Yesterday, the Mail’s U.S. Health Editor Eve Simmons bravely acknowledged the telltale signs that, in hindsight, signalled her six-month marriage was about to end.
Pictures of earrings on her husband’s phone that weren’t hers and weren’t meant for her. Returning home to find him halfway through a bottle of red wine. A ‘bolshy, arrogant’ attitude towards her she didn’t recognise.
It all added up to a relationship on the rocks — and her piece truly hit a nerve, racking up hundreds of comments online.
So we asked leading writers to look back on their romantic pasts and recall the moment they knew a relationship was doomed…
The Christmas Day Giveaway
Lisa Hilton, 48
It was Christmas morning when I knew my first marriage had ended. Unfortunately, it was also our first Christmas as husband and wife.
We had invited his family to spend the day with us. I had been preparing for weeks — food, decorations, the perfect gifts. I don’t think Christmas should be about splashing absurd amounts of money, but choosing a thoughtful and personal present is important to me.
When we sat round the tree with champagne and home-baked cinnamon buns, I was thrilled by the reactions as everyone unwrapped their parcels. Until I got to my own.
My newish husband had gifted me a purple suede skirt and a pair of Manolo Blahnik heels. There was something odd about the admittedly very elegant pumps. I wear a size 39, and these were a 36.
I thought it was a clumsy mistake, until I saw his face. He looked horrified. I said nothing, but avoided the pre-lunch family walk claiming I needed to finish the roast potatoes.
As soon as everyone was gone, I ransacked my husband’s study, where I found an identical pair of shoes, this time in my size. He had mistakenly handed over a gift clearly intended for another woman.
There was no need to make a scene. I simply swapped the shoes around and, when he returned with my in-laws, I was sporting my new heels, in the right size.
The Dachshund he didn’t walk
Vanessa Tait, 52
When I met my boyfriend, Nick, I had a dachshund called Moira. She was not a natural fit for Nick — he liked big dogs.
But he took to the little dachshund, picking her up and planting kisses on the smooth round scoop of her head. And she took to him, wriggling with joy whenever he came round.
We took Moira on walks round London’s Hyde Park, arm in arm, watching her run after squirrels and yap at everyone we met.
We were still young but Moira made us a family, I thought, and I’d fondly imagine the day when we’d move in together and have another puppy of our own. But there was one aspect of Moira that Nick did not like: her propensity to pee in the flat.
When he stayed over he always took her out on to the street at 11pm to do her business. It was a favour to me, and I was grateful.
Until one night he didn’t. Eleven o’clock came and went. I got up and went out myself — I didn’t say anything. The next night was the same. I don’t think he ever took her out again.
It was a sign. He’d loved Moira because he loved me. But now he didn’t any more.
The poetry that wasn’t about me
Marion McGilvary, 65
My ex had left for a month and came back saying he wanted to make a go of things.
I was very relieved. Gone were the long walks alone to make clandestine phone calls to the woman he’d been seeing.
It was over with her, he assured me.
He was relaxed, affectionate and, most of all, cheerful — eager to do things together. I really felt we were on the mend and I was giddy with relief.
And then I noticed some of the poetry books were missing.
‘You’re reading poetry?’ I asked him, amused — this from a chap whose normal reading material was about Stalin and the origins of World War II. He was oddly defensive. Later, I saw a slim volume of poetry by Constantine P. Cavafy on his desk.
A slip of paper marked the poem Song Of The Heart: ‘With you, I think, all that is pleasant smiles on me. In the mirror of your eyes there is reflected joy.’
For a sweet nanosecond I thought it was about me. Then I knew.
Nobody suddenly reads poetry to their wife of 25 years. The relationship I thought was over had just been better hidden.
The jewellery that repulsed me
Kate Spicer, 54
Jack had been to a smart school, the best university, he had a small private income and a mind that was the cliched ‘steel trap’.
He was one of the loves of my life, no question, but he was a dark, cynical and sometimes cruel character.
He liked to lie in his huge bed in a large but incredibly shabby flat with enviably high windows where he smoked a lot of cigarettes and drank red wine at all hours. At 20, I found this immensely exotic — but his charm soon waned.
As I started work, Jack sank deeper into his decadent persona. He’d go out drinking and come home at 3am to cook himself a fry-up.
On a couple of occasions, I found him in a late-night bar near where we lived together, drinking with a vamp with long, dark hair; thigh boots; and a bodycon dress.
Then he started to wear jewellery. He really wasn’t a jewellery guy, but he acquired all this gold tat — necklaces, rings, thick chains.
The stench of the cheap gold plate and his hungover sweat was the most pathetic thing I’d ever smelt. I toughed it out for a matter of weeks after the jewellery arrived but, in the end, it was this, and not the woman in thigh boots, that made me pack my bags and leave.
The sudden gap year he took
Linda Kelsey, 71
We’d been together for 22 years, married for only seven.
