Rory's classic break-up line might seem a bit crass, but as our writers explain, splitting up is never easy
And so Rory McIlroy has found himself uttering one of the classic relationship break-up lines. "The problem is mine," he said, in a brief 40-word statement issued through his PR people yesterday, confirming he had ended his romance with Caroline Wozniacki.
"The wedding invitations issued at the weekend made me realise I wasn't ready for all that marriage entails.
"I wish Caroline all the happiness she deserves and thank her for the great times we've had."
Diplomatic, kind and shouldering the blame ... but also most definitely signalling The End.
And, it must be said, however carefully put together those three sentences were, they must surely have come as a blow to the heart of his now ex-fiancee.
At a Press conference at the Wentworth course in Surrey ahead of his latest tournament yesterday, the golfer uttered a few more gracious sentiments: "It was mutual and amicable and we both thought it was the best for us, the best for both of us ... Time to move on and I think I've said all that I need to say."
Though Rory (25) is clearly at pains to spare the feelings of 23-year-old Danish tennis star Caroline, she is certain to feel humiliated, embarrassed – and, of course, heartbroken.
The timing of the split is especially cruel – coming just as family and friends would have been receiving those beautiful invites and excited chatter would have been beginning about the big day.
And yet in their heart of hearts, who can blame Rory? If he knew the relationship wasn't for him for whatever reason – and there has been a myriad of speculation as to whether Caroline was pushing him to settle down before he was ready – he was right to call it off.
There's never a good time to do so, and it's never easy to be the person who has to say they want to end it.
Perhaps his explanation has fallen back on one of the oldest reasons in the book, but it is no less true for that.
And, as three writers explain, to paraphrase our old friends Fleetwood Mac, it's never easy when you have to go your own way.
There's a song by the pop star Dido called Hunter, about a woman's desperation to be released from the shackles of a long-term relationship. I've never been a particular fan, but the lyrics always struck a chord with me.
"I want to be a hunter again, want to see the world alone again, to take a chance on life again, so let me go."
Calling off a wedding or ending an engagement or lengthy relationship is never an easy decision. I know. Okay, so the invitations weren't exactly in the post, a la Wozzilroy; in fact we weren't even engaged at the time – the marriage proposal came too late. But we were, to all intents and purposes, headed towards a lifetime of commitment when I called it a day.
My ex and I were together seven years and for the most part, were blissfully happy and loved up. 'Karl' wasn't a native of Northern Ireland and had sacrificed much to move to Belfast to be with me.
We set up home together and often talked about our shared future. He was several years younger than me, but we both wanted the same things, we both wanted each other.
'Karl' was the perfect partner in so many respects. He was attractive, kind, funny and faithful. I didn't care that he wasn't rich. In my twenties I was suspicious of men with money, believing that their wealth somehow compensated for a lacking elsewhere. Of course, I changed my mind about that, the older and wiser I got.
Everyone who met my ex was charmed by his good nature and warmth. My family and friends loved him.
We were hurtling towards the altar – minus the engagement ring. Unbeknown to me, he was saving for that, squirreling away his income to present me with a diamond. Sadly, the day he proposed, I'd already made up my mind that I wanted out.
My decision to end our relationship caused much hurt and heartbreak, and not just for my ex. My parents and siblings were devastated. My sister sobbed when he packed up his bags and left Belfast.
Not surprisingly, his family were furious, too. I was portrayed as a bit of a she-devil, a puppy-bashing Cruella de Vil.
Most of my friends tried to persuade me to change my mind. I had a great man, why give him up? Not all, though. One or two were canny enough to know that I'd gone past the point of no return and marriage would, more than likely, end in divorce.
So why did I do a Rory and call it all off? Like the young golfer, I wasn't ready for marriage. I knew we were going that way and I was petrified.
I recall having nightmares about weddings and waking up in a cold sweat. Strangely, had 'Karl' proposed earlier, I would have said yes. But like a kettle going off the boil, my feelings began to wane in that last year together.
Looking back, I can now pinpoint the problem. I spent most of my twenties with this wonderful man. Had I been single throughout my teens, flying my kite and doing ordinary girlie things, my romance might have had a different outcome. But I was ensconced in a serious relationship before I met 'Karl'. I was 15 when I began dating my first boyfriend and we split just before I turned 21. I met 'Karl' the following year. As I approached my 30th birthday, the suffocation I felt was intense and I knew I had to get out, to breathe freely again.
Of course, there have been times that I've wondered if I made the right decision. For several years, I carried a lot of guilt around with me and punished myself for the distress I had caused, by dating a string of unsuitable men. If I'm totally honest, I've never met another man who quite matched up to my ex. Maybe it was a case of right person, wrong time. But there's no point having regrets and it's not as if it was a decision that I rushed into lightly. For almost a year I thought about nothing else.
