I’ve never been an envious or jealous person. In fact, I often wonder if I had been a bit more jealous and possessive if E might have realised he was with someone who loved and valued him and been less tempted to have affairs. Don’t get me wrong, I wouldn’t change myself for anything, but I do think my complete lack of jealousy made it very easy for E to justify himself/tell the various women he saw that we were ‘just friends’ etc.
I’ve never really compared myself to other people or felt that I need to ‘be like’ anyone else. This is not to say I’m not ruthlessly self-critical – I’m constantly looking at my decisions, my life, my (numerous) mistakes, and finding myself lacking – it’s just that looking at other people’s lives doesn’t tend to prompt me to critique mine. I’ve never looked at someone’s perfect social media pictures of their house, or their holiday, or their beautifully smiling kids and felt anything but pleasure for them. To be fair, perfect house pictures, are usually accompanied by a rueful glance at my dusty skirting boards and stubbornly scuff marked carpets and floors. I also can’t help but greet perfect kid pictures with a knowing smile – I’ve been there, and I know the sticky, screamy, stroppy truth behind those #soblessed and #makingmemories shots – I’m a battle-scarred veteran of them.
I also know that nothing is ever as it seems and that whilst someone might have the perfect house, the most amazing partner and the most incredible lifestyle, there can be pain there that no one knows about. I once knew someone who was beautiful, who had a wonderful relationship and an amazingly privileged life, but the one thing she really wanted – children – just didn’t happen for her, despite years of trying and tens of thousands of pounds being spent on fertility treatments and IVF. On social media her life looked perfect – but there was huge heartbreak behind every picture. All of which is why I don’t envy people. It is a cliché, but it’s also a fact that almost everyone is fighting a battle you know nothing about, that something that looks perfect on the outside if often far from that in reality.
I even normally manage to avoid feeling judged and chastised by the Daily Mail “ten ways you’re washing your face wrong” (honestly – I kid you not – this was an actual article) stuff that’s part of some sections of the British Media’s thinly veiled war on women. This is largely by ignoring them (they get into your head if you pay too much attention), but the point is, whilst I have many faults, I’m not envious and I don’t feel I have to live up to anyone else’s standards. In fact, if I’m honest, I’ve always been a little bit smug about the fact that I’m not an envious/jealous person.
Recently, I’ve been shocked to discover that I do have the ability to feel deeply envious. It’s not about the things you would expect. I still don’t fret over people whose houses are cleaner than mine (this would be a waste of energy – pretty much everyone’s house is cleaner than mine), or who has more money than me, or has lovely holidays. It’s not over people who have beautiful long-term relationships, or the perfect body (although, there are times I’d cheerfully sell my soul to Satan to be two stone lighter). It’s over other people’s break ups.
Other. People’s. Break ups.
How insane is that?
I know it’s irrational. It also goes against every character trait I have. But I look at how other people’s relationships came to an end – and the end of mine seems so childish, so pathetic, so utterly unreflective of the 25 years we spent together. When our relationship ended, it only did do because I finally asked E to leave (it’s a horrific fact that he might still be here if I hadn’t asked him to go). E then walked away without so much as a backwards glance. He never once apologised. He never even acknowledged the years we’d spent together, the children we’d created and raised, the fact that we’d pretty much grown up together into adults we are now. It’s not that I wanted a medal, or a certificate, or anything (a lifetime supply of Dark Horse chardonnay would be more appropriate if he’s reading this), but the way he left and the fact he never once even bothered to explain what he’d done or even acknowledge the hurt he’d caused, invalidated everything that the 25 years we’d spent together stood for (for me, not for him, obviously). It occurred to me the other day, that he didn’t even say goodbye.
I also envy how people handle their break ups. I know no one is perfect and I’m guessing that even those who are terribly grown up about it all in public also got smashed and did a fair bit of drunk texting or shopping just like I did (although, I suspect I have something of a record on the sheer volume of Haribo purchased whilst pissed), but other people just seem to be more adult about the whole thing.
Other people tell their kids about the relationship breakup together and try to reassure them that both parents still love them and that everything will be ok. I had to this bit all on my own – E had no interest in supporting me when I told them.
Other people seem able to talk or communicate, especially where the kids are concerned. Now, I know that when E first left I just didn’t want to set eyes on him (apart from anything else I knew I’d cry and I didn’t want to upset the kids any more than they’d already been upset), but I sort of assumed that after a few months, he’d come to the door when he saw the kids and we’d have a civilised (if strained) exchange about how the kids were etc. However, not once since he left has E come to my door. He used to sit in the car with the engine running waiting for the kids to go out to him. Now (I gather his car is broken), he sends a cab to collect them – he won’t even come to the same town as me. This, obviously, makes communication almost impossible. I suppose I could have confronted him (I did try once), or got into the taxi with the boys (I would pay to see the look on his face if I did this), but I haven’t done it, because, again, I don’t want to upset or embarrass the kids.
One thing that E has done, that a lot of other people do, is move on and get married. However, other people usually tell their children and their family that they’re getting married. They don’t fuck off to Florida, just five months after a 25 year relationship has ended, get married and then keep it a secret for over a year. I know I sound bitter on this one, but it’s caused my children, and E’s family, so much pain, and had such consequences for Youngest Daughter’s mental health in particular (although all four of my children are a bit scarred by it), that I can’t quite get over it. Personally, I don’t care that they’re married but the way it was done is just another example of the complete lack of respect that E (and probably P) has for his family, and for me.
Other people can communicate about things like selling a house and what happens when a relationship ends without ending up taking legal action. In most cases, the family would stay in the marital home until the youngest child is 18, but E isn’t like other people and when I didn’t sell the second he wanted to he reacted by withdrawing all financial support and refusing to communicate with anyone about anything. To date, he’s nearly £9,000 in arrears with the CMS (this doesn’t take into account the fact he paid nothing in November or December), he owes me £3,800 for paying his half of our joint mortgage commitment and he’s defaulted on the part of the mortgage he was supposed to be paying and owes them £2,200 and they’ve given us noticed that it he doesn’t pay it by 15th June, they’ll move to repossess the house. I, along with the CMS, his family and the mortgage company have tried and tried and tried to communicate with E about this (always politely, always respectfully), but he simply won’t engage with anyone. This will end up in court, which is the last thing I ever wanted.
I know I’m far from alone in having an ex act really shittily. In fact, when E first withdrew financial support, someone said to me “they all try that”. Obviously, I know that not *everyone* does it, but it’s so common, it’s almost been normalised. I know that horrible break ups are far more usual than decent ones. But that’s why I envy the people who make their break-ups respectful and adult. We all sniggered a bit when Chris and Gwynnie announced their decision to Consciously Uncouple, but now, I would give almost anything to do just that. Honestly – I’m more jealous of those who achieve a decent break up than I could ever be of those of have a spotless house, a perfect body or a beautiful tropical holiday. Obviously, I’d love all of those things (who wouldn’t?), but they’re just nice things to have. A decent break up must be amazing – apart from bereavement and illness, a relationship ending is one of the most life shattering things you can go through. I can only dream of what it would be like to go through it with respect and kindness.