If E leaving and all the stuff surrounding it, was the initial earthquake, then I suppose I should have expected some aftershocks.
One of the things that constantly surprises about this whole thing has been how long it is taking me to ‘get over it’, and how hurt I have been by it. I know it probably sounds really, really, stupid, but I honestly thought I would find it easier. The enormity of what E had done was such that I’d cut myself off from him emotionally very quickly after finding out. Once I’d realised what had been happening with O and P, once I realised he’d even lie about something as devastating as my Mum’s illness to achieve what he wanted, I was so disgusted by him, so appalled that there was just no way I could ever countenance a relationship with him again. At the time, when people asked if I would take him back I was surprised at the strength of my own reaction when I answered them with a vehement ‘no way’.
So, why, when I was so certain that us breaking up was the right thing, was I taking so long to get over it? Why, when the boys would repeat back to me things that he’d said, or the girls would show me his texts, did I feel hurt all over again? It was like a wound that kept being re-opened, little aftershocks where the report of one word which could put me back to square one emotionally. Why? I knew I was miles better off without him. I didn’t want him back. But. for some reason, he could keep hurting me.
Of course, the fact that E refused to talk about anything probably made it worse. I think perhaps I would have found it easier to cope, felt more validated, if he’d just apologised. Or even if he’d just acknowledged the importance of the 25 years we’d spent together, the children we’d raised, the history we shared. It was my wise-beyond-her-years Oldest Daughter that made me realise that this was never going to happen. I’d confessed to her about my most recent volley of angry texts and she asked one, very simple, question: “What are you hoping to achieve?”. I thought about it and realised that what I wanted to achieve – fairness – was just never going to happen. I was expecting decency from someone who had never been decent, fairness from someone who had never been fair. I think this was probably the hardest lesson that I had to learn, that I’m still learning – I didn’t really know E at all.
A couple of weeks after he’d left, he moved into his friend’s flat. He’d only given me the address because I asked for it for the kids’ schools. I had no idea if he was paying rent there, or what his situation was, but we’d reached an uneasy truce. I wanted to try and establish a new normal for the kids and had suggested to the boys that they might want to stay overnight with their Dad every now and then. The last thing I wanted was for the boy to be away for a whole weekend, but I wanted them to feel that they still had their Dad and that everything was ok. Again, E didn’t communicate with me, he texted the boys, but one Saturday, they did spend the night there (and came back with delighted reports of how he’d burned the sausages he’d cooked for their tea and got stressed and sworn lots). He’d said nothing about P to anyone, so we were all kind of assuming that, she’d (quite sensibly) run a mile as soon as she realised the reality of E’s situation.
I’m not sure why, but I also assumed that E would tell me about any major changes in his circumstances so that we could decide, as parents, how to tell our children. In the context of what I’ve written about E and given that he’d already left it to me to tell the kids that he’d found someone else, I know that sounds incredibly stupid. But, at the time, I was still thinking that we could somehow continue to parent our children together, even if we weren’t together. However, that illusion was soon stripped away. If the texts and conversations with the kids were minor aftershocks a couple of major ones awaited me.
In July I’d been invited to a party which was being held for a very lovely friend of mine who was relocating to Devon and would mean staying overnight in Surrey. I was happy to take them with me, but I thought that this might be a perfect opportunity for the boys to spend some time with E, so I suggested to the boys that they asked their Dad if they could stay with him (I knew there was no point in me asking him – and, frankly, I didn’t want to put myself through the humiliation of being ignored again). Anyway, I think they’d mentioned it to him in mid-June, and he’d said nothing to them or me, but by the beginning of July, I really needed to know what they were doing, so asked them to just mention it again when they saw him on Saturday.
I’d had quite a good day that Saturday. For once, I felt more in control. I just wasn’t expecting that was coming. I’d got the house cleaned, I had no freelancing to do so I’d relaxed, and I was looking forward to watching a film when the boys got home. But when they got in that night, I could see that Oldest Son was uncomfortable, worried. Youngest Son then disappeared to his room, which he never normally does. They bought a sense of unease through the door with them.
Oldest Son then said “Mum? I asked Dad about staying over, and he said it was ok, but that I had to ask you first. He said to tell you he’s moved in with P.”