An open letter to E

Dear E

I’m not sure why I’m writing this.  I don’t think it will achieve anything.  In fact, if anything, it will feed into whatever narrative you’ve created to justify your behaviour and make you the hero of your story (or the victim of mine).

I spent 25 years listening to you describe the people who disagreed with you or hindered you in any way.  The men were mostly ‘egomaniacs’ or ‘liars’, the women were ‘headmistressy’, ‘manipulative’, ‘bitter’ or ‘unbalanced’.  It was never your fault.  It was you against a world where you were the only one with the intelligence to know what was what.  Everyone else was ‘incompetent’, ‘ignorant’, ‘stupid’. I wonder which one I am in the tales you tell to P?

I still can’t believe what has happened.  Not that you’ve left.  I’m quite glad that that’s happened. But the way you’ve behaved since you’ve left.  We were together for a very long time.  I thought you were a decent man, an honourable man, a man who loved me and loved his children.  I completely accept that you don’t love me (although I wish you’d just been honest about that 12 years ago when you had the affair with K – imagine what I could have done with my life if you’d had the integrity to tell me the truth then?  I could have restarted my career, my credit record would be fine, I could probably have even got my own mortgage), but I never thought you had no respect for me.

I always assumed that if we split up (something that was always a possibility after that first affair), that you would recognise the part I’d played in our relationship.  That you’d acknowledge that you could never have achieved what you did career-wise without the free 24-hour childcare, that my giving up my career afforded you.  That you’d appreciate the fact that, no matter what we’d been through, I’d always stood by you, throughout every career and financial crisis.  I thought you’d be grateful for the fact that I’d bought up and looked after our four children.  I thought that you might feel a touch of guilt about the fact that, whilst you had multiple affairs, I was never once unfaithful.  I thought you would never take advantage of the fact that I loved you and trusted you so much that I never pushed for the marriage that would have provided me with such vital legal protection.  I thought that whatever your (lack of) feelings towards me, you would be decent.

It also never occurred to me that you would be prepared to completely abandon your children.  Because that’s what you did.  When you decided to just stop paying any child maintenance and continue to withhold your money for a whole year, you hurt your kids.  At the risk of sounding ‘headmistressy’ I’ll say that again – you hurt your kids.  None of this was their fault.  They still needed food, clothes, haircuts, school trips, train fares, all the stuff that we, as parents, were responsible for.  But you just stopped paying.  How could you do that?  You knew how much money I was earning.  You knew how much the bills and mortgages cost.  You knew that by withdrawing your money you were putting your kids’ welfare at risk (how on earth did you think I was going to feed them?), but you still did it.  Not only that, but you refused to communicate, to come to any resolution.

Now, I’ve disliked some people in my time, but I would never knowingly put children, any children, at risk.  Why did you do that?  How did you justify it to yourself?  Did P know?   If she did, how did you justify it to her?  She’s now expecting your baby (congratulations – your child will be younger than your Grandchild) – what on earth does she make of your attitude to your existing children? She must be very brave, very stupid, or very ignorant of the facts to be having a child with you.  If you can do this to my children, you can do it to hers too.

I have no doubt that your finances are a mess (plus ca change – eh?), but any financial company would put supporting your children as a top priority.  I know, because, thanks to you, I’ve been there.  Debt management companies address your financial commitments in the following order: priority bills (stuff like food and electricity), secured loans and unsecured debt.  Because of what you did, I ended up with an awful lot of unsecured debt (I had to put everything, including food and mortgage payments onto credit cards and loans for a whole year).  When, after a year of struggling to cope, I finally had to admit defeat and I had to put all of my unsecured debt into a credit payment agreement, whereby I pay my unsecured creditors just £1 a month, in order to afford priority bills and mortgage payments (that earns me a handy six year strike on my credit record).  If you’d cared enough, if you’d really wanted to support your children, you could have done this with your unsecured debt.

This would also have allowed you to pay the mortgage that you were responsible for (remember – I was paying the main mortgage of £1,700 a month, with no support, you just had the Secured Loan, of £775 to pay).  You could have talked to the Secured Loan Company; you could have explained that you were in difficulty.  But instead, you just stopped paying (another handy six year strike on my credit record) and left me to pick up the phone calls, go through the humiliating process of justifying every penny I was spending (I even had to make excuses about the money I borrowed to send Oldest Daughter to study in New York).  You didn’t take a single call.  You ignored my lawyer, you ignored the Secured Loan Company, you ignored the CMS.  I was taking calls every day for months because of you.  Can you imagine what that’s like?  Can you imagine the way credit companies speak to you when you’re just one more bad debtor?  Can you imagine dealing with that when it’s just not your fault, when you’ve been forced into this position?

You wanted to sell the house.  You didn’t give any explanation as to why.  I never once said no to this. All I asked was for an explanation, and for you to suggest what terms you wanted to sell on.  This was the first time in the history of our relationship where I didn’t immediately do what you wanted, and you reacted by showing your power – by withdrawing the financial support that the children and I were utterly dependent upon.  I’m guessing you’ll be calling me ‘bitter’ by now?  But I’ve got a word for you – ‘bully’.  Try it for size.  See how it fits.

