I know this might sound odd, but one thing that I have realised because of everything that has happened with E, is how incredibly lucky I am. The things that have kept me going throughout all of this have been my amazing friends and my incredible family. They have provided unstinting support and love for me and the kids and this has made the dark times bearable.
As reality began to set in I realised that, if I was going to get through Oldest Daughter’s 18th and manage to cope with Christmas, I couldn’t tell my family and I couldn’t tell any of my local friends (I felt like telling people who would see me on a day-to-day basis would be too much to cope with – I was so ashamed and humiliated by what had happened and it was all I could do to keep up a ‘normal facade’ for the next few weeks – if anyone I saw knew what had happened, I knew I couldn’t hold it together). My instinct was to hide away and pretend that this wasn’t happening, but I knew that at some point I had to deal with this and that in order to do that, I had to share what had happened with someone (telling someone would make it ‘real’) – I needed to take the first steps towards facing up to what was happening.
I decided to contact a group of women that have been collectively in my life for over half of my life (although some I’ve know since I was at school). We came to together as a group in our 20s, as members of an amateur theatre group, bonding over incomparable moments such as playing various creatures in the play Animal Farm (to this day I have fond memories of playing one of a group of chickens, complete with marigold gloves for feet, leading the hens’ revolt and chucking eggs off the top of our hen house), wearing extremely figure hugging unitards and juggling scarves in Barnum, and getting completely rat-arsed (admittedly this was probably mainly me) at various post-show cast parties. Twenty years later I am still teased about the time I nicked all of the after dinner mints at one restaurant and the time I left another with a handbag containing a full set of six wine glasses that I’d filched over the course of the evening (recreational theft was something of a feature of my drunkenness in my 20s, I promise that I have outgrown this)
Over the years we’ve attended each other’s hen do’s – once throwing ourselves down the rapids at Elveden Center Parcs singing ‘Where Do You Go To My Lovely?’ and on another occasion giving Butlins in Bognor Regis a rendition of ‘I Will Survive’ that they’re never likely to forget. We’ve enjoyed each other’s weddings (I once spent 24 hours on a coach to Scotland and back just to spend less than 10 hours at one particularly lovely wedding) and we’ve watched our kids grow up and felt our lives gradually change as we imperceptibly moved from our relatively carefree 20s to contemplating our 50s (notably, with a complete lack of deference to our increasing ages and a laudable dedication to maintaining our alcohol consumption levels). We’ve seen each other through brilliant times and helped each other through crap times. We’ve lived in places as far apart in the as Devon and the Shetlands, but we’ve always stayed in touch and we’ve always had each other’s backs.
A group of us had got together just a couple of months earlier and, after several bottles of wine, I’d told them that I was worried that E was doing it again (they’d all helped pick up the pieces the first time) and now that I knew for sure, I knew they were the people I could tell.
Inspired by the fact that E’s affairs had been facilitated by social media and texting, I set up a Messenger Group and let them know what had happened. The support I got was immediate and unequivocal, I was sent messages of love and support (and, vitally, told I’d have to ‘put on my big girl pants’ and confront it). After an hour of so messaging back and forth (smiling though tears at some of their reactions to E and his behaviour and even laughing out loud when one of their husband’s twigged what was going on and added his thoughts to the mix – his response involved a use of words ‘knob-jockey’ that I’d never heard before and I’m a fairly skilled user of Anglo-Saxon) I gathered the courage to get through the next few weeks and, with my flagging self-esteem bolstered by their love (it’s very hard to completely hate yourself when so many fantastic people love you), I somehow was able to get on with everything.
Throughout all of this I was congratulating myself on how well I was hiding my anguish from the kids. Admittedly I was drinking far more than normal (and in unguarded moments was still sobbing my heart out), but they were busy with school and homework and spent most of their time in their rooms, and I thought they had no idea, so I was completely thrown when, one evening at the end of November, Oldest Daughter asked me straight out if her Dad was having ‘another’ affair…