The fallout from Oldest Daughter’s discovery of P’s surname change was swift and emotional.
After eight months of E-generated WTF moments, this was definitely the WTF-iest so far.
Given E’s reticence on the matter, we just couldn’t fathom why P would change her name in such a public way. She must have known that E hadn’t told his kids or family. She must also have known that his children would be interested in who she was and might search for her online. She must have known when she changed her name online that someone would see it. I suppose the possibility exists that she’s just really stupid and had no idea that the kids would see it, but this is a person with almost no public social media presence – she is very careful about how much information about her is out there, and who can see it – so I suspect she knew exactly what she was doing. If she was as committed as E was to keeping the whole thing secret, she wouldn’t have been changing her name anywhere, let alone online. I suspect that, for whatever reason it was, she deliberately left that name change visible. The speed with which she then removed her photograph/name after Oldest Daughter had spotted it, suggests she’d achieved exactly what she needed to achieve (everyone she wanted to know about her name change now knew about it).
However, despite the fact that everyone had now seen, and asked about, the picture E was still refusing to tell the truth. It seems his deception was deliberate and he intended it to be ongoing. He was even going to the trouble of removing his wedding ring before he saw the children. I think the fact that he was still trying to conceal the truth from, and was refusing to even discuss the subject with, them is what they found the hardest. To them it felt like he was cutting them out of his life as coldly as they’d seen him cut me out of it.
I felt a little punch drunk (as well as *actually drunk* quite a lot, if I’m honest). What little personal confidence I’d gained since E left was knocked back to square one and the problems I’d been having with anxiety and sleeplessness began to creep up again. What made it worse was the fact that I was so angry with myself for feeling this way. I thought I shouldn’t care – we’d split up – apart from things related to the kids and the house, what he did now was none of my business (this was clearly his take on things). Yet, despite this, for some reason his getting married had hit me really hard emotionally. I was almost as hurt by this as I was by finding out about his affairs.
Oldest Daughter was the most upset I’ve ever seen her. She’d removed her Dad’s surname from all of her social media accounts and personal documents (Youngest Daughter and Oldest Son did the same, and, in the absence of any social media accounts, Youngest Son took to crossing his Dad’s surname off of all his school books). She was also looking into changing her name permanently by Deed Poll. She didn’t rush into it because she also shared a name with people she loved, like her Grandparents and her Aunt, but the fact that she now also shared a name with P caused her an enormous amount of pain and anger. It was the first time I’d seen her look really lost since E left.
Of course, E’s impeccable timing meant that her discovery had also happened just before she was about to embark on what should have been the adventure of a lifetime. Instead her last weeks at home and first months at University were haunted by wondering why her Dad hadn’t told her if he was married or not (he was still ignoring everyone’s texts on the subject). I think it was now, all of a sudden, that the emotional enormity of what had happened since her Dad left really hit her. Until this point she’d been so busy with her A levels, trying to look out for me and her siblings and planning for University that she’d put dealing with her feelings on the back burner – now they were suddenly bought to forefront and she had to confront them.
October saw the only occasion that E spoke to me since leaving in January. After a month of the boys going off for Saturday afternoons with E and reporting no wedding rings and no conversation about P at all. I finally managed to speak to him. Normally he sits in the car, windows up, waiting for the boys and then drives off almost as soon as they’re out of the car when he drops them home. I’ve refused to go out and try to speak to him, because the idea of having to go out, and knock on his window just to get him to acknowledge me is just plain humiliating. However, on this particular Saturday he’d had to get out of the car to put something in the boot, so I grabbed my chance.
The conversation went like this:
Me (as E spots me and shuffles behind the car, hoping I’ll go away): “So, are you married?”
E (trying to contort his face from ‘rabbit caught in the headlights’ to ‘sincere’): “I’m sorry.”
Me: “You do realise that Oldest Daughter is devastated, and that she’s not the only one that’s hurt?”
E: (emerging from behind the car, realising that this is actually happening and I’m not going away and still trying to get ‘sincere’ face right): “I’m sorry.”
Me: “What kind of a wedding are people so ashamed of that they can’t admit to it?”
E 😦 gives up on ‘sincere’ face) “Fair point.”
E: *gets in car and drives off.*
And that was it. He absolutely refused to give a straight answer to a straight question. He was literally incapable of admitting the truth. I went inside and all three kids were stood in the hallway waiting. The first thing they said was: “So, is he married?” I told them that I assumed so, but that I was still none the wiser.
Youngest Daughter immediately decided that she wanted to go out and confront him the next time he came. She wanted to march out to the car, bang on the window and demand a straight answer. I told her that if that’s what she wanted to do and if that would make her feel better, then that’s what she should do. But Oldest Son (uncomfortable with any confrontation) told her that that wouldn’t help and to stop being childish. Inevitably, this meant that Oldest Son and Youngest Daughter argued bitterly (with Youngest Son chiming in every now and then to support his brother and stir the pot a bit) and all three of them getting upset. I calmed them down, whilst fighting my resentment at the fact that the person who had caused all of the upset, the person who should have had to deal with, and apologise for, the pain his kids were feeling, was currently driving away at speed to his shiny new life in London with P.
Later that evening as Youngest Son joined me on the sofa to watch TV and Oldest Son and Youngest Daughter resumed their usual levels of bickering and all three then united in laughter at me for not getting a reference to a YouTuber, I realised that whilst this was a further emotional blow for the kids, it was another thing that led to them becoming closer to each other, and to me, than ever before. We’d always been a good team, but each E-related set back just served to reinforce our bonds. In a bizarre way, all five of us gained from the experience. That night, as he drove off leaving the kids still wondering if he was married, I realised that the only person who hadn’t gained anything from the experience was E. His refusal to so much as mention his marriage caused a lingering hurt that I know my kids will forgive, but I doubt they will ever be able forget. It struck me that the only thing damaged by what had happened was E’s relationship with his kids. No matter how upset we were, together we would get over it. Not for the first time I hoped, for his sake, that P was worth it.