Look, here’s the deal. I’ve never been the sort of girl who fantasises about her wedding day and the gorgeous gowns I would be wearing. The closest I’ve ever been to visualising my ‘happily ever after’ was putting my first name next to my favourite pop star’s (Justin Timberlake) back when I was a bright eyed and bushy tailed tween (yes, childish, I know).

But I’m now 27 and, lo and behold, I’ve already been married – and divorced – once. I met my ex-husband, Shawn* in my last year of university. And if you’ve ever met the man, you’d understand why I fell head-over-heels in love with him right from the start.

Shawn’s boyish good looks and gentle demeanour makes him the type of guy any girl would want to bring home to mum. He was such a gentleman and was even visibly blushing when he asked me out via a mutual friend (so cute, right?). I said yes of course, and our first date actually lasted a whole day; we started off with brunch and I only got home close to midnight.

I suddenly found myself turning into one of ‘those women’. Prior to meeting Shawn, I’ve never understood why so many women seem to transform into completely different creatures when they meet a man. Now, I hated that I was thinking about Shawn 24/7 and that I broke out into a silly smile each time he sent me a text message – even if it was just an ‘OK, babe’ in response to a plan we had made.

But the truth is that this was the person I became during the first few months of our courtship. I then decided that I needed to ‘find myself again’, so I purposely distanced myself from Shawn. I still liked him a lot; I just felt that I shouldn’t be making him such a priority in my life. I knew that this is what people in relationships do but this so wasn’t the real me, so I took a step back.

Not Going To Change

After a few weeks, Shawn confronted me about it. I lied at first about being busy with final-year exams but he was having none of it. He obviously knew me better than I thought he did. So I confessed that I wasn’t the type of girl to immerse myself into a relationship and that I couldn’t see myself changing for a man – so there was no point with us going on with it if that was what he expected of me.

To his credit and my astonishment, Shawn assured me that he didn’t ever want me to change as he liked me as I am and that he would never ever want me to do anything I wouldn’t be comfortable with. I took a couple of weeks to think about things and decided that we could give it a shot, as long as he let me process things at my own pace.

Shawn was truly a good man and never once rushed me in any way after The Talk. Of course, my parents adored him too and, to top it off, he got along very well with my brother. My family was pleased to see me land a ‘good catch’; my mum even took to asking me when we were getting married. (I froze and died a little inside each time she did so.)

I realised that I had to start thinking about whether or not marriage was something I wanted. Dating Shawn was great, but did I really want to spend the rest of my life with him? I couldn’t imagine being around this one person and making every single decision together for the rest of our lives. But he was a part of my life now and if I were to ever marry anyone, Shawn would be my number one choice.

Independent Woman

Flash-forward two years to the time of reckoning I was secretly dreading. Shawn is a few years older than me and told me he knew I was the woman for him – and that he was ready to take the next step.

We dealt with the issue practically – I’m not a romantic, in case you haven’t figured that out – and spent time sorting out issues like our finances and the logistics of where we would live before deciding to tie the knot.

But, as I always knew deep within the recesses of my heart, marriage wasn’t the ‘happy ending’ I was destined to live out. I felt claustrophobic being in our tiny flat; I need me-time and being married definitely clipped my wings. I gave it a serious go the first year or so, making sure I was performing my ‘wifely duties’ and looking after my husband, as all good wives should. But even Shawn could see that I was deeply unhappy.

It was actually Shawn who broached the subject first. He asked if I was enjoying being married and if I still loved him. My feelings for him have never changed but I honestly didn’t like having the weight of the gold ring on my finger. But how could one possibly break this news to your husband, whom you had promised to be with ’till death do us part’?

We got divorced just over a year ago and I feel guilty every time I think of what I put Shawn through. I am so thankful that Shawn never once blamed me for anything. He truly was a gentleman right until the end and even apologised for rushing into the marriage.

We are still in touch but nothing romantic will ever happen between us again. In fact, I know for a fact that I never want to get married again – not even to Justin Timberlake. I’m okay with being in a monogamous relationship, as long as I’m given the space I need, but marriage is definitely a no-no for me. Only time will tell if things will change.

*Names have been changed.