Only a bully would try to exert force to make someone to do what they wanted them to do.  This is what you did.  This is what you are doing.  You literally tried to starve the kids and I into following your demands.  I guess it must have been frustrating when I didn’t cave in.  But that shouldn’t really have been a surprise to you?  You’ve known me long enough to know that I don’t take well to bullying.  The last thing you want to do is back me into a corner.  I might lose everything, but I won’t be bullied.  I could have made life so much easier for myself, by just selling up and handing you what you wanted, but I chose to fight.  I chose to stand up for myself and my children.  I think they’ve learned a valuable lesson in personal integrity from this.  Sadly, they’ve also learned what their Dad is like, without me saying a word against you.  The facts speak for themselves, and our kids are very bright.  Luckily for you they love you and will never turn their backs on you.  Other parents who behave like you have are not so lucky.

Did you ever think about the effect your actions would have on your kids?  Not just in terms of, you know, not having any food, but in terms of how they saw their value to you?  They didn’t mind when there were no birthday or Christmas presents (are last year’s still ‘in the car’, are this year’s still ‘on their way’?  Youngest son finds this quite amusing and refers to anything he knows does not exist as being ‘in the car’), they understood when you gradually reduced the days you saw them from once a week to once a month then even fewer, but the fact that you just weren’t prepared to provide any financial support for them cut deep.  Oldest Daughter was devastated.  She’s so principled, so honest, and she loves you so much.  It’s hard to watch her try to reconcile the Dad she wants with the Dad she has.  Every step of the way you’ve let her down.  She was so pleased you’d texted her on her birthday, and then crushed to find out that was also the day you’d written to renege on what we’d agreed in court.   Youngest Daughter loved you so much that she hated you.  I know things are better now and I’m glad for her, I just beg you not to let her down again.  I think the hardest one to watch has been Oldest Son (until very recently he still believed that those presents were ‘in the car’).  He’s gone from being utterly impartial about you (there was a point the others just didn’t mention you in front of him because he’d get cross), to an absolute acceptance that you just don’t care.  Youngest Son is more sanguine – he jokes about you, but I think the hurt runs deep there too.

You’re now paying some child maintenance.  But only for the boys and at £250 less per month than you agreed to in court.  I desperately needed that £250.  For me, that’s the difference between keeping the cupboards stocked with food, and eking out the last of the freezer food because it’s the end of the month, and deciding that we can’t afford fresh fruit, or a school trip for one of the boys.  You’re also paying nothing towards the girls.  How do you think I’m supporting them?   How do you think I’m funding everything, from monthly maintenance to train fares for Oldest Daughter?  If it was my child, I’d want to help.  I’d do without everything to make sure I could look after my children.  But you’re doing nothing.  In fact, (so far unsubstantiated) rumour has it that you’ve had a few nice holidays over the last year or so, and are driving a rather nice car.  I hope you enjoyed them and that they were worth the price of sacrificing the support your children deserve.

On top of this, until we sell the house, we have mortgage obligations.  Thanks to the hours I’ve spent on the phone, and the tens of thousands of pounds I’ve borrowed to clear the arrears you forced us into and just survive without any maintenance, I’ve agreed these two payments with both companies at £2,000 per month.  This is vital to keep a roof above your children’s heads.  But you’re contributing nothing towards this.  Absolutely nothing.  At the risk of repeating myself – how do you think I’m affording this?  What do you think would happen if I didn’t?  The whole time you were defaulting on the mortgage, you were secure in your Canary Wharf apartment with P.  By contrast, the kids and are were being threatened with bailiffs and eviction.  How is that ok?  How could you let that happen?  You risked your own children’s home, for what, to make a point?

And now, we are where we are.  I’ve tried everything to come to an agreement.  I’ve come to terms with the betrayals (the affairs, the marriage within months of you leaving, the withdrawing of financial support) and all I want to do is move on with my life, but I can’t – because you won’t come to an agreement.  Why?  Why are you doing this?  As far as I’m aware you need to sell the house more than I do, so why are you stalling?  What is the point?  What are you gaining from this?  It feels like you’re still trying to bully me – to prove that you’re more powerful than me.  OK.  I accept it.  You are more powerful.  I am utterly financially dependent upon you.  Does that help?  Can we move forward now?  All I want is to make a new life for me and my children.  I want to get out of the financial nightmare you’ve forced me into.  I don’t care who ‘wins’, I just want out.

I’ve had to come to terms with the fact that you’re the opposite of the person I thought you were.  That’s ok.  It makes me even happier to be out of our relationship, and even keener just to get on with my life.  In terms of how this has all affected me I’m not bitter, not really, I’m sad, but mostly, I’m confused, I just can’t get my head round how anyone can treat another human being the way you’ve treated me.  In terms of the kids though, I’m sort of angry.  They deserve so much better.  When my kids hurt, I hurt.  My job as their Mum is to make everything better, to help them feel secure, and you’ve made this impossible.  You’ve hurt them so much.  I can forgive how you treated me, but I’m not sure I’ll ever get over how you’ve treated my children.

Like I said, I can’t imagine that this letter will make any difference.  But I wanted to write it.  I don’t think anyone (apart from me) has ever told you that you’re wrong – but you are.  No matter what your circumstances, no matter what the court eventually says, you are wrong, what you have done is wrong, nothing can justify it.  I can’t change that, I can’t change you, but you’ll have to live with the fact that you hurt your kids for the rest of your life.  I’m glad I don’t have that burden.

J

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