Luckily for me, I had an inspirational older sister who valued education and defied my parents by having the ambition to do well enough in her A Levels so that she could go on to do a degree.
My parents weren't bad people. Far from it. They just didn't see the point of a University education for us. How was having ideas above our station going to make us attractive to a suitable man?
I was academically gifted. Securing a place at Bristol University posed no problem. However, I lacked the ambition of my older sister who led the way. I drifted into a course which I quickly realised I had no real passion for. I loved living away from home and I made some wonderful friends but it was clear I was never going to make a great success of my course. I doggedly stuck with it and after 3 years I left with a Bachelor of Science (ordinary) degree and not the least clue what I was going to do with the rest of my life.
I had been in a relationship of sorts with one of my housemates. He wasn't a physically attractive man and he wasn't what many would describe as a 'nice' person but he definitely had an arrogance and a confidence that were completely alien to me. Maybe it is true that opposites attract or maybe it was just because he was there and I was still failing to live up to my mother's life goal. It never occurred to me that our relationship would last beyond the duration of the house lease. We never discussed it. He, on the other hand, had thought our relationship was solid and when I packed up my things and left to return to the only place I could think of to go - my parents' house - he was devastated.
Returning home was the biggest mistake of my life. I had failed to live up to my mother's expectations. I had failed to achieve anything from my three years of studying. I had no money, I couldn't drive, I had no plan. I felt completely trapped.
I have no idea how long I actually stayed at my parents' home in the thick fog of depression that my hopelessness had generated but one day a light came on. I would hitch hike back to Bristol, back to my former housemate, and see if we could make a go of it. He said he loved me, I knew he would take care of me. Perhaps mum had been right all along.
Positioning myself strategically on the slip road of he M4 motorway with my thumb prominently displayed gave me the most amazing feeling of freedom. Thinking about it now, there were so many different paths I could have chosen but at the time, for me, this was the only option.
It gave me a great sense of achievement to make it all the way to the place of work of my former housemate. I waited in the car park for him to return to his car at close of business.
It wasn't a great romantic re-union. There was never any romance in our relationship. Years later when I came to understand about high functioning Aspergers Syndrome, I strongly suspected that this was the cause of much of his behaviour. There was never an official diagnosis but everything about him screamed Aspergers. The wealth of information that the advent of the internet had made available did help me to cope with him better and feel less isolated. We were married for 20 years.
There were many times I wanted to leave him but fear of failure, fear of being alone, fear of breaking up the marital home, fear of what my parents would think... so much paralysing fear... I couldn't do it.
I never actually thought that he would leave me. But that is what happened. At least that is sort of what happened.
It all started fairly innocently. My husband worked away from home, staying in hotels and coming back for the weekends. He would buy carob raisins for his 'work colleague' when he was home from our local health food shop. He started to spend more time on his own with his computer. He would disappear off for long 'work calls'. And then the 'business trips' started - weekends away to European cities. I could have happily coped with all of this were it not for the LIES and the DECEIT. What is it about men having affairs that makes them turn their guilt onto their poor wives/girlfriends, making them believe they are paranoid and untrusting and ultimately unworthy?
|A Cheating Husband|
We were still sleeping together. She would text him in the night. Did he think I couldn't read the texts over his shoulder? I actually thought her texts were pathetic. It made me smile. It gave me strength - and God knows I needed all the strength I could get. I was hanging by a thread.
I hated what our marriage breakdown was doing to me, but even more what it was doing to our kids. I had a heart to heart conversation with him. I said that whatever happens we MUST put the kids first. His reply, which I will never forget was "How can we put them first?" If there had been a trap door beneath him leading to the darkest, most evil place of Hell's macabre design, that would have been the moment I pulled the handle to watch him tumble helplessly into eternal torment. HOW CAN YOU NOT PUT THE KIDS FIRST YOU SELFISH, CONCEITED, CHEATING, LYING USELESS PIECE OF ****. Well I think you get the picture. That angry outburst only happened in my head, to be unleashed later in an incident involving some sausages!
I wanted the marriage over. He still maintained that he wasn't having an affair. They 'slept' together as friends but there was no sex (oh how the guilty protest their innocence). He wanted to keep the family together and maybe in six months time or so he might be able to rediscover the love he had for me. Does a certain cliche involving having cake and eating it spring to mind?
He spent over £1000 of our money going to the Maldives with his 'friend'. There is only so much one can tolerate. I saw a solicitor who advised me that if he was not prepared to move out then we would need to demonstrate that we were 'living separate households' within the marital home before there was any possibility of petitioning for divorce. This meant that he would have to shop, cook and clean for himself.
I was worried how the 'separate households' regime would impact on the children - they were already suffering enough. I decided to explain it all to them and treat it as a game. They helped me clear cupboard and fridge space for him, set up his own room with his own wash basket. They were proud of what we had achieved.
When he returned from his exotic holiday (with his dirty laundry which he fully expected would be my pleasure to see to) I explained the situation and how I had handled it with the children and almost apologetically asked if he could play along with it. Thinking about it now, that would have been putting the children first, wouldn't it? He'd already made it clear he wouldn't/couldn't do that. I gave up trying to be reasonable and retired to my room.
It was my 14 year old daughter who hit the roof when she saw him completely disrespect me by helping himself to my sausages on my 'separate household freezer shelf' and make himself a big, greedy, overstuffed, sausage sandwich. She stormed up the stairs, burst into my room and with absolute disbelief said "Mum, he's eating your sausages!". The funny side would have been easier to see if she hadn't been so upset - they had invested in making the separate household rule work. My fury was unleashed.
The sausage sandwich remained uneaten.
He filed for divorce on the grounds of irreconcilable differences. He cited as grounds that I would not let him eat his sausages!
It has been most cathartic to write this. At the time it was miserable for me and damaging to the children. It is far enough behind us now to see that my life is infinitely more fulfilling and happy and the children have emerged (mostly) unscathed.
My ex husband refuses to have any contact with me but I wish he could know that I am happy that he is living the life he wants and that the painful process that we all went through is nothing more than another step on life's journey.