Lucy Joerin, 42, lives in Oxfordshire with her husband Mike, 48 and their daughters Millie, nine and Rose, six. Lucy and Michael run a property business together called stowhillestates.com. Here, to celebrate Gwyneth Paltrow as our first-ever digital cover star, she tells her story of marrying for the second time…
Even now, ten years on, I am still emotional when I recall how my husband Mike proposed. We were in Portugal and he’d waited until the sun had set before getting down on one knee and asking me to be his wife. In that magical, wonderful moment, it was as if a lightbulb had gone off in my head. “So this is what love feels like,” I thought. “This is what’s supposed to happen.”
It had all been very different five years earlier, when my first husband Chris proposed to me. We’d met at a wedding when I was only 27 and he swept me off my feet. Attentive and romantic, he was English but worked in New York. For over a year we enjoyed a heady transatlantic relationship. We’d exchange long romantic emails and phone calls and I’d regularly fly over to Manhattan to see him and vice versa. It was glamorous and dramatic and I loved it.
After 18 months, he proposed to me in his apartment, with a diamond ring. I had no doubt about saying ‘yes’. I loved him. But looking back, it was the idea of marriage, rather than the idea of marrying Chris that I loved. I was approaching thirty, every friend in the world was getting married and I didn’t want to be ‘left behind’. So the church was booked, the dress was bought and in March 2004, I walked down the aisle in front of 150 guests at a wedding costing £15,000. Family and friends have since told me they thought our marriage was a mistake but I can genuinely say that at the time, I really meant my vows. I wanted to make this marriage work. I wanted dearly to have a future with a husband and children.
But the warning signs that we weren’t right for each other were there. I simply chose to ignore them. Once Chris had returned to the UK after we got engaged and we moved in together, we were constantly arguing. But I thought that was normal for couples. We even rowed the night before our wedding banns were read at church.
When we returned from honeymoon in St Lucia, I fell into a depression and sought counselling. At first, I put it down to post-wedding blues, but it went deeper. I was having panic attacks and I felt isolated. Chris seemed disinterested in how I was feeling. Counselling helped me deal with my anxiety but less than two years after getting married, I knew I wanted out. We limped on for another year – the optimist in me always thought we could get through any niggles – but in July 2007 I told him I wanted to separate and moved in with a friend. Chris took it very badly, telling friends and family he was worried for my mental health. But I felt free. Although I was thirty and the thought of being on my own again terrified me, I knew I’d rather lose the chance of having children than stay in a marriage where I felt so trapped.
Only two months later I met Mike at a charity event. He was tall, dark and sexy but I wasn’t looking for love. Technically I was still married. But from the moment Mike and I started chatting, it was like a meeting of minds. He made me laugh, he was fun and gregarious, a really lovely soul.
We very quickly became a couple and when Mike asked my Dad if he could propose in October 2008, Dad joked: “Well you’d better wait for her divorce to come through first”. I worried at times if I would be judged by others for marrying again. But friends and family have been nothing but supportive. Chris ended up divorcing me on the grounds of adultery but I didn’t care. I’ve since heard that he’s married again – twice – and I hope it all worked out for him. Mike and I married in May 2009 in an intimate wedding with only our family with us. We didn’t feel having a large wedding would be appropriate. This time the ceremony was just about us, saying our vows in front of our family. It felt so right. I’d met my soulmate.
We’ve gone on to have two wonderful daughters. He’s the most brilliant dad and as a couple we’ve quit the rat race in London to go into business together. We see each other day and night and I couldn’t be happier.
There’s so much pressure on women in their thirties to settle down and get married and have children. There are so many stories about women who ‘put their career first’ and lost out on the chance to have children. But if my daughters get to their thirties and haven’t met the right man, I’d always tell them not to settle for second best. Wait for the right person and he’ll come along when you least expect it.