I found out my husband didn't love me anymore after I read his WhatsApp messages – but all I wanted to do was keep him

MY husband and I met when we were 18 years old. We’d had two kids and been married for 15 years when I found the messages on his phone that made my world implode.

Our break-up was not straightforward.

It began in August 2019 and unravelled over nearly five months. During those months, my husband — I’ll refer to him as X — oscillated between telling me that he was committed to making it work and then telling me it was broken.

There were reconciliations and we went to counselling, where X told me — more than once — he wasn’t leaving for anyone else. He said he just didn’t love me in “that way” any more.

Heartbreak happens every day but doesn’t happen to you every day.

It manifests itself physically. It can trigger muscle weakness, exhaustion and insomnia. And sometimes make you feel like you are going to die.

I hope by sharing my story I can help others see there is a path through the pain, that will make you a stronger person . . . 


It’s 7.30am, August 2, 2018. It’s our 15th wedding anniversary. X’s new work phone is charging. It sits on the kitchen work surface, its green light flashing malevolently.

I’ve never, ever looked at his phone without his knowledge. But I’ve had an unfamiliar unease in the past month, so I type in X’s code. It’s the code he uses for everything and has done for all of the 26 years we’ve been together. It doesn’t work. I feel a knot of dread.

“Can I look at your phone?” I ask X. I see panic flash across his face. “Why?” “I’d like to see how a Galaxy phone works,” I say with pretend nonchalance. “What’s the code?” As he tells me, and I type it in, I notice he is shaking. I see he has WhatsApp. I didn’t know he had that. I click on the messages and read them. I feel stunned, sick, desperate. I run into the garden. I shout for him to follow me.

I punch him in the chest. Hard. I had no idea my husband was unhappy. The pain I feel is indescribable and yet, to the outside world, you bear no scars. It is almost inconceivable that others can’t see your misery, because it feels physical. I knew I should end it but I couldn’t bear to. In fact, it was the last thing I wanted.


At the core of my break-up, the pain was rejection. He didn’t want me. It was rejection that made me sob in the shower — as I turned up the pressure so the kids couldn’t hear my desperate gasps.

I couldn’t believe the way I was behaving, but I was floored by this stranger I’d known for decades. He stayed out for nights on end and those nights were the worst of my life.

He said his main reason for leaving was that I was controlling, but I hadn’t heard him use that word before. Was I controlling?

When the person you trust implicitly, the person who is the emergency contact number in your passport, who held your hand as your babies were being delivered, refuses to be straight with you, it fractures all you believe in. It makes you feel like you are going crazy.


When it comes to rock-bottom, this is it. This is the stage when the flame of hope isn’t wholly extinguished. There was one story that played over and over in my mind in the denial phase of my break-up: He needs to work late and to stay at the office overnight. I want to reach out for reassurance but know it will irritate him.

At 6am, I try to call him. His phone is off. He had said he would leave it on. I remembered hearing about a friend who had tracked their husband’s phone. I’m shaking. The arrow drops down with ease and clarity. It seems to indicate his phone is not at his office but across London.

At 7am, he answers. He says he is at his office. I check again but it stays the same. I feel so deranged, I ask X to take pictures of his office. He sends through pictures that to me could or could not be his office.

X told me it was controlling of me to question him. He told me tracking his phone was unforgivable. And he told me that I had betrayed his trust.


Faced with his rejection and disrespect, I hoped I would be fiery and resolute. But he was the furious one.

Even the counselling became about what I’d done wrong and how I could correct my mistakes. How I was going to change. I was constantly apologising.

I accept my behaviour hadn’t been perfect, but I should have battled my corner. I couldn’t. Instead, I accepted each criticism, absorbing it like a punchbag. The more angry he got, the more submissive I became.

My anger never matching his, I gave up trying.


Trying to keep someone in a relationship when they want out is a desperation like no other.

You find yourself scrabbling to create some kind of connection — even an argument is better than being ignored.

Desperation has a physical side. I had heart palpitations, headaches, shaking. My hair came out in clumps and I lost weight dramatically.

The medics call it trauma-accelerated weight loss. One morning, a few months in, I got on the scales. I looked down at the dial: 8st 2lb. This is 26lb below my usual weight of 10st.


You don’t want to accept this is the end. But you need to find your strength. I had all but lost mine.

On 22 December, X told me it was over for good. But he said we should still have Christmas at home, for the kids and his parents. I couldn’t do it, I said.

He told me I was selfish. It was a turning point. Finally, my anger kicked in.

He was leaving me, yet I was to blame? Until then I had been invested in making it work. Now I was set on survival.

I decided to take the kids to my cousin’s, in Devon, throwing everything in the car before I could change my mind. X didn’t try to change my mind.

He watched as we went. We sobbed, me and the children.

But if your heart is broken, hear this: You will find your strength. And you will be stronger and more beautiful for having been broken apart.

  • This is an extract, edited by Natasha Harding, from Rosie’s book How to Heal A Broken Heart (Orion Spring, £14.99), which is available now in hardback, ebook and audiobook. Find Rosie on Instagram at @lifesrosie.

How to get over an ex

THESE are Rosie’s top tips for recovery from a painful break-up . . . 

  1. Create a mental stop sign and pull it out when you are about to go down that rabbit hole of stalking.
  2. Exercise. Why? Because it is hard to focus on agonising thoughts when your lungs feel like the GB weightlifting team is sitting on your chest.
  3. Distract yourself with whatever works. For me this is listening to The Archers on the radio (did I just admit that?), watching a romcom or sharing a bottle of medicinal rosé with mates (when Covid permits).
  4. Stop romanticising. Take off the rose-tinted glasses – which your brain really wants you to keep on – and list all the things you really don’t like about your ex.
  5. Steer clear of avoidance tactics. Partying, over-exercising, working 24/7 or drinking will not help with recovery. In fact, lack of sleep, or using alcohol and drugs, can lead to depression and worsen negative feelings.
  6. Do not sleep with the gardener/school dad who has always had the hots for you, however tempting.

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