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Motor neurone disease and physics both played a part in her split from her husband Stephen Hawking, she says. She talks about the challenges they faced in their 30-year marriage and about how close The Theory of Everything was to reality

Here is Stephen Hawkings verdict on the movie about his marriage: it needed more science. And here is Jane Hawkings verdict: it needed more emotion. Those opposing views on The Theory of Everything, which brought Eddie Redmayne an Oscar and a Bafta for his portrayal of Stephen and Felicity Jones Oscar and Bafta nominations for her portrayal of Jane, reveal a great deal about not only the personalities of the worlds most famous scientist and his former wife, but also one of the major strands of difference in their relationship.

But the truth is that science is probably more absent from the film than emotion, because what the film represents is a triumph of Janes experience and persona after decades in which the family was viewed solely through the prism of Stephens genius, who as well as being the worlds best-known scientist is also the worlds best-known sufferer of motor neurone disease (MND).

Today there is an aura of unassuming achievement around Jane, who is sitting in the conservatory overlooking her garden in a quiet corner of Cambridge. Meeting her feels like fast-forwarding through time to meet an older Felicity Jones, so accurately did the actor represent her subject. But then, talking to Jane, it all turns on itself again: the reality was, she says, that she and Stephen met Jones and Redmayne when they were researching their roles, and was later astounded to realise how closely her mannerisms, gestures and speech patterns had been noted. When I saw the film, I thought: shes stolen my personality!

Jane Hawking: The difficulties of dealing with Stephens disease were much greater than they appear in the film.

Her relationship with Stephen started when both refused to be daunted by the fact that Stephen had just been diagnosed with terminal motor neurone disease. They ploughed into marriage in the face of his parents pessimism about its chances of success, and had three children. In the face of pressures that were almost too much to bear, and alongside her friendship with another man, they somehow kept their marriage together for a quarter of a century before ending it with a remarkable degree of equanimity.

Does the film present an accurate portrait of their marriage, which began at Trinity Hall in Cambridge in 1965?

The important thing is that the feelings, where they are there, are very much true to our experiences. So from an emotional point of view, its spot on. The only thing is that theyve had to minimise the strains and struggles, because in our real life the difficulties of dealing with Stephens disease were much greater than they appear in the film.

And, yes, the impression given in the film that she and Stephen managed to split up without too much acrimony and that Janes new partner and now husband, musician Jonathan Hellyer Jones, became part of their immediate family is indeed an accurate one (although for a long time after they met, their relationship was platonic).

Jane met Jonathan when, to give her a break from the constant demands of caring for Stephen, a friend suggested she should take up singing in the local church choir, run by Jonathan. It was 1977. The Hawkings, then parents of two young children, were living in Cambridge, where he was garnering a reputation as one of the most glittering scientists of his generation. Jane, though, was isolated and overwrought. How much were the demands on their marriage the product of Stephens disease without it, might they still be married today? Jane isnt sure: although his health was a huge strain, there were others. From the outset, Stephens eccentric family made no secret of the fact that they didnt think the marriage would survive.

Stephens mother once said to me, We dont like you because you dont fit into our family. On another occasion she learned by chance that the Hawkings were planning to move to Cambridge so they could be there when the marriage foundered, as they were sure it eventually would.

Jane and Stephen Hawking in 1974.

But it wasnt just about a lack of support from the wider family. The truth was, there were four partners in our marriage, says Jane. Stephen and me, motor neurone disease and physics. If you took out motor neurone disease, you are still left with physics. Mrs Einstein, you know, cited physics as a difference for her divorce …

During their marriage, she says, Stephen would retreat into himself. And, though he tried to explain physics to her, she always felt shut out of the world that was so crucial to him. But the stresses of MND were not solely or even mostly down to the physical difficulties of the condition; what brought even greater disruption to their lives was the advent of the carers who shared their home, who disapproved of aspects of their lives, and whose presence meant they could never have the privacy that every family needs to thrive.

They whispered about us and they undermined me, says Jane. Its clear the pain is still there. One of those nurses, Elaine Mason, went on to become his second wife, though the two later divorced. This is an episode of their lives Jane is reluctant to rake over, although it was this relationship that tipped the Hawkings into splitting up, rather than her relationship with Jonathan. Why did they carry on for so long, even after she had met Jonathan and become close to him? She says it never felt like a choice: she loved Jonathan and depended on him for support, but she absolutely loved Stephen as well.

