On Saturday I met up with one of my loveliest and best friends for the first time in about three years. We were at University together (she was there at the very beginning of E and my relationship) and whilst we don’t see each other very often, when we do it’s like no time has passed at all.
Over lunch we talked about what has happened. She knew all the facts, but this was the first time we’d been able to talk about it face to face (and the first time I was able to share the various pictures I have of E’s girlfriends with her). The more we talked, the more utterly unfathomable and inexplicable E’s actions (or lack thereof) and behaviour seemed. But I also laughed about what had happened for probably the first time since it happened. It was a gorgeous, much-needed, day.
To be honest, over the last year or so, I’ve found that most questions about E, and his behaviour over the last decade or so, can be answered with variations on one basic catch-all phrase: ‘because he’s a Dickhead’. Obviously we can add descriptive prefixes such as ‘lying’, ‘selfish’, ‘colossal’, ‘nasty’ etc to Dickhead, or indeed substitute Dickhead with ‘idiot’, ‘cockwomble’, ‘bastard’, ‘fuckwit’ or (my personal favourite) ‘wankpuffin’. But the basic answer is the same.
But there’s one question I’ve never been able to answer. Obviously, to an extent, it can be answered with the catch-all phrase, but it’s not really enough, it doesn’t really explain it.
Why, if he was in love with someone else (several someone elses), did he stay with me?
He had at least two affairs between 2007 – 2012 (that I know of, evidence suggests that there were probably more). He was also having affairs pretty much constantly from 2013 – 2016. Surely someone who had so many affairs must have been very unhappy in the relationship they were in? Surely, someone who was that unhappy would have preferred to leave a relationship if they were in love with someone else?
Why did he stay?
After I discovered the first affair, I was very clear with him that he was welcome to leave me for K, that I didn’t want to be with him if he didn’t want to be with me. It was absolutely clear that if he didn’t want to be with me I didn’t want him to stay. Over the years after the affair with K, I asked him multiple times if he was seeing someone else. He always denied it. He didn’t have to be in a relationship with me. He knew that if he wanted to be with someone else, all he had to do was say so and go. He’d always had that ‘out’ option.
Why didn’t he leave?
It wasn’t like I was clingy or dependent or desperately in need of him. Indeed one of the few truths he told O was that I ‘didn’t need him’ – of course I didn’t, I loved him and wanted him to be part of our family and our lives, but I didn’t ‘need’ him.
It’s also not like he would ever have lost access to his children if he’d left. He knew very well he would always have a relationship with the kids. In fact he’d already experienced this for himself – I’d asked him to leave for a while after I’d found out about K and I made sure he saw the kids every weekend.
If he was so ‘in love’ with these women (he told all of them he was in love with them) and there was literally nothing stopping him leaving, why did he stay?
Even when he did eventually leave, he didn’t leave of his own volition. After I told him I knew about O and P, he STILL stayed. I thought maybe he’d get through Christmas and then go, but no, he stayed. The day I finally suggested we split up, he was still expecting me to support him through a work crisis. The fact is that, in the end, he left because I suggested he went. There’s a horrifying possibility that, if I hadn’t looked at his laptop in November 2016, he might still be here.
The thing is, in the (presumably eternal) absence of any answers from E, we can make suppositions, we can interpret and we can guess, but perhaps the best answer available to us is the simplest one – the one that makes the fewest assumptions? If we apply Occam’s razor, just one possibility remains – the simplest remaining answer is that he stayed because he wanted to.
He was bored and middle-aged, life wasn’t promising much excitement. Watching your kids become young adults when it seems like yesterday you were that age is hard. Being teased by your kids about your bald patch, grey hairs and increasing weight, whilst seeing younger people at work that remind you of you twenty years ago can be upsetting. Knowing that you’re probably now at the peak of your career and that you will soon be overtaken by younger, cleverer, people is distressing. Some people respond to this mid-life crisis by travelling the world or even just getting a motorbike, other people lack the decency for this and seek out other ways to sooth their ego. The drama and excitement of having a double life must have been exhilarating. Deceiving and lying to everyone (I may be wrong, but I can’t imagine that he told the various women he saw the truth about why he didn’t leave me) and carrying on his double life must have made him feel clever and interesting. Of course, now that he’s mired himself in Domestic Bliss with P, I do wonder how long it will take for the shine to wear off and for him to start seeking excitement elsewhere again – but that’s P’s problem, not mine (if she asks anyone why, please refer her to the catch-all phrase).
My question eludes a satisfactory answer because, for me, a satisfactory answer would be a morally understandable one and I’m just not going to get that – any more than I’m going to get an apology or an acknowledgement of the 25 years of my life I gave to our relationship.
Perhaps the catch-all phrase does answers this question after all? One good thing is, having seen my lovely friend on Saturday, I’m now more inclined to laugh about it. I suspect that’s the most important thing.