The Timing was Right until it wasn't.

My children have suffered and continue to suffer and it hurts me that I can't shield them from this madness. Each one has reacted differently and at different times

The Timing was Right until it wasn't.
We didnt want the night to end. art by @Midjourney

From Anthony’s POV

We were so young when we met. I was 22, and Serena was 21. She was lovely, and our date was lovely. We met a few more times but we didn't take it any further. Maybe I was too young, emotionally and mentally serious dating was not on the cards for me, and more importantly, I was not looking to get married.

A few years later, we bumped into each other at my friend Rob. I have this habit of turning up unannounced and when Rob let me in, Serena was standing in the kitchen trying to look busy. Rob and his girlfriend were in the midst of a domestic. We started chatting and didn't stop until we realised a few hours later we needed to leave. I suggested going to grab a bite to eat. It was summer in London, I had the roof down and we said goodnight at dawn. This time the timing was right.

Our relationship was pretty great, and in under two years I realised I was ready for marriage and all that came with it. The first six months were pure infatuation, and then I fell in love.

I’m ready to get married and you could be the one was the thought that crossed my mind.

I knew she loved me, and she said yes when I proposed.

The proposal was triggered by my father becoming very sick, and when he came home from the hospital, I had that 'life is short, I'm 25, a good age to marry' moment. I know it sounds unromantic, but I truly loved her and the sex was great.

Anthony’s face softens when he talks about the early years.

There was nothing to suggest this wasn’t a good idea.

My father passed away soon after I proposed, leaving a gaping hole in my heart. He was my rock in life. Raised an orthodox Jew, I turned to god to stay close to my father. Synagogue was where I was closest to him growing up and I became religious quickly, keeping Shabbat. I never asked Serena to give up her needs or beliefs and Serena never complained or kicked up a fuss, she was understanding and loving.

Our marriage felt strong and in no time Serena was pregnant. Sadly, we lost our first and second pregnancy after the first trimester; it was emotionally and physically distressing but we kept trying and eventually our firstborn blessed us. We didn't realise that after giving birth a woman is very fertile, and our second was conceived sooner than intended. It was here and then that our marriage started to show some cracks.

I believe that the moment she stopped working she lost a part of herself, she became focused on nonsense, soap opera nonsense. And when our third child was born things rapidly deteriorated. It wasn't about her earning money, it was her mental state. Her health deteriorated too and I lost my patience with her. Look, I was in this marriage for life, and I was under no illusion it would be plain sailing. I lacked empathy and compassion and told her to just get on with it, which I know is harsh.

I get that it was hard being with three young children all day, but Serena became increasingly dependent on me to be a super dad after work or on weekends. Don't get me wrong, I love my kids to the moon and back and Serena was a great mother, a great homemaker and I still loved her very much at this point but it was so hard to be with her nonsense and I guess I lost all respect for her.

Turning 40 was a milestone moment, a time when everyone was throwing parties and cocaine started to trickle into our lives, maybe twice a month. The comedown wasn’t good, and we became tetchy with each other. Serena’s social set shifted more to going out with the girls, weekends away. Hanging out with divorced women, who had every other weekend without their children. It wasn’t conducive to a stable marriage. We started to argue and embark upon some real slanging matches. Meanwhile, I got to spend a lot more time alone with the children.

Did you seek help at this point?

We didn't. I didn't believe in it or want to back then. The button-pushing and the battles continued for two years until we got help. I couldn’t stand the therapist, he always took Serena's side. It was obvious he wasn't helping us save our marriage. Recently I found out why, Serena had been having an affair and he knew all about it. We had unresolved issues, a big one for me was Serena’s timekeeping, she drove me nuts, never ten, fifteen minutes late- an hour or more. I still loved her and thought this period was an incredible low in our marriage.

Divorce wasn’t a consideration for me.

We had 8 sessions of therapy together and a few individual sessions and then we threw in the towel and started the divorce process. I was advised to stay in the house where I had to sleep in the box room on a tiny single bed with no cupboard. I am not a small man. I even needed permission to enter the master bedroom. It was exceptionally stresfull. The divorce itself took very little time and I was well advised to consider two options. Give her the house and co-care with no maintenance or split the house and pay maintenance until the third child finishes university. I gave her the house. It’s been years and I have never known her to work. Serena's lover paid for her lawyers but it was amicable and not many billable hours. We didn't have anything to fight over. There were still moments during the process when I wanted to make things work until I saw the envelope on the doorstep with the Nicei document. It symbolises the moment I emotionally disengaged.

With three young kids, I rented down the road to be close to them and we followed the guidelines that inevitably didn't work. Their needs came first and we changed the visitation timetable. I became the cliche divorcee, dating everyone, sleeping around, I loved every minute of it.

At first we were fine, and then Serena became fractious, argumentative and started pushing my buttons. I suspected she had regrets. The kids all had their own phones which made contact simple and in time I moved to a larger home. This is where things get really messed up. I met Jenny, who was incredible. Jenny and Serena knew each other to say hi, but they weren't friends. Serena became insanely jealous and angry.

What happened next destroyed any form of future communication. and it was all a miscommunication of random events.

Serena came to collect the kids at our new home, started her usual verbal abuse and I asked her to leave. As she walked out, she tripped and hurt herself- not badly. She took the kids and left. A few hours later the police are at my door, handcuff me and place me in a cell overnight. Why? The kids had been fighting at home, one of them called 999 (911) and hung up. The police turned up to check if there had been an incident, Serena said yes for whatever reason, and the police were obligated to follow up. Sitting in a cell alone, plastic mattress, the metal toilet, and the hatch; I knew I was done with her. I was fuming, distraught, and from then on all decency between us disintegrated.

Anthony's body language and tone change instantly.

Serena is incapable. She can't turn up on time, she can't organise a birthday party, and she blames me for everything. Covid lockdown made her even more intolerable. Meanwhile, I lost my job, gave up my home and moved in with Jenny (thanks Boris), but my kids didn't stay, instead, we went for daily walks. At some point, without my knowledge, my eldest ran away from home and moved in with a friend. Then Jenny and I split up and I couldn't provide a home for the kids to stay. I was financially ruined and had to take any and every job. It was a shit show.

One day in 2021 Serena became increasingly unwell, and the kids asked me to come and check on her. In her medicated state she confessed to having an affair. It was a punch in the stomach, and wow it hurt, but I know it was a by-product of our unhappiness.

How did you feel about this revelation? Can you pinpoint any behavioural changes?

Well, she was out with the girls more. Far more flirtatious and away for weekends. I guess she had been with him all along.

I embarked upon therapy a while back, which gave me clarity into how young we were but more importantly how not to respond to the button pushing. I no longer respond immediately to emails, and the kids are old enough to call me or get on a bus if they need to. They all have a key to my home.

My children have suffered and continue to suffer and it hurts me that I can't shield them from this madness. Each one has reacted differently and at different times. The pain and anxiety it caused me is endless, and isn't until recently that I could acknowledge the effect it had on my work life. I changed jobs soon after the divorce and although I turned up, my mind was bashing me about for not being a better husband, or for not trying hard enough. I was grieving. I then had to make career choices that weren't ideal for me but allowed me to be a parent and pay the bills. Serena also felt it acceptable to call me during work hours to argue.

Is there anything you have taken away from this interview?

‘In retrospect, I wasn’t sympathetic regarding her health. I had little patience and didn’t consider what it was doing to her state of mind. I also realise that I swept things under the carpet because I wanted to please everyone. I was the glass half full but deluded.’

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