About to turn 50 and fed up with her husband, a woman seeks advice about how to end her marriage.
Writing in to the Daily Mail with her divorce dilemma, UK TV stars Steph and Dom Parker draw on their own 20 years of marriage to help solve her problem ...
"My husband and I have been married for 27 years. Things haven't been going well for a very long time. We argue all the time, it's a horrible atmosphere. But we have three children, so decided to stay together for their sake.
This October, however, our youngest daughter left for university. It was always my understanding that we would part ways once this happened. Yet my husband keeps avoiding the issue. I get the impression that he's hoping I've forgotten about it. Things can't go back to normal though.
I know that this marriage isn't right for me. He doesn't make me happy any more. I'm about to turn 50 and can't bear the idea of another year pretending everything's okay, when it's not. It's time to end things.
I know this is going to break his heart, but how can I tell my husband I want a divorce?"
Steph says: January isn't called "divorce month" for nothing. Lawyers brace themselves for an almost 30 per cent rise in divorce instructions as soon as New Year celebrations are over.
And my advice to you, similarly, is don't delay. Once the champagne bottles are cleared away and the tinsel packed up, sit him down and tell him now is the time to broach the thorny subject of your marriage.
My guess is the children are well aware of your problems. It sounds a fairly friendless, as well as loveless, relationship and the kids will be expecting you to announce a split. I don't think you have to worry about them right now — your biggest focus should be on you.
Incidentally, I don't dismiss 27 years of marriage lightly. It's an achievement to be respected and celebrated, and I'm sorry it turned so sour in the end.
You don't say how old your husband is, but you were young when you wed — perhaps too young — and it's entirely possible you've just grown apart with the years. That's no one's fault.
But now you must be brave enough to end it. I can hear the frustration in your letter, that sense of being trapped and confused.
You say it was your understanding that with the children gone and your duty done, you'd go your separate ways, so I assume you and your husband have discussed it in the past.
Well, he won't have forgotten such a momentous decision, even if he's pretending he has. I would treat the matter as agreed in principle. The conversation you now need to have is about the practical arrangements — how you end the marriage, not whether you end it.
On this, be resolute, unemotional and very clear. Don't let even a sliver of doubt or hope enter his mind.
I'm sorry if that sounds cruel, but it really isn't. He needs to know that now is your time. You've brought up three children — his children — and done a brilliant job of it. Your youngest is off to university and now you need to start your new life, too.
One thought. Men don't like change and if you have always managed everything to do with the family and the house, he will hate the idea of suddenly having to cope alone. Be aware that he might well rush out and find another woman to do it all for him, but don't let this soften your resolve one bit.
My advice is to take today and tomorrow to get over the party season and practice the words you will use when you have this very difficult conversation. And then do it: 2019 is for you.
Dom says: This is a terribly sad situation. First, I'm never sure 'staying together for the sake of the children' is the right thing.
Frankly, it prolongs the agony, and even if they don't witness the arguments themselves, they will pick up on the 'horrible atmosphere' you describe.
But you know them best and did what you judged was right for them. Now they've flown the nest, you want to put your marriage out of its misery at last.
The conversation you must have with your husband is going to be hideous — there are no two ways about that — but if you approach it gently, with kindness and respect, it needn't tear you both apart.
The key to this, I think, is getting him to understand how unhappy you really are. Once he fully grasps that, I am sure he will see the sense in the split.
No one wants to be in a relationship where one half is miserable, after all. No one wants a spouse who is constantly looking for the exit.
Besides, no matter how good a job he's doing of burying his head in the sand, I bet, deep down, he's not happy either.
You've been married for more than half your life, but you are still both relatively young and there's no point in being unhappy when you still have so much life to live and happiness to find.
Tell him that you have a chance to put it right and both enjoy another 30 years of something new. There is a whole second act waiting for you, full of romance, if that's what you want, or adventure, or self-discovery.
Yes, his heart will be broken, but perhaps, too, he'll start to see the light at the end of the tunnel that you're already running towards. However, you must also try very hard to see things from his point of view. It seems to me divorce will be a natural step for you, but to him it might well be a huge and terrifying leap.
Think practically and don't be afraid to support him as you separate. Can he cook? Does he know how to do his laundry?
He'll need to learn, but you can help him. You share three children, and though they're grown up, you will still need to communicate with each other and see each other occasionally. You stayed together for the children's sake. Now stay friends for their sake, too.
I'd also advise that you be the one to leave the family home, at least until it's sold (if that's the best financial plan for you both). You're the one instigating the break. You can't expect him to be the one to pack the bag.
I do hope that it all works out for you.