One of the things I was really worried about when E left was what would happen to my relationship with his family. They had been a big part of my life, for over half of my life, and they were very much a part of my kids’ lives.
To be honest, E had always been fairly rubbish at keeping in touch with his family. We would invite them over for Christmas/Easter etc every year, but it was always me that organised everything and (usually) invited everyone. I sort of assumed that E just wasn’t close to his family in the way that I’m close to mine. I put lot down to the fact that my normal wasn’t his normal. In fact I was in touch with his sister far more than he was and thought of her (still think of her), as my sister too. He rarely phoned them (it was usually me who would ‘nag’ him to call or text his Mum).
With hindsight, I can see that his detachment from his family was actually the exact character trait that enabled him to walk out of our lives without a backward glance but, at the time, I didn’t really question it. Received wisdom tends to be that girls are closer to their families than boys (I haven’t really seen any real evidence of this with my kids yet, but to take the example of texting – my girls tend to text me far more regularly than my boys – also the boys’ texts tend to be more concerned with when and what they’re eating, whilst the girls will text me about what they’re doing and how they feel – obviously this may change as they get older).
When E left, I was also really worried about how his family would feel about me and what would happen with the kids. Firstly, I had no control over what he’d tell them about why we’d split up and, even if he told them the truth, the fact of the matter was that he was their son/brother and they loved him and would obviously stand by him. Secondly, I didn’t know what would happen about them seeing the kids. Depending upon what E wanted to do, his family would only see the kids if they were with him – which given his distance and inability to communicate (plus the fact that Oldest and Youngest Daughters were currently refusing to speak to him), meant they would probably see them very rarely. I was more than happy for E’s family to see the kids with me, but I didn’t know how they would feel about that given that E had left me.
Whatever happened E’s family would be in a very difficult position. In some ways it was much easier for my family (if you don’t count the whole ‘watching someone you love in pain’ thing), they *just* had to keep doing what they’d done all my life – support me unconditionally. For E’s family it would be more complicated. No matter what they felt about me, they loved E and there were also four kids that they loved, and who were part of their family, that would still want to see.
I waited nervously for him to tell them. I waited for two months. I didn’t want to stir up any bad feeling, so said nothing to E’s family and was very careful to keep everything off social media (not that I wanted to discuss it on social media at the time, but his family could see my social media accounts and I felt very strongly that it wouldn’t be fair on them for them to see bad stuff about E there). I also told the kids to be very careful about what they said on their accounts (fortunately Youngest Son doesn’t have any – it would have been tricky trying to stop him – at the time he was perfecting his ‘Daddy Is A Dickhead’ song, which doubtless would have made its way onto Facebook if he’d been able to post it anywhere).
I just assumed that E would take time to tell his family about what (for me and the kids at least) was such a massively life changing event. However, as time went on, it became very clear that he hadn’t told them what had happened. By early March, I decided I had no choice but to tell his sister. She and I tend to be in touch regularly, and she was sending me gorgeous pictures of her new baby and wishing me luck with my job interviews. I felt wretched replying to all of these messages but not telling her what had happened. Also, it was almost E’s birthday and I knew it would look really odd if I didn’t do or say anything about his birthday. So, I sent her a message explaining what had happened.
Her reaction brought more tears- I suspect for both of us. She was so shocked and upset. It must have been really hard for her – E is her big brother and she thought the world of him, she also loved her nieces and nephews and she had just had a baby – it was a time when she needed her family closer than ever and finding our that part of that family had just fallen apart must have been devastating. I had never told her about E’s previous affairs, so she was finding out about ten years’ worth of his actions in one hit. I knew how she felt – I’d found two-year-old emails, that E had probably forgotten about sending, but reading them hurt me as freshly as if they’d just been written. It was a kind of time travel where past events were every bit as real as current ones.
I was keen to reassure her that she could see the kids whenever she wanted and she was keen to reassure me that she was still there for me, so, despite the shock and hurt that both of us felt, in one of many examples of the good that can sometimes come out of really crap situations, I think this actually strengthened our relationship. Over the year that was to come I would see more of E’s sister, her partner and my nephew (I can’t tell you how happy I am that he is still MY nephew) than I ever had before. I began to understand that they were seeing me because they wanted to, not just because they wanted to see the kids or E, meaning that what happened has deepened our friendship and made it more precious to me.
After telling E’s sister, I felt like a weight had been lifted, E still hadn’t told his parents, so we had that bridge to cross at some point, but that fact that his sister knew and had been so brilliant was a huge relief. Not for the first time since E left, I felt a huge sense of gratitude for the amazing people that surround me.