I spent more than seventeen years with my first girlfriend. We were deliriously in love for a long time, and mostly happy all the way through, and desperately tried to make it work to the bitter end. Had we been willing to face it, it could have ended on that June evening in 2002. She came in and told me she'd been having an affair for nearly a year. It certainly explained the odd behaviour, the unexplained absences, the times when she'd come home crying without giving a reason. I was shocked, but in my shock I resolved to tough it out and not make hasty decisions. Neither of us were willing to throw away the good we'd had.
In the end, the affair dried up in six or seven months - after being terribly rough on all concerned. She told me it was likely there'd be other times like that, however, and made me promise we'd have an "open" relationship. I was happy just to have her back, as it were, and gave the promise without really thinking it through, only stipulating that she be open about her affairs - I considered it unlikely in the extreme that I'd ever cheat on her.
A few years passed without incident, even though my girlfriend grew more and more restless. We moved to a larger flat in order to give her more space. Soon after, she told me of another affair. I was devastated. For some reason, she was upset by this. To this day, I don't know if she'd imagined that having my permission meant I'd feel nothing about it, or what was the problem. In the event, we argued a little about it and some six months later, the affair was over.
It seems that she then decided to go back to keeping me in the dark about her boyfriends. I clung to my naïve belief that she'd tell me because she'd promised so, even when it was quite obvious what was happening. Then when I finally had to confront her about it, she'd resort to lying. I was at my wits' end: she was hurting me, but wouldn't admit it, and if I pushed the issue I'd hurt her. I imagine the conundrum was somewhat similar for her, too.
Finally it came to the day when she told me we'd have to break up, and I was surprised to find I wasn't upset by this at all. We slowly started making preparations. It's indicative of our state of communications at that point that, when her boyfriend left her before I did, she said nothing to me but simply assumed I'd be staying. I did for almost a year more, but ultimately I realised I had to choose between my mental health or the relationship. One or the other had to go.
"One of the hardest decisions in life is whether to try a little harder or to cut your losses."This was a little over two years ago. It felt like I was giving up everything I'd fought so hard for, but at the same time it was strangely relieving. I rationalised that the history we had shared was ours forever, it was a part of our lives even if our paths diverged from there. With time, I also started to realise that one of the things we'd done wrong was just that we'd tried so hard. Each of us was focussed on giving the other what we thought they wanted, instead of trying to communicate what we wanted. But neither of us was telepathic, so it resulted in a bizarre situation in which both of us were doing our best to do what the other wanted, but ending up doing more or less the wrong thing (without realising it), and therefore receiving neither thanks for it (because it wasn't the right thing) nor what we wanted in return. From that perspective, it was a wonder we managed to stay together for as long as we did.
|A cute photo to break the somber mood of this post. |
This is Amanda, one of the bunny rabbits I live with these days.
My life has never been such a fast and constant downward spiral. For all that I had a nagging feeling of "wrongness" since before the wedding, I figured I'd try to be spontaneous and let things work out over time. Wrong, wrong, wrong. I could've taken the hint at any point. Her bewildering fits of temper, mood