim is still with my former friend – but I’m not in love with him anymore. Now I see him for who he truly is, and I do feel grateful I got to see that before I had children with him.”
Kathryn says she’s started thinking about dating again – perhaps after a holiday she has booked in with her girlfriends to Rarotonga.
“My advice to anyone who has been betrayed is that it does get better,” she says. “Someone said that to me early on and I couldn’t imagine that there would ever come a day when I’d be happy again. But it does happen. Seeing a therapist was great. My work put me on to EAP Services (an employee assistance programme which meant Kathryn could see a counsellor for free for several sessions) and from there I started seeing someone regularly. It really helped. And I’d recommend working on your nutrition and going for walks/meditation. You need to take good care of you.”
Kathryn says her counsellor helped her see that she may never get a confession or explanation from her former husband as to why he left their marriage. “That was a mental block for me for so long, but after a lot of work, it doesn’t consume me anymore. I can’t control that outcome, so I’ve put it to rest. It’s time to move on with my own life.”
*names have been changed
THE DIVORCE DIARIES
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