Things You Only Know If Your Marriage Lasts Less Than A Year

The wedding was amazing but a Band-Aid Big Day couldn't save the relationship – and so an embarrassingly short marriage ensued

Miley Cyrus Liam Hemsworth

by Grazia Contributor |

When the news broke about Miley Cyrus and Liam Hemsworth splitting, I overheard a colleague laugh. ‘Married for seven months? That’s actually pretty long by celebrity standards.’ And I couldn’t help but wince. Because although I’m not a pop star or a Hollywood actor, my marriage lasted about that long, too.

It’s difficult to explain to anyone who hasn’t been through it how excruciating it is to get divorced – especially when, just a few months earlier, you were in a white dress saying ‘I do’. I’ve had friends who have tried to sympathise, saying, ‘Well, when my long-term relationship ended...’ But there’s something about having stood up in front of all your friends and family, and vowed to be with this person forever and then, well, not doing so, that adds a whole new layer of shame to the situation.

Like Miley and Liam, I’d been with my partner Max* for over a decade. We met at university when we were both 21, and had watched our friends get together, split up, meet other people, get married and have kids. Through it all, we seemed rock solid. Everyone we knew made jokes about when we were going to finally tie the knot, but neither of us seemed particularly bothered by the idea of marriage. We owned a flat together, shared a bank account, shared a life. For most of my twenties we had the attitude of, ‘If it ain’t broke...’

But after turning 30, I started to feel like something was missing. We were still living the same life we had in our early twenties. Maybe, I reasoned, getting married was exactly what we needed. In the way that some people have a ‘Band-Aid Baby’ in the hope of fixing their broken relationship, I had a Band-Aid Big Day. Although it sounds ridiculous now, I felt like making this public commitment of togetherness was exactly the step we needed to resuscitate what had gone stale, and jolt this relationship back to life.

Every time I used a saucepan from my wedding gift list, I cringed. The Le Creuset had outlasted our union

We fought more than ever in the run-up to the wedding, but I told myself that wedding planning was stressful. Whenever I had doubts (waking up at 4am and feeling like I wanted to jump on a plane and escape my own life), I figured everyone has cold feet. I ignored the fact that mine felt like they were in the deep-freeze. A few friends I spoke to about my feelings did advise me to call the wedding off or at least postpone it but, with the catering booked and the venue paid for, I felt like that wasn’t an option. Also we’d been together for so long, of course Max was ‘the one’. Wasn’t he?

Our wedding was genuinely the best I’ve ever been to (and I’m not just saying that because it was mine). The honeymoon was equally blissful. But when we got back and things still didn’t feel right, I realised that this was more than post-wedding blues. I’d thought that getting married meant everything would change, but nothing had. All the problems we had before were still there, but with the added pressure of ‘forever’ weighing on us. Staring down the barrel of ‘the rest of our lives’, it dawned on us that we had completely different pictures of what that actually looked like. He dreamed of moving back to the tiny village he grew up in to be near his parents, I had always wanted to move to a big city abroad. He wanted to focus on his career, I wanted to enjoy life and scale back work.

We tried counselling, but the writing was on the wall – only six months after our wedding day we were living separately. It was heartbreaking to meet up with people I hadn’t seen since my wedding day, and have them ask me how married life was, only to tell them that I was getting divorced. Every time I used a saucepan from my wedding gift list, I cringed. The Le Creuset had outlasted our union. But when I started talking about my situation more openly, I discovered that, actually, it’s not that uncommon.

‘There’s a distinct phenomenon behind this,’ says Lucia O’Sullivan, a psychology professor who specialises in intimate relationships. ‘Research indicates that when people who have been co-habiting for a long time finally get married, it’s often because it’s seen as a solution to whatever’s not working in the relationship.’ On top of that, O’Sullivan says there is statistically less stability in the first years of any marriage: almost half of all divorces in the UK happen in the first 10 years post wedding.

Maybe the longer you wait to get married, the more relationship baggage you bring into that marriage. In our case, we weren’t two people in the first flush of love when we reached the altar, we were more like housemates who occasionally had sex. I spent what would’ve been our first anniversary alone attending another friend’s wedding in Spain. Single for the first time in my adult life, I felt in shock at how much my life had changed in a year, but I reminded myself that the alternative – being in a marriage that wasn’t right – was far worse.

Although we started on good terms, things deteriorated as we fought over everything from the sofa to the cats. Now we only communicate via our lawyers, and I’m hoping the process will be finalised in the next few months.

So although I used to be cynical about A-listers’ short-lived marriages – Kim Kardashian has the record with 72 days, but Brad and Ange (together over a decade and with four kids) only managed two years of wedded bliss – I won’t be so judgemental again. An embarrassingly short marriage has been a painful but valuable lesson. I’ve met someone new but, to be honest, I’m scared of getting married again. Somehow I feel like making things official cursed my last relationship. And if I thought planning a wedding was stressful, try getting divorced.

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