Sometimes I think the worst thing about what’s currently happening with E is the fact that, after everything he has already put me though, he is finally leeching the joy out of my life. Until now, whilst I’ve had bad days, I’ve generally managed to stay upbeat and positive and have usually kept going with my head held high. But it’s beginning to feel like every time I think things are getting better, I get knocked down again. It honestly feels like I’m being punished.
So much has happened over the last couple of years and all of it has been deeply, personally, hurtful. I discovered that E had had multiple affairs, I found out that he had used my mum’s cancer diagnosis to try and get laid, I realised that at least ten years of my life with E had been a lie. Then, when I had finally found the courage to end our 25 year relationship, he pissed all over the memory of it, by getting married just five months after he left, without telling his sister, his parents or his kids. Obviously, we didn’t know for sure about this marriage until nearly a year later, so we had to go through Oldest Daughter discovering P had changed her name and everyone being ignored for months until E told Oldest Daughter the truth well – half the truth – he admitted he was married, but he didn’t tell her when he’d got married or where.
It’s been a very difficult couple of years, and, from my perspective, it’s been a time where I’ve had to draw on all my emotional and physical reserves to just get through it. Obviously I was dealing with a huge personal betrayal, one which made me question everything I thought I knew about the man I’d loved and our relationship, as well as looking at myself and finding myself physically and personally lacking (I felt there must be something wrong with me for E to seek someone else). But I was also 100% responsible for four children whose lives had been devastated by what had happened. They had to come first. They were my priority. Everything I was feeling and dealing with came second to them.
All in all, I think the kids and I have done really well. I’m proud of how we’ve negotiated all the changes that E’s behaviour has necessitated. We’ve come through everything and have somehow kept our sense of humour and formed a very close unit. I was just beginning to feel like I knew where we were and able to start planning for our future when E decided to withhold the money he’d agreed to pay.
As he no doubt intended, his withdrawing the money showed me in no uncertain terms how utterly financially dependent upon him I am. His refusal to communicate with me since withdrawing the money (apart from the one email saying “I am sorry I have not yet sent any money this month. Until we have a way forward, I cannot continue to keep getting into more debt and we need a solution asap. In fact we needed it 3 months ago when I asked that we sell the house, so now we have gone past the point where there is any more time left.”) has left me in horrible uncertainty. I literally have no money, and, because E won’t communicate, I have no idea when I will have any. It’s cruel and it’s nasty, but there’s nothing I can do about it (apart from look for another job and find ways to earn more money to make sure I’m never in this position again).
It’s hard to describe the state of panic that I’ve been living in since November. My first instinct, as when I discovered his affairs, was to blame myself. I thought it was my fault – I felt I should have responded to his demands to sell the house, I felt I’d somehow brought this on myself. Obviously, I know in theory that it’s not my fault, but I’ve spent so many years taking responsibility for E’s failures and for my kids’ welfare that shouldering the blame is a difficult habit to break.
E’s financial contribution comprised around 70% of my income. It enabled me to pay the (hefty) mortgage and the household bills. My salary covered food, clothes and essentials for the kids and I. There was never a penny to spare at the end of the month. In fact, recently I’d had to go overdrawn and get a small loan, because most months there was an extra expense (like the shower pump needing fixing), that I hadn’t accounted for and that I couldn’t really afford. However, I was managing. I had a little debt, but I had a plan for how I was going to clear it. E’s withdrawing the money with no notice immediately doubled my debt, and sent both of my bank accounts into the depths of their overdraft limits. As a result, I’m going into debt to buy food, because I’m putting my food bills on my credit card.
The fact that he’s chosen to do this in the run up to Christmas has doubled the cruelty of his actions. This is the one time of year where the kids and I need a little extra financial support. Christmas is still a tough one for all of us, we’re still getting used to being a family of five, we’re still adjusting to the fact that he’s not there. He’s now put me in the position of going deeper into debt to just afford a few Christmas presents for the kids. Obviously, I know that Christmas isn’t about presents, but I still want to make it as special as possible for the children. I know that presents won’t make things better, and I know that we’d have a lovely Christmas with no gifts at all, but it’s hard knowing that he’s deliberately done this to his kids to make his point to me.
One thing that is keeping me going is the incredible kindness of friends and family. Thanks to them I have had food deliveries and even some money to tide me over. Thanks to them I have a freezer full of food and I’ve got everything I need for Christmas dinner. Thanks to them, I’ve even had wine to occasionally take the edge off the worry. I love them and I’m incredibly lucky, but I hate that they have had to do this. It’s not any fairer on them than it is on me.
Another thing that is really getting me down is that, when E left I was stupid enough to think that his financial problems weren’t my financial problems anymore. I thought I was finally free of the constant worry about his debt. I thought his financial mismanagement was P’s problem now. Recent events have shown me that, even though he’s left me, E’s money problems, are apparently still very much my problems.
I used to love everything about December. The early darkness, the softly twinkling lights, the scent of cloves and cinnamon and the feeling of anticipation. I loved buying, wrapping and hiding presents for the kids and choosing gifts for friends and family that showed how much I love and care for them. I loved the cooking and the drinking and the friendly chaos of family gatherings. This year, try as I might to be positive, I’m finding it very difficult.
The last two Christmases have been challenging, last year because it was our first one without E, the year before because I’d discovered E’s affairs and had to get through Christmas for the sake of the kids. This year feels harder still, and I’m beginning to feel a bit worn down by it all. Instead of looking forward to time with my children I’m fighting a mounting sense of panic about my daily growing debt and trying to work out which days of Christmas/New Year I can work and be out of the house without upsetting the kids (Christmas Day and Boxing Day are out, but maybe they won’t mind too much if I work Christmas Eve?). It’s not the lack of money – as I’ve said, Christmas isn’t about presents – it’s the cruelty of withholding money knowing it will affect his kids. It’s the fact that he has so little love or respect for me that he’s prepared to punish me in this way. It hurts. I’m frustrated that it hurts, but I can’t stop it hurting.
The thing is, I know I’ll be ok. As of January the Child Maintenance Service will ask him for a fixed sum every month (and if he doesn’t pay it, they’ll take it directly from his salary). I should also be able to earn enough from my third job (first night this Thursday) to make my income up to a level where, I can manage until we reach an agreement re maintenance payments and whether or not we sell the house. I’m trying my hardest to not let it get me down but the unfairness of it all feels particularly acute at the moment.