When your partner leaves you for another woman, you’re inevitably seen as the ‘loser’. No matter how many people tell you that you’re ‘better off without him’ or that he’s ‘made a mistake he’ll regret’, that it’s ‘his loss’, or even that his new relationship ‘will never last’, the simple fact of the matter is that, as the rejected partner, you are the one who wasn’t wanted. You are the loser.
The other woman, on the other hand, is the winner – not just in terms of the fact she ‘gets the man’, but in terms of the qualities she had that attracted him in the first place – she might be younger (always a killer if you’re a woman approaching 50, feeling that your best years are behind you), she might have a better job, she might be slimmer, more attractive or just more interesting. She’s certainly willing to *put-out* more often than you were (which, in E’s case, was, I suspect, the clincher). Even if we roll our eyes disapprovingly at ‘the mistress’, she’s still a fascinating, femme-fatal figure, in enticingly glimmering contrast to the jaded wife that gets left behind.
I’ve certainly spent a lot of time over the last 20 months or so feeling like I lost somehow. Obviously, I knew logically I hadn’t and that I was miles better off out of the relationship, but the reason the relationship ended, and the fact that I didn’t really have a choice about any of it, made me feel powerless and inadequate. Add to that the fact that someone I’d trusted absolutely had so little respect for me that he’d lied to me, and about me, for years, and it’s no wonder that I felt diminished and lacking.
Recently, however, I’ve begun to feel that, far from losing out, the end of my relationship with E has liberated me. Not only is my life no longer shackled to someone who doesn’t care about me, not only am I not living in a world where every other word said to me by the person closest to me is a lie, but I’ve begun to appreciate my own worth, and value myself in a way that I never did when I was with E.
Hand in hand with this, has been a growing and terrible sympathy for P. Last week E updated his Facebook profile picture to a wedding shot of the pair of them. A friend sent me this picture and as I looked at it, whilst I felt a sharp stab of hurt, pretty much all I could see was a very pretty woman who is clearly bursting with happiness. This is supposed to be the best day of her life. And yet, the man she is marrying, the man kissing her cheek in this blissful photograph, hasn’t told a single member of his family about what’s happening that day and hasn’t even introduced her to his children. What on earth could he have told her for her to think that that was normal?
In terms of reaction to the picture on Facebook, of the 15 people who took time to congratulate him (he has around 1,500 contacts on Facebook, so 15 is a fairly dismal percentage), apart from two proper friends (one of whom was a friend of mine who asked if one of his daughters had got married and congratulated him as the ‘father of the bride’), the only people that commented on the picture were his students. I suppose I should have been amused, or even triumphant (amusingly I got more ‘likes’ and comments, from actual friends, not people I barely know, for a picture I recently posted of me wearing my new glasses), but instead I just felt sad. How awful must it be for P for a picture of her wedding day to not be so much as acknowledged by her husband’s family or even his friends?
The more I think about it, the sadder I am for her. She’s in her early 30’s with her whole life in front of her. She’s fallen in love. The man she’s married to is 15 years older than her and has already tried to be unfaithful to her (when he was trying to get back together with O in August 2015) and is probably unlikely to remain faithful to her (I don’t doubt that he thinks he’s deeply in love at the moment, but P is at least the fourth woman he’s fallen in ‘love at first sight’ with in the last ten years and he’s unlikely to change).
There’s no reason to think she’s not a decent person – she’s probably believed every word E has said to her (hence her remark about ‘it depends how you define infidelity’ regarding E’s behaviour, to C and M, in the bar in May). I like to think I’m a decent person, and I believed what E told me too. OK, so I hope I wouldn’t get involved with someone who I knew had a partner and kids at home, but some lies are so plausible that you just believe them. I can’t help but wonder why P thinks E’s children don’t want to meet her and her understanding of why she she’s never been introduced to his family? What must her family think? I know if my daughter was with someone who hadn’t even told his own mother that he was getting married, alarm bells would be sounding all over the place. Who knows what she’s been told? E is the sort of person who is prepared to say a family member has terminal cancer in order to win someone back. He’s prepared to tell lies that are so huge that no-one reasonable would think they were lies. You can’t blame P for believing him.
The more I think about the situation P has placed herself in with E, the freer and the luckier I feel. I can’t even work out what I ‘lost’ when E left anymore. I am worth so much more than he made me feel I was worth. Life with him tended to be ‘all about him’, and all of a sudden there’s been time for me. I’ve realised that, whilst I’m far from perfect, I’m OK. I’m good at things. I’m valued by my family and my friends – I’m loved by people who I think are amazing, which makes me feel really lucky.
Whilst the hurt E caused lingers, I feel less and less angry with him every day. At the weekend, I was explaining to someone that I don’t have a car because E took it, and the person commented that he ‘sounded like a complete tosser’. I went to agree with them (after all that, and other, harsher, terms, have been my default words for him for over 18 months), and suddenly I realised I just didn’t feel strongly enough about him to even call him names anymore.
The relationship is over and, whilst, occasionally, I still resent the way E has treated me, I can’t look back with regret. I’ve begun to realise that, far from losing, in personal terms, I’ve won. I gained four beautiful children from our relationship and my life is full to the brim with these four beautiful human beings that we created. Not only that, but unlike P, I don’t have to worry about what might be happening behind my back anymore, because I’m now surrounded by honesty. I also don’t have to fret about ‘what I did wrong’ or how I could ‘be better’ because I’m not in a relationship with someone who makes me feel that I have somehow failed. I’m not losing hours of sleep every night because of the crushing weight of E’s debts.
My life isn’t going to be easy over the next few years. I’m still struggling with depression and anxiety, as are both of my daughters. I will inevitably end up losing my home, I might never have much money, I might not ever be in another relationship (which at the moment, feels like a big win – I may change my mind though), but imperfect as I am, imperfect as life can sometimes be, I am free from a relationship that, in the end, was incredibly bad for me.
I’ve realised that losing E was a bit like losing a competition I never wanted to enter, and not winning a prize I didn’t want in the first place.