In the meantime, whilst I job hunted (no more science jobs for me), perfected my drunk shopping techniques, and tried to make everything ok for the kids, things with E were, well, totally silent.
I don’t know what I expected, but I had just assumed that at some point he’d talk to me about what had happened and (vitally) what was going to happen. Instead he simply stopped communicating at all. In some ways I can understand it – he’d spent over 10 years seeing other woman and gradually cutting himself off from me, so it must have been a massive relief for him to just get on with the life he’d been craving for so long. But I was totally taken aback by his lack of manners and, well, compassion. He just completely and utterly ignored me. It was as if he expected to totally sever himself from his old life, and get on with his new one, with no repercussions and no reminders of his past.
We’d agreed (by text) that he could see the kids on Saturdays. I assumed he’d come to the door, say hello to us, and go off for the afternoon. Instead, when he arrived, he texted saying he was parked just around the corner and could I send the boys over to him (the girls had refused point blank to see him). I was so gobsmacked, and had been so nervous re this first visit, that I just sent the boys over. Whilst they were out, my disbelief turned to anger, and I texted him (!) telling him that he was to bring the boys back to the front door and that in future he could collect them from the house. He did so, but he has never got out of the car or come to the front door himself. To this day whenever he collects the kids, they wait to hear his car outside and then run out to join him.
That first visit set the standard, and, apart from one occasion in October when he said no less than six words (that’s a whole other blog post), E hasn’t spoken to me since he left. At first this made my life easier (I was just too upset to speak to him), but as time went on, it hardened into a situation where he just didn’t communicate with me at all unless it was about something he absolutely had to sort out. He even stopped texting me about when he could see the kids (he realised he could just text them).
It was like a kind of bullying. The more he refused to speak to me, the more I felt that I couldn’t speak to him. His silence was intimidating, and it robbed me of my voice and of the confidence to speak up and speak to him. I don’t like conflict and have always been more comfortable writing than speaking, but I’ve always been able to talk to friends and family. E’s silence felt cold and dismissive and it made me feel ridiculous and unable to speak up.
I responded to this the only way left to me – I texted. I sent volleys of angry, hurt, resentful, and probably extremely annoyingly self-righteous texts, highlighting his out-of-order behavour and explaining how much he’d hurt me. What I couldn’t physically say I put in writing. Not one of the texts I sent were abusive or threatening, but I’d hate to read them now, because they were so raw, exposing, unguarded. I’m not sure what I thought they would achieve, but at the very least I just wanted to be answered, responded to, acknowledged by the person I had spent 25 years of my life with.
E ignored every single text. Every single one. In some ways that hurt more than the affairs and the lies. It made me felt ashamed and embarrased. The fact that he wouldn’t respond with just a simple ‘sorry’ (or even a ‘fuck off’), made me feel insignificant, unimportant and emphasised how utterly worthless I was to him.
I also emailed. My emails were much more considered and careful (and much, much more wordy) than the easy-to-fire-off emotional texts I’d sent and, to be fair to E, some of these actually got responses. But, again, he only dealt with the things he wanted to. His responses were cold, business-like, factual, they never contained any emotion or explanation.
In the end he got his own way, and I ended up trying to keep my communication with him to a minimum. I gave up seeking explanation or acknowledgement. I still send the odd volley of angry, hurt texts (usually triggered by something that he’s done that has upset one of the kids), but when I do, he never replies, and I feel like I’ve made myself vulnerable, let myself down, all over again.
If his refusal to talk to me could in some ways be understood, what was inexcusable was the fact that he was also avoiding any kind of emotional communication with the kids. For the moment, the boys were content to go bowling or to the cinema at the weekends, but the girls were very upset. Oldest Daughter didn’t want to speak to him for the time being, but Youngest Daughter had sent a stream of angry and emotional messages to him. He had completely ignored her and then emailed me to complain about them (I think ‘blistering’ is the best way to describe my reply – which he ignored…obviously…), and this upset her even more. Given how I felt about being ignored, and I was an adult, I could only imagine how deeply hurtful and confusing this was to a 14-year-old, already very emotional, kid who just wanted her Dad to reassure and comfort her. It was unfathomable to me. I could just about understand why he’d cut himself off from me – but how could he cut himself off from his children?
For the first time since this had all happened, I began to experience the beginnings of a sort of Cognitive Dissonance regarding E – I couldn’t reconcile the two completely contradictory perceptions I now had of him – the person I thought I’d known for 25 years versus the person I was now dealing with. I thought I’d known him, but I was beginning to realise that perhaps I’d had an image of him that wasn’t true – that maybe I hadn’t actually known him at all.
As time went on, I realised it wasn’t just us he was ignoring. Nearly three months after he’d left, a comment on Facebook (asking me to pass a message to him) made me realise that he hadn’t even told his parents or his sister what had happened.