There had been tough times both before our wedding — when he unflaggingly and selflessly supported me through two years of depressive illness — and after, when his working life imploded and his self-confidence hit rock-bottom.
But our mutual loyalty, underpinned with love, would surely see us through, I thought.
So, when my now ex-husband said, ‘After [our son] Thomas comes back from his gap year and goes off to university, I’m going off on a gap year of my own,’ for a while I told myself: ‘He deserves this.’
He was a man who loved adventure and the wilderness, whereas I preferred safer creature comforts, and a trip to South America would give him the opportunity to satisfy a craving.
Three or even six months away would help him sort his head out, rethink his future working life and what he wanted to do, and enjoy a taste of freedom.
Maybe it would even reboot and reinvigorate our relationship.
The warning sign, I can see looking back, was less in the act than in the fact that it wasn’t a topic up for discussion. His plans were non-negotiable, his statement very much one of intent.
But by the time he finally took off, I was no longer under any illusions — and when he came back, it was over between us.
The brand-new bedroom trick
Liz Jones, 65
We had been married for two years before my husband declared he wanted to ‘find himself’ in India. What he found, I later learned by snooping on his camera, was a certain American woman. He begged for my forgiveness.
I had to be in New York for my job as a fashion editor and invited him along as a peace offering, even paying for his flights. He’d never been but, one evening, after I’d spent the day working, he announced he knew of a great vegan restaurant. Wow! Initiative! That’s new!
In bed the next morning, in our room with its view of the Empire State Building, he performed an act I had always found boring. But that day? ‘Blimey!’ I said. ‘Where on earth did you learn to do that?’ He smirked, before saying: ‘Yoga.’
Then it clicked. He’d been meeting up with the Yank from India, who was now here in NYC. He wasn’t being generous in bed. He was subtly showing off his new conquest, like a cat dropping a mouse in my lap. ‘I’ve landed a woman who’s demanding in bed and knows the Big Apple like the back of her hand.’
I sent the Yank an abusive email, to which she replied: ‘Thank you for reaching out.’ Whore.
The ignorant ‘moorish’ mix-up
Lucy Cavendish, 55
I realised my relationship with a long-term boyfriend was doomed when we were on holiday in southern Spain. We were on the terrace of a romantic villa we were staying in, sharing a bottle of champagne, looking out over the stunning white villages.
I said: ‘Ooh, look at the lovely Moorish architecture.’
And he said: ‘Oh, does that mean you want to see more of it?’
At first, I thought he was trying to be funny. But then, when I saw how quizzical he was looking, I realised he was being serious.
So I said: ‘No, it means it was built by the Moors’. He said: ‘Who are the Moors?’
That was it for me. I know it sounds intellectually snobbish, but it just confirmed what I was beginning to think about him, which is that, although he was very generous and a complete gentleman, he wasn’t quite as up on culture, history and literature as I was.
Even though I had ignored this for quite some time and, at one point, thought I would marry him, now I could see it was a problem. I just couldn’t unhear his ‘Moorish’ comment.
And then I noticed it everywhere. He couldn’t even manage basic words in Spanish. He had no idea about the ingredients of paella — and he had chosen Spain for its wonderful food. By the time we got home ten days later, we were barely on speaking terms.
The crash that made me fearful
Liz Hodgkinson, 79
The moment we came off my boyfriend’s motorbike, with the bike skidding across the road and us on top of each other, was when I began to wonder. We weren’t seriously hurt, but the motorbike was a write-off and he seemed to think it was all great fun.
‘I’ll just get another bike,’ he said.
I knew he’d been driving recklessly. Suddenly, I felt not excitement and love for this man, but the big red flag of fear.
He had pursued me at university and, at first, I was very taken with him. He was stylish, attractive, full of confidence, clever, rich, spoke several languages and had grand plans for a glittering future.
He wanted to marry me and even bought an engagement ring in case I said yes. I later learned he was still seeing a previous girlfriend. My wiser flatmate didn’t trust him for a minute.
After we broke up, he got married but always had a girlfriend on the go, too.
Later he moved to Italy, where he became embroiled in criminal accounting activities and had to flee the country to avoid arrest.
Thank goodness I heeded the warning sign and escaped.
The dirty boxers on the floor
Lucy Holden, 33
I looked at a pair of yesterday’s boxers lying on the floor of the room I shared with my longest-lasting boyfriend to date and felt a rage bubbling inside me.
We were both in our 20s, but picking up after him as though after a toddler had become a daily routine.
Why was I expected to care for both of us?
When we’d first moved in together, I’d done everything without complaint, telling myself he’d get better, start helping out more.
It was ‘cooler’ and more ‘easy-going’ not to fight about domestic stuff like this. Yet it always grated. This was 2016, after all — the days of ‘male’ and ‘female’ jobs were over.
We went walking on London’s Clapham Common and I decided to voice my grievances.
‘You’re not going to break up with me because I don’t do the washing?’ he said, disbelief in his voice.
‘I literally am,’ I screeched like a banshee. And I did.