Why My Marriage Bucks The One In Four Trend For Divorce

Posted at 20:05pm on 24th July 2010

I’m sitting in the lounge after lunch, about to resume writing my new book, when I hear Paul coming down the stairs.

“Could you let me have my bank card back, please,” I call out.

He has borrowed it to take to the Post Office, because the Sub Postmaster forgot to write my number on the back of the cheque he cashed for me the previous day.

“I’ve got it in my hand, right now,” he says, coming into the room. “Just been to get it from my trouser pocket.”

Telepathy? You could say that. Or perhaps it’s just that we know one another so well.

Tomorrow, we will be celebrating twenty-eight years of marriage. That is twenty-eight happy years of second marriage, to be precise! So I was sorry to read that one in three marriages in Britain now ends in divorce, and that statistically, second and third marriages are more vulnerable than first.

An article in Stella magazine, To Divorce Or Not To Divorce, written by my online friend, Lucy Cavendish, asks – in an era when it is “more acceptable than ever to walk away from an unhappy marriage” – whether some of us are “giving up too easily.” And according to some, though not all, of the women she interviewed, it would appear that the answer to that question may be “yes.”

My first marriage ended traumatically, following serial episodes of betrayal-forgiveness-reconciliation. On one occasion, when we’d moved away to “start a new life”, I discovered that, in fact, it had been merely to permit an adulterous relationship more scope, in that my children’s father had set up a second home with his mistress. We tried again to make it work, but in the end – with another mistress lined up - I decided that enough was enough. Sometimes, trying again is just too hard – not least on the children – and walking away is the kinder option.

That doesn’t necessarily make it the “easy” option, though. One of my daughter’s ended up a heroin addict – a story you can read in my novel, A Painful Post Mortem.

So what has made my second marriage buck the trend?


I’d say, first and foremost, maturity – or at least, expectations that are based on a more mature, and realistic, outlook on life. Both in our thirties, we experienced all the normal heady, romantic aspects of ‘falling in love’ but we both knew what we were looking for. We allowed our heads to guide us, as well as our hearts.

  • I knew that the honesty and stability that were lacking in my first marriage were paramount to my sense of security.
  • I knew, too, with an absolute certainty, that the affluent social lifestyle that had epitomised my first marriage and would be lacking in the second, was totally insignificant.
  • Paul knew, as a stepchild, himself, that the relationship between parent and biological child could cause jealousy in the step-parent.
  • He was aware that, at times, he would have to be prepared to stand aside so as not to come between me and my children – and that this would be his choice, not because I was putting him second.

Based on the marriage enrichment classes we later ran, it became clear that some couples go through life with unmet expectations, which are responsible for much of the unhappiness in their relationships. This article, Partner Pleasing: Do You Have Different Expectations Of One Another shows how this may be overcome.


Ironically, we met because we were both involved in helping other single, divorced or widowed, people achieve a social life! The aim was to bring together the middle-aged woman who had nursed her parents through various illnesses, and now found herself bereft, with the woman on the other side of town whose husband had died, unexpectedly. Or the dad whose children now lived on the other side of the world with mum and her new partner, and the young mother whose son desperately needed a male role model. Via a programme of family-oriented social events – concerts, ten-pin bowling, walks on the moor, picnics in the park – we had the pleasure of seeing lonely people become whole, and fulfilled.

  • The secret was friendship!
  • The slow unfolding of getting to know another person: their likes and dislikes, the way they react to different circumstances, their opinions and affiliations, convictions and beliefs.
  • Respect and liking for each other preceded any deeper friendship in a way that is rarely seen today.

We used to stress that the club was not a dating agency. Yet many successful marriages came about as a result of that singles club, including our own. To this day, my husband and I would say that we are, each of us, the other’s best friend.


When we had been married for a few years, a financial situation developed which my husband felt would upset me. So, out of the kindness of his heart, he kept it from me. It emerged, unexpectedly, some months later, via a business colleague. I was devastated – but I wasn’t going to let on to these outsiders!

I bided my time until we were alone. And then – with raised voice and tears – I vented my anger, my disappointment and my fear. I felt as if history were repeating itself.

I wish I could say it never happened again. Next time it was me who played my cards close to my chest. I became friendly with a well-known male author whom I met at a Writers’ Conference. Through legitimate telephone calls and letters, our friendship developed. I had been commissioned by a mainstream publisher – his publisher! – to write a book, and my author friend was advising me.

I never kept the friendship secret from my husband; in fact, he encouraged it. But neither did I discuss the increasing number of letters and phone calls my friend and I exchanged. Gradually, I found myself becoming more and more enamoured of this man – and clearly, he of me. Our friendship deepened. We became fond of one another – too fond. And though nothing of a sexual nature occurred, I knew that we were playing with fire. Eventually, I told my husband that I had no alternative but to stop all communication with my friend.

  • Communication is the lifeblood of a marriage!
  • Secrets clog the arteries and put intimacy at risk of a heart attack.
  • To prevent that happening to us, Paul and I have a Quiet Time every morning. For us it includes prayer and Bible reading notes. But there is nothing ‘religious’ about it. It’s to do with relationship!
  • What we read informs our thinking.
  • That in turn prompts discussion, recollections, opinions, even confessions of negative feelings, irritations!
  • We believe it draws us closer, because relationship is about development and growth; a learning process; an evolution.
  • Prayer – for ourselves and each other – cements our relationship.

It’s meant, over the years, that there is nothing we can’t talk about with each other. We’re secure in knowing that admitting to negative feelings isn’t going to damage the way we feel about each other. We’ve learned how to tackle thorny subjects through a method of feedback, and we’re aware of the importance of carving out time for each other, and understanding the various styles of communication.


It wouldn’t do to feel smug or complacent about my marriage, but I’m looking forward to tomorrow. We’ll be celebrating our anniversary with family and old friends – all of whom count themselves fortunate to have happy, secure marriages. Have we ever felt like “walking away” from our relationships, as Lucy Cavendish has said, above? You bet we have, at some time or other, in the heat of an argument. But we know – all of us – that like one of the women Lucy interviewed, we’d be left with only regret.

Better to work hard at mowing, fertilising and weeding the grass in your own backyard, we reckon, than being deluded into thinking that it looks greener on the other side of the fence!

All Royalties from Mel’s latest novel, A Painful Post Mortem, are for charities benefiting children worldwide. Buy a copy here and help raise cash for children like Rachel, who, at 13 is mother to 6 kids orphaned by AIDS, or this project, drug-proofing teenagers in the UK

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