That's why I respect Rory McIlroy for calling off his engagement to Caroline Wozniacki.
I'm sure it wasn't a rash decision. He's young, he's spent much of his life in two long-term relationships, meeting Caroline after splitting from local lass Holly Sweeney and he's lived under the daily scrutiny of the public and Press. Perhaps he felt under pressure to seal the deal with the tennis star and make her his wife, to put an end to the ongoing reports of break-ups and commitment phobia on his part.
Or maybe he just wants to be a hunter again.
I was born in 1954. I became conscious and therefore aware of and interested in the world beyond me (that is to say the adult world) in the 1960s. Yes, I was a precocious little chap.
At that time we lived in London, and my mother employed a succession of girls to help her with her domestic duties and as they laboured, they talked – my mother and these girls – and I paid very close attention to their talk, which was all about boys, love, intimacy, and pregnancy.
I didn't understand the full implications of everything that was being said necessarily, but what I did grasp was that there was this huge thing that men and women got together to do and it had all sorts of aspects. Obviously it involved love, which meant kissing and other allied activities: it also involved weddings and babies and christenings and marriage. This last, both an umbrella term that covered a multiplicity of activities, as well as a state to which everyone succumbed, was a very big deal indeed and women (and it was only women I ever heard discussing marriage when I was a child) laid great store by it. It was something they all aspired to: it was something they revered: it was also something they were terrified of: in other words, it was like Janus – the god with two faces: yes, as an institution it was capable of delivering the greatest happiness, but it was also capable of delivering the greatness misery and wretchedness known to woman or man. When I first became aware of this thing, marriage, the arguments for and against were balanced: however, as the 1960s trundled forward, and as I saw not just my own parents' marriage founder, but also the marriages of friends and contemporaries founder, in my mind the balance started to tilt against marriage: increasingly I came to think of marriage as something that was bad psychologically, unhealthy and a trap.
In my late teens or early 20s, I arrived, finally but inevitably at this conclusion: yes relationships were lovely and sexual intimacy was a delight, but I would not marry, I could not marry, and I wanted nothing to do with it. I also didn't want to have children, for that matter either.
And from that, it followed that I knew I was never going to propose.
Of course I wasn't, because that would mean I'd have to get married and I was never ever going to do that. No, I would stay unmarried and happily so, because that was the only way to ensure I would never be crushed by the miseries that seemed to typify matrimony.
Then I met a woman: she was recently widowed: she was also pregnant. We became romantically involved (me, all the while still protesting, marriage, not in a million years, madame.) The child was born. It was a girl. The woman and I remained romantically involved. And then, it came to be understood that the little girl, who was increasingly spoken of as 'our little girl' could not remain an only child: she needed a sibling, and, in June 1987, she got her sibling, a little boy.
And then – well, you know how it is, once the genie is out of the bottle he can't be got back in – it came to be understood that our little girl and her little brother needed a sibling and in June 1990 they got their sibling, another little boy.
However, there was still no talk of marriage: I was absolutely clear about that: oh yes, having capitulated over the children business I had to hold firm on that front. There would be no wedding. Never.
And then we picked up a worrying piece of information about what would happen if we died; our daughter was not my child biologically as the sons were: the children were all close and they regarded each other as part of the same family. However, if we died, we learnt, the state would most probably not keep them together: our daughter would go to her deceased father's family, while our sons would go to my family. The children would be split up.
The only answer to this calumny was that I adopt our daughter, and give her my name: then, if my wife and I died, the three Gebler siblings (as they would then be) would be kept together. Good plan, we thought, and then we discovered, there was just one tiny little formality that needed to be taken care of first: I needed to marry her with whom I lived and her with whom I had created my family, before I could adopt her daughter, who was now, to all intents and purposes, my daughter. Well, all my anti-marriage principles couldn't withstand this case. Of course they couldn't. Not to adopt would have been a crime against an innocent child: so, long story short, we married. And why am I thinking about all of this just now? Well, because the whole business of choosing someone and then committing oneself to marrying that someone and then having, in public, to uncommit oneself from marrying that someone, is, thanks to the recent sorry story of Rory McIlroy, very much in the public domain and on my mind.
I feel very sorry about what has happened to him (though I don't know him, I hasten to add) and I don't doubt he and his ex-fiancée are in a great deal of pain but there is something which his recent experience raises or at least it does for me.
We have our self-made rules: we have our ambitions: we make our determinations as to how we will live: this is what we will do and we won't be moved from there.