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I refuse to be the stereotypical bitter single mum. Her age makes it easier. She has middle-aged spread and a lived-in face and he will probably end up caring for her in a few years

Perhaps I should find it harder knowing that my husband would prefer to be with a woman more than 10 years older than me. A woman who is not far off her 60th birthday. A woman still reaching forthe henna hair dye despite her advancing years.

She is old enough to be my daughters grandmother, never mind potential stepmother. How insulting, right? And what an outrage! Im younger, a toned size 10 and I look after my appearance. The humiliation should be devastating.

But, perhaps surprisingly, it makes things a whole lot easier.

There is absolutely nothing for me to be jealous about. No stereotypical younger woman with a pre-baby bodyand not a grey hair in sight. My husbands mistress has middle-aged spread and a lived-in face. When friends first spotted them together, they reassured me that he must be telling the truth when he said nothing was happening between them. There was no way they could be romantically together as she was so old. How wrong we all were.

He still denies an affair even now, despite the overwhelming evidence tothe contrary, claiming they formed arelationship after we had split up. But the signs of an affair were there long before the sickening suspicion and then, finally, the confirmation.

I can pretty much pinpoint when itstarted. From being my husbands everything, it was as if a switch had flicked off overnight. Cold and distant, he took up golf and disappeared forhours at a time. His phone was permanently clamped in his hand, and he would need to make private work calls at weekends and when we were on family trips. All affection was withdrawn and his hair-trigger temper became apocalyptic as he clearly resented every second he spent in mycompany.

With hindsight, it doesnt take apsychologist to work it out. He felt trapped in our marriage: we had two preschool-age daughters and he wanted his carefree life back. His mistresss children are grown up, so she and he are free of responsibility or restrictions. A holiday touring around south-east Asia? No problem. A music festival in New Orleans? Lets book it. Midlife crisis complete he has even started dressing like he did 25 years ago.

I dont blame his mistress one bit. She must have thought it was her luckyday when a handsome, younger man showed an interest. Maybe she thought she was destined for a life alone, or to be stuck with men of herown generation with prostate problems and a cosy pair ofslippers.

If it hadnt been her, it would have been someone else. It is not as if he met the love of his life and had to betrue to himself. She was just an escape route out of a life he viewed as mundane and humdrum until he didnt have it any more and realised the grass isnt always greener. Of course, life with two small children is hard throw in a long daily commute and it isdownright tough. But you deal with it and know that, for a short time, you might have to come a bit further down the priority list. Instead of which, he threw it all away for a woman he will probably end up caring for in a few years.

There were weeks of him sobbing and begging to come back, calling it the biggest mistake of his life but, by then, I had begun to experience how life could be, should be fun, light-hearted and not living in fear of someone elsesmood swings. The cloud of doomhad left the building and I was not going to let it back in.

Now things have calmed down andwe are a few years down the line, Iam glad he is with an older woman. He andI arent right together, and my daughters seem to like her. Because she is a mum herself, I trust her with my children and am happy there is someone else looking out for them when they visit their dad. Better they are staying in her beautiful home than a depressing bedsit.

Granted, this wasnt the life I had imagined. The Richard Curtis world ofhappy ever after with a mum and adad in a rambling house hosting big parties filled with children running in and out. We had talked about moving out to the countryside one day dreams that were all whipped away pretty much overnight, leaving a void of uncertainty. But one thing I know is how unhappy the girls and I would be if their dad and I still shared a home.

Yes, things such as parents evenings, sports days and school shows can be hard when you are surrounded by other parents with their partners. Orwhen one of the girls has done something particularly funny or clever and you long to be able to exchange that proud look with someone who loves them just as much as you.

But the reality is, even if we were still together, those situations would not happen like that. He would be scowling and surly at parents evening, or he would refuse to talk ormake eye contact with me at sports day. It would not have been the normal interaction I see with other couples. And, anyway, the older I get, the more I realise that quite often the happy facade many couples present is very different from the reality when the front door is closed.

I refuse to be the stereotypical bitter single mum: I am a professional fortysomething mother with a very busy, joy-filled life who just happens to be parenting alone. I dont sit around swigging chardonnay and slagging off men. I love men I have three brothers and lots of male friends. One bad marriage doesnt mean its game over. Perhaps surprisingly, I dont regret my choice of husband. We were deeply in love once and shared many special times. We also created two perfect little people. One day, I hope that I will find love again, but perhaps this time Iwill choose someone who has put their midlife crisis far behind them.

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Recent research shows the number of extremely unhappy couples has doubled in the UK, but popular culture still clings to the fairytale ending

Pretty much all the cliches of the fairytale (the noble prince, the helpless princess) have long been satirised, in everything from The Princess Bride to Shrek to the Zog books by the brilliant Julia Donaldson. But there is one myth that even the most cynical of humans stubbornly clings to the promise of happily ever after, even if all around us is the proof that this is about as likely as a fire-breathing dragon.

According to a recent report from the Office for National Statistics, the number of couples in Britain who describe themselves as extremely unhappy has doubled in the past five years, while those who describe their relationship as perfect has gone down from 9.2% to 5.9%. The ONS does not state how many of those who claimed their relationship was perfect in previous studies are now saying they are extremely unhappy, but Id wager there was significant crossover. After all, those who cling to an illusion are the most likely to be disappointed by the reality.

This summer has proffered plenty of evidence of the death of this myth. From Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie to Elizabeth Gilbert, author of Eat,Pray, Love, and her husband, some of the most loudly self-proclaimed happy relationships have come to an end. When a high-profile marriage ends, the journalistic cliche is to say thatthe reason fans feel unnerved is because theythink that, if the celebrities cant make it work, who can?

This is nonsense. As much as people still desperately want to believe in a happily ever after, only the most naive child would think that buckets of money, the constant glare of attention, and at least one desperately needy and narcissistic person sounds like a recipe for ahappy marriage. Frankly, Ive always thought it a miracle that any celebrity marriages last.

Instead, the shock of a high-profile divorce is that these are the people who, more than anyone, have promoted the myth of happily ever after, through their work and, often, through interviews and romantic photo opportunities. Johnny Depp and Amber Heard met on movies, as did Pitt and Jolie films that ended with the promise that only happiness awaited their characters after the closing credits. Elizabeth Gilberts relationship with Jose Nunes was the basis of her best-known books, from Eat, Pray, Love (made into a predictably slushy Hollywood film) to Committed, her book about her marriage. But in July, Gilbert announced they were divorcing, and that she is now in a relationship with her best friend, who is currently undergoing cancer treatment. Amid the supportive cheers, some of Gilberts fans expressed sadness for Nunes, and who can blame them? He had been sold as their symbol of the happily ever after. (By contrast, the most recent celebrities to separate, Zo Ball and Norman Cook, were always extremely open about their struggles with infidelity, addiction and the general mundanity of marriage. For this reason, the announcement of their split felt to me like the saddest of all.)

And yet the myth persists. In her third Bridget Jones book, Mad About The Boy, Helen Fielding famously killed off Mark Darcy, presumably partly because she herself was divorced by this point and somewhat over the happily ever after storyline. (It is often forgotten how sceptical the original book was about marriage, with its satirisation of Smug Marrieds.) But Hollywood would never allow such cynicism: in the latest absurd movie instalment, Bridget Joness Baby, Darcy is firmly resurrected. Do you really need a spoiler alert if I say Guess the ending?

The best books I have read recently are the ones that resist the simplistic love-cures-all conclusions. In Jessi Kleins terrific collection of essays, Youll Grow Out Of It, she continues the story after her wedding, describing her fertility struggles and the toll this took on her relationship. Rachel Dratchs memoir, Girl Walks Into A Bar, is a fascinating riposte to the upbeat you go girl! female memoir cliche, detailing not just her diminishing professional success but an honest account of what its like to be single in your mid-40s. On screen, Desiree Akhavans Appropriate Behavior has proved it is possible to make a delightfully optimistic romcom that begins and ends with a breakup.

I never liked Elizabeth Gilberts gratingly simplistic memoirs, but her last novel, The Signature Of All Things, is astonishingly brilliant: big-hearted and beady-eyed, it looks at how the romantic fantasy can corrode a womans imagination and blind her to reality. Most of all, it knows that happy endings come in all guises, not just with a bridal veil.

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