I Feel Like Benjamin Button

Having an argument with my wife was not an unusual event but there was something different about this one. I knew my marriage was over, but as ever, I was not ready to accept the death knoll. It wasn’t even one of our more vociferous arguments. My marriage was a cliff and our arguments were like waves and over time, the incessant collisions, eventually brought the once mighty communion crashing down.

I was born in 1975, and as I age, I find myself in between generations. I have so much in common with my parents and their era; and yet I have the newer hi-tech world that we exist in all over me. It is the old skool part of my life that refused to admit my marriage was over. I am convinced I would have remained in my marriage until the end of my days. Happiness was irrelevant – it was a question of duty.

After this argument I told my wife that I did not want our marriage to end. I repeated the vows I had made 14-years before. I cried back then as I did 14-years later but tears do not hold a marriage together. She told me that I was trying to change her and mould her into something she could not be. I couldn’t agree with this philosophy. I told her that I was not trying to change her. I was merely expressing my unhappiness, and if she loved me she would want to change. It took me several weeks to realise that it was the same thing. It didn’t matter how you dressed it up I was trying to change her.

I think my marriage ended the day I decided to remove alcohol from my life. So many of our memories were clouded in a pissed haze. Ironically, I decided to stop drinking to save our marriage. I thought Debbie was drinking too much and as she wouldn’t listen to my advice I would set an example instead. As the readers of this column know I ended up with a lot of free time on my hands. I joined a life-coaching course and set about trying to solve the ultimate conundrum.

“What was the meaning of life?”

I needed to be happy but I was living my life with my eyes closed. When I opened them a whole world of opportunity revealed itself to me. I started writing about anything and everything. I fell in love with poker and helping people in their everyday lives. As I roamed the streets of this world I saw people stumbling around with their eyes closed and I wanted to open them all.

I quit my job and set myself up as an entrepreneur. I was convinced that if I woke up everyday and did what I loved then the money would find its way into my pockets and sure enough it did. For people living their life in darkness my job screamed of security but to me it was anything but. I never asked my wife if she was happy with the choices I made because I was on my own journey. I was convinced that if I could sort my own personal life out that my marriage and my family life would improve. I assumed the two of them went hand in hand.

As the days progressed and my dreams started to turn into everyday life there was no end to the things that I felt I needed to change. It was out with the old and in with the new. After that last argument my wife told me that she was not willing to change. I didn’t know what to do. I had no control over the situation.

I headed off to Malta to work on the Unibet Open and I was sure that when I returned to the UK we would get back to normal. We would sweep our shit under the carpet, close our eyes and plough on through it. Instead she had not changed her mind and although she loved me dearly her belief that our marriage was at an end had turned into a conviction.

I moved out of my family home and into my Mum and Dad’s house. A full circle that took 18-years before finally completing. The hardest part through all of this was watching the anguish etched on every line, pore and freckle of my ten-year old son’s face as we told him we were parting. Before heading off to WPT Vienna I bought a book about relationships and I read it from cover-to-cover in a day. I have always turned to books to help guide me through life and this time was no exception. It helped me realise that I was always trying to change Debbie and you should never have to change anyone when you are in a relationship. I realised that no matter what she did she would never have been right for me or me for her. We had done a fantastic job of raising a fabulous little boy and we had helped each other through our journey of life but it was the right time to part.

Since our separation my life is so different. I am sad to see the old life disappear but so excited to see the new one start to climb out of the chrysalis and spread it’s wings. My poker umbilical chord has been well and truly cut. I now realise that the life that I have chosen is a very difficult one for a family man to exist in. I was covering WPT Vienna and Bratislava for ten days before heading home for a few days to exchange luggage and then off to the Party Poker Big Game V. While at home for those few days I had to see my son, complete various writing projects and try to play poker. I have just spent three nights on a vacation with my son before jetting off to EPT San Remo for seven days. Then it is WPT Barcelona before finally heading to the WSOP for 6-8 weeks.

The poker life doesn’t suit a family man. I feel like Benjamin Button. I should have been doing this when I was a 20-years old, young free and single. I should be settling down and being a family man now. I watched a movie the other day and in that movie a family gathered around the ocean as they tipped the ashes of their Grandfather into the choppy waters. I wondered where my special place was? Where would my son finally lay me to rest? Who would be there as I flew into the wind? It was at that moment, as I went into deep thought, that I realised the truth. I have not yet visited my special place. It is out there somewhere; waiting for me to find it but for the moment it can wait. I cannot see the people in my dreams because I have not met them yet. They don’t even know that I am about to come bounding into their lives and shake them up like a can of pop.

I have unleashed a part of me that has been locked up since school – a part of me that was not deemed to be cool. As my son now puts it I am so uncool for school these days. It is my creative side. It is the wish to put a fiddle to a violin, write about the fact that I cry when King Kong falls from the Empire State Building and that I get goose bumps on my arm when I listen to an orchestra. My wife has no connection with these things – she has no connection with me.

I have no regrets in my life. Each and every decision that I have made has led me to this part of my life. I love where I am now and I love how I feel. My wife may not have understood the poker life nor my new urges to unleash my creativity at every whim. But without her influence and companionship for the last 14-years I would not be the man I am today. I will always love her for trying so hard to be a part of my new life.

So what next for this 36-year old? I don’t know yet but the first stop is a place called “to become a poker player” and at the moment the only person standing in my way is me.

This article first appeared in Poker Pro Europe magazine.