Sometimes our determinations are negative – we won't do something; and sometimes they're positive, we will do something, such as, well, marry someone. But our ability to control our destiny and to enforce our decisions is much more limited than we would like think. Forces beyond our control have an unfortunate habit of taking things away from us, denying us our choices and thwarting our ambitions: but equally, and also mysteriously, forces beyond our control also have a way of delivering, the bonus we never thought to receive, the gift we needed though we didn't know we needed it till we got it (which in my case were children, family life and, gulp, marriage.)
When life goes awry, if possible I always to try to cleave to this. Things go wrong, yes, but also, in a completely unexpected and unpredictable way, they have a habit of going right.
The trouble with life though you can never know when that will be.
So Rory's called it off. The ink had hardly dried on the McIlroy/Wozniacki wedding invitations and it's already over.
Apart from one very brief Press statement announcing the split and a couple of sentences at a Press conference, Rory is refusing to divulge any more about the why and wherefores, so all anyone can do is speculate.
However, he did make one thing patently and, in my view, quite cruelly clear.
Not only is the wedding off, but the relationship itself is over, too. All in one fell swoop.
"I wish Caroline all the happiness she deserves and thank her for the great times we have had," leaves little room for interpretation, does it?
Ouch. That must have been one almighty dose of cold feet.
Of course, friends of the couple are no doubt rallying round.
Her friends will probably be calling him a "commitment-phobe" – along with all the names under the sun – who has a track record of dumping women quite heartlessly.
The celebrity magazines may also divert their attention from door-stepping Cressida Bonas, and turn their sights on Caroline in the hope of a dish-the-dirt exclusive about the breakdown of yet another high-profile match made in heaven.
Meanwhile, Rory's friends will be praising him for having the courage to pull out of it at the 11th hour.
"You did the right thing," they'll be saying. "What you did there took some balls, mate, but it's for the best in the long run ..." Blah, blah, blah.
But anyone who has been through a wedding of their own must surely empathise – if not sympathise – with Rory for calling it quits. After all, you've got to admit that all the fuss and palaver that goes into a wedding is one humdinger of a passion-killer.
There are so many decisions to make and so much to agree on – from the big ones such as where, when and how, to the minutiae such as who sits next to Auntie Vera and what gift to give to the bridesmaids.
And that's just normal people's weddings. When the happy couple happen to be two world-famous world-champions, well, that's a whole different ball game altogether.
There's the matter of publicity. Do they keep it quiet, intimate and private; sell the exclusive rights to the highest bidder or let it turn into a multi-media and public jamboree that'll be on the front page of every Sunday newspaper in the Western world?
Who to invite? Will it be a guest list of mega-celebrities – in which case, what about security? Or just genuine friends and family?
Rory is, by all accounts, known to be quite a down-to-earth guy who isn't into publicity-seeking acts of self-aggrandisement.
So I wouldn't be at all surprised if this is where it all came unstuck. As the arrangements gathered pace/reached fever pitch, Rory began to realise it was all getting out of hand and beyond his control.
The only problem is, there really is no going back from there. You either go through with it and grin and bear it, or end it completely and face the consequences.
Whatever the reasons, I do feel desperately sorry for Caroline in all this.
In fact, I'm sure we all do, er, with one possible exception, that is.
Holly Sweeney, come on down.
A fine romance ...
- In July 2011 Rory McIlroy splits with long-term girlfriend Holly Sweeney. The pair had been dating for six years after meeting at Sullivan Upper, the school they both attended
- Just days later, Rory is spotted with professional tennis player Caroline Wozniacki and rumours quickly circulate that the two are an item. They met when seated together at a boxing match in Germany at the beginning of July and had been flirting on Twitter
- As their relationship progresses, the couple constantly tweet each other and pictures of themselves together from their travels all around the world
- In December 2012 rumours circulate that the pair are engaged, but this is denied by their spokesmen
- In October 2013 Caroline posts an unflattering picture of Rory on Twitter – the golf star is asleep with his mouth open and wearing glasses. Rory is said to be upset at the picture and it's announced the couple have split a few days later. It's said that Rory wanted to move on, while Caroline is reportedly devastated
- A month later Caroline watches from the sidelines as Rory plays in a tournament – the pair have apparently reconciled
- On New Year's Eve 2013, while they are in Sydney, Australia, Caroline tweets a picture of a huge diamond ring on her left hand, saying, 'I said yes!' and the pair confirm their engagement
- Speculation mounts as to when and where the wedding will take place. In an interview early this month Caroline hints that she might quit tennis and become a full-time mother
- Last weekend the wedding invitations go out and Rory tweets a picture of Monaco while he's at dinner with Caroline
- Early yesterday, the statement from Rory confirming the split is issued by his management company