I’ve spent a lot of time in this blog (and in general) celebrating how much better off I am without E.
When we first split up, I was amazed by the number of people who thought that I might take him back. I think this was probably because so few people knew that E had been seeing other women behind my back for at least ten years. I think most people assumed it was the first time he’d been unfaithful and that maybe it was a mistake we’d move on from. In fact, when we split up, one of the only things I was certain about was that there was no way I would ever get back with him. I was amazed at the fact that I suddenly no longer felt anything for him – I just didn’t love him anymore. Whilst I have no doubt that E and P saw the ease and certainty with which I kicked him out of my life as proof that our relationship had been over for some years, I was taken aback by how suddenly my love for him had switched off.
Of course, I know now that didn’t feel nothing, in fact I felt too much. I felt hurt, betrayal, shock, grief, contempt, anger, heartache, fear, pain, confusion and panic. I felt so many things that I couldn’t feel anything.
18 months on and I’m sometimes frustrated by how little has changed emotionally and how I still can’t fight my way out of the tangled forest of feelings that the break up has produced. I’m definitely happier without him – the sense of relief I feel that I don’t have to deal with his bad moods, his debt, and the constant worry that he’s seeing someone else can be overwhelming on some days (all of those things are P’s problems now). I’m certainly better off without him – he didn’t deserve someone has steadfast, as loyal and as caring as me and I certainly didn’t deserve to be with someone with so little respect for me. If anything, I’m even more sure than I was 18 months ago that wouldn’t take him back if he was the last man on earth.
And yet, frustratingly, I miss him.
I’m not kidding myself, I know that things weren’t great for the three years before he left. He was very, very, moody, and frequently deeply unpleasant to be around. He would take any jokingly critical comment as a deeply personal insult and he acted like he wasn’t welcome in the family (I know now, this was because he was creating a scenario which would justify the lies he was telling P), when all the family was doing was trying desperately to include him. The kids were pointing out to me how ‘moody’ their Dad was, they wouldn’t want to ask him for a lift anywhere, or for money – every request they made was greeted with rolled eyes and exasperated comments re how he had no money. He was home less and less often and when he was, he sat in the corner of the dining room, staring at his laptop, creating a wall between him and us. I’m no saint and I frequently reacted to his moodiness by snapping at him and expressing the kids and my frustration with him – of course, I know now I was playing into his hands, he wanted me to be moody and snappy with him – that was probably the person he was describing to P (if he ever bothered talking about me that is). I could see how awful he was being, he’d been having a particularly tough time at work since his return from Singapore (or so he told me) and I thought it was this, adjusting to being home after three years away, and possibly even depression, that was causing his moodiness. Whatever the reason, he wasn’t a very nice person, but I kept finding reasons to excuse him. However, with the benefit of the 20-20 vision of hindsight I can now see how truly awful he was in the three years before I ended our relationship.
And yet, I miss him.
The thing is, for twenty-five years, he was my best friend. He was the person I trusted with everything. He was the one person I shared absolutely everything about my life with – my hopes, my fears, my plans, my insecurities. We didn’t have many of those long and deep conversations you tend to have in the early years of a relationship anymore, but there was a shared code between us, a silent language, we knew what the other was thinking without asking. If one of the kids said something that was funny because it referred to something from years ago, I could just look at him and we’d laugh. I could watch a feature on the news and know how he’d react to it. I’d save stories about my day, and about people, to tell him when he was home from work – knowing he’d laugh or back me up, or just reassure me that I hadn’t overreacted to something. I didn’t even have to ask for a glass of wine, I’d just wave my wine glass at him and, with a long-suffering sigh, he’d get up and head for the fridge.
I don’t (and won’t) talk about sex much here (E’s family, my family and my kids read this), but, yes, things had declined since I’d had Youngest Son – this was partly because of kids/life/getting older, but, from my point of view, it was mostly because knowing about his affairs, and stumbling across the porn he viewed, had really knocked my confidence. But it wasn’t non-existent, and I was hoping this would get better once the kids were less dependent upon me and we had more time as a couple. I was looking forward to more evenings together, to weekends away, and even to holidays without the kids in the years to come.
I’m very happy that we’re not a couple anymore, but I wouldn’t have stayed with someone for so long if things had been bad all the time (or even most of the time). I wouldn’t have stayed in a relationship for the sake of the children. I wouldn’t have stayed with someone who I didn’t love. Obviously, I know (now), that E had a rather different take on things, but as far as I was concerned, our relationship had a lot going for it – we were a good team, we were brilliant friends, we had each other’s backs, we’d created four amazing children and a lovely family together, we knew each other so well that we didn’t always need to discuss things to understand how the other one felt. Of course we’d have the odd row, but these were rare. We frequently bickered and rolled our eyes at each other, but that was just part of the day-to-day currency of being a couple, there was never any malice or unpleasantness in the bickering (at least, not from my point of view). Obviously, over the years, there were things about each other that we found irritating (his snoring made me want to hit him on the head with a shovel), but even these things became jokes between us – things we knew we couldn’t change about each other, but we loved each other anyway.
Of course, now I’m trying to piece together how much of our relationship was ‘real’ and how I much of it was just my perception of it. Obviously, E was telling O and P and the others a completely different version of our relationship – who’s to say he wasn’t right? I was clearly very wrong about him. I honestly don’t know now what was the truth and what wasn’t. It still takes my breath away when, in a nastily dismissive email, he treats me with contempt – even though hindsight shows that this is pretty much how he’s always treated me. I know he lied again and again, but maybe I was fooling myself too?
The thing is, whether it was real or not, the relationship I thought I was in was one of the most important parts of my life for over half of my life, and I guess it’s natural to miss elements of it. I don’t want to be in a relationship with E anymore, but I miss the friendship we had. I miss being able to talk and chat without explaining myself. Real or not, I miss my best friend.