Whatever I may have said about my ex-husband – whatever criticisms I, or other people – may have of him, I want to put it on record that I have always respected him for having had the guts and the self-esteem/self-respect to end our marriage. He was deeply unhappy and felt I undermined him and made him feel small; we were living parallel lives; and our love for each other had died. Whilst we didn’t have enormous rows, it was still not an affectionate, loving atmosphere for our children to grow up in – rather a distant one where we got on with our separate lives.
More recently I was reading a book which stated that children who grow up in a loveless household are about as likely to learn to develop loving, stable, relationships as they are to fly a jumbo jet without instruction.
David said, as we were in the process of parting, that he didn’t want me fighting for our relationship – clinging on – because I was afraid of being on my own. In fact the opposite turned out to be the case, and I have seen it with other women before, who have blossomed when they were freed from relationships which were draining them (I guess the same is probably true of men – you don’t realise how much something is pulling you down until you’re free). I loved having my freedom back and being single again, and in fact being a ‘part-time’ mother suits me well as it means I have allocated time for the vitally important creative side of me (my writing and singing). I miss the children when they’re not around (although there are times when having all three of them squabbling and nagging at me at once feels like something to get away from!) but I know they are cared for – by David, by his new girlfriend, by David’s family – and I know they’ll be back. And I will always be their mother.
I have also been able to acknowledge that I had not been in love with David for some time, and in fact part of my sadness at the failure of our marriage was sadness that to a certain extent I had failed him. Not to say that he was perfect – I don’t think either of us was giving the other what (s)he needed in terms of emotional support. I need a man who makes me feel fantastic (attractive, desirable, feminine), who will help me stay linked to the ground but who also understands my need to fly free – rather like a kite (I once got compared to a butterfly – but they’re a bit flitty… but perhaps that’s how I appear!). And yes, sometimes kites crash – as I found in November – but they fly again.
From our relationship we have three gorgeous, healthy, lively, bright children who I hope will grow up to be loving, compassionate adults because their parents are both -separately – happy and both love them very much, as well as being incredibly proud of them and of their very unique characters. I wish David the very best with his new girlfriend, who seems lovely – and who is nothing like as competitive towards him as I was!
David gave me three gifts as a result of our relationship. One was the children, of course. Another was that when he left I still had my self-esteem. And the third was time: time which I could use for myself (if I chose), when I was not being nagged at by anyone else and when I didn’t have to have demands made upon me: time to nurture myself and my creativity, if that was what I chose to do. Time for writing, singing and running: mind, body and spirit.
And thank you David for the huge support and understanding that you gave me when I recently hit rock bottom. “Respect”!
What I learnt about myself in 2015
I started the year feeling, mostly, good about myself. My marriage break-up had its low moments but on the whole I was enjoying being single again. I didn’t want to rush into a new relationship: I felt attractive and thought I’d just try out dating rather than looking for another serious relationship. My singing confidence was growing, the amount of singing I was doing was increasing, and life felt good.
I joined a dating website for a while, but despite the confidence-boost of men telling me I was gorgeous, I quickly found it wasn’t really for me. Meanwhile a new restaurant had opened locally. Early in January I realised that I was incredibly attracted to the Chef-Proprietor. However he had a partner and children so that was presumably a no-go area.
Over the ensuing months I concentrated on my writing, singing and children and on trying to get a new job. Somehow though I was increasingly drawn to the restaurant – driving or walking past I’d look out to see if He was there, and when I went in conversations were friendly and flirtatious on both sides. More and more I wondered if he was actually interested in me too, rather than just flirting with one of his many female customers.
And the singing continued… and I got a new job as a surveyor, based in Whitehaven. I knew it wasn’t ideal – I don’t like west Cumbria and the journey would be a pain – but I liked my new boss and the money was good and would mean that I could easily take the children on holiday abroad; as well, I hoped, as paying for various improvements I wanted to make to my house.
The last night of June/first night of July it happened – we got involved. Rapidly it became clear that for both of us this was a passionate, meaningful affair and not just a fling. Whilst my initial thoughts were that I just wanted an affair or a fling, his comment was that he didn’t do casual and that he had a lot of love to give: and repeatedly he would say how amazing it was to have me with him, and ask what I was doing with him.
I fell in love with him whole-heartedly: like I had never loved a man before. I realised that in the past I had either tended to love men as friends or had ‘just’ fancied them. There were only about 5 men, out of the 16 or so I had any, even passing, involvement with, whom I could say I actually loved. Two were friends more than lovers – including my ex-husband; one was my first ever boyfriend, when I was in my mid- to late-teens; one was a guy who was a friend of a friend and who ended up marrying her. The fifth was this current man.
At the same time I started the new job. Over the school summer holidays everything was great, but when term-time returned I found that time for writing and running became almost non-existent. I was also seeing far less of my children: I rarely picked them up from school and some days, if I had rehearsals for both choir and opera group – on consecutive nights – I might not see them from early Monday morning until after work on the Wednesday. My relationship with my daughter, who in any case suspected the man was more than just a friend and who accused me of lying to her, particularly deteriorated.
Baggage from my past then reared its head. With a history of having been a doormat and having been chased, seduced and then dropped by men, my insecurities started shouting at me: exacerbated by the friend who had encouraged my relationship in the first place, who now was suggesting that the man ‘ought’ to have left his partner and kids for me. Whilst I didn’t agree with her, this made me start questioning everything even more. To be fair to her, she was just picking up on my negativity and trying to be supportive – I really do not blame her but just myself for allowing myself to be so dogged by my own negative thoughts.
The man insisted I didn’t need to feel threatened by his partner – that they had no relationship; that she was no more than the mother of his children – but still I felt insecure and jealous, and as if he might be slipping away from me and back to her.
On top of that everything else felt stressful, as if there just wasn’t time for everything and as if the creative side of me was screaming out to be fulfilled. There just wasn’t time to do so, and nor did I have the energy. Late, emotion-filled nights with only a few hours’ sleep before I had to get up for work didn’t help either. Had I but realised it, I was spiralling down into depression, although still trying to convince myself, and other people, that I was happy.
By the end of October I was – I now realise – pretty wound up. I wrote the man a letter, asking (basically) where I stood and being completely open and honest about my feelings for him. He had, somehow, tapped into the very essence of me – into my absolute femininity. Never had I felt so much love, attraction and passion for a man – I told him once I loved him as much as I loved my children and that I could no more stop loving him than stop breathing. Whilst I wanted the reassurance that he loved me too, I also wanted to face up to reality.
His reaction was that the letter made him love me more than he already did. We had a lovely evening together: and another lovely evening the following day. Until we got into bed – and somehow started rowing – the worst row we had ever had. When I left in the morning I asked whether he still wanted to talk or whether he wanted to call it a day, and he said he wanted to talk.
The following day (a Saturday) I had a trail run. My heart felt as if it was breaking. Could I cope with this relationship – which meant so much to me – any more? Was I just going to get really badly hurt? My instinct told me that he loved me too but couldn’t see a way out of his relationship with his children’s mother – they were tied not only in terms of the children, whom clearly he would not want to lose nor to see less of, a threat which she was using to emotionally blackmail him with – but also financially as well. Being completely financially dependent on him, she was going to fight to keep him, whether or not she still loved him.
On the following Tuesday I spent most of the time at work close to tears. It felt as if my whole life was falling apart. I needed the job but hated many aspects of it; I wasn’t spending enough time with my children; my love life seemed to be going pear-shaped; and I didn’t have enough time for singing, running and writing. All of those were an essential part of me, but I was struggling to remain in touch with that inner part of me and to know what my real feelings were about anything. I knew I couldn’t go on. I phoned the Doctor and made an appointment for the next morning.
Having been signed off, ultimately for almost three weeks, and then put on anti-depressants, I began the slow clamber out of my black hole. I lost my appetite and therefore lots of weight; I was tired and lacking in energy; there were days when tears were never far away. There were days when I felt as if I was sinking and I would desperately try to hold on to any glimmer of hope; other days when I felt calmer and more in touch with what I really wanted.
Then there was a turning point – a day when I felt creative and more energetic than I had for weeks. The man, whilst still not giving me the big hugs he had before, started kissing me (briefly) on the lips again, and seeming to be more friendly – seeming to say that he still loved me. I had been on and off with him myself, finishing things one moment and then telling him I loved him and wanted him the next; and I wondered if he was as confused as I was. Certainly my being more relaxed, happy and friendly seemed to improve things.
But generally I feel as if I’m on a new path. I’ve perhaps shed some of my baggage about relationships – I think and hope so, at least – and I know now that I need to be doing something work-wise which uses the creative side of me more – writing, promotions, customer service, presentations – and which is nearer to home.
The man has always said how beautiful I am. I didn’t feel that while I was depressed. I now feel attractive again, but in a less ‘hyper’ way than I did before. I also know now that I am able to love a man incredibly deeply, as a woman – which is not to be vulnerable, down-trodden or a doormat but to express my true and deepest inner Empress.
And as I am now happier and more out-going, relaxed and friendly with people – in fact to my old usual self – the world has responded: people seem generally to be being nicer to me!
Who knows what will happen with the man: his relationship with his partner is destructive – toxic to them both, and they each undermine the other’s self-confidence and self-esteem. It’s not a good environment to bring children up in, which is exactly why David left me (and I don’t think our relationship was anything like so bad, though it had gone much the same way). But I can’t do anything to change that and one promise I made was not to pressurise him or add to his stresses. I think I probably did in the end; I think feeling pressurised to be with me, even if I only did it unintentionally, was what made us have that row; but it’s something that he and he alone needs to work out and by pushing me away he has lost someone who was, at her best, wholly supportive of and loving towards him. I would have done almost anything within reason or within my power for him, although with hindsight I needed to look after myself (and my children) more and to get more sleep.
It’s going to be interesting to look back at this post in 6 months’ or 12 months’ time and see where my life has gone! Singing; writing; jobs; children; man… this is the year that I hope to be able to hold on to my self-esteem and not to let my baggage get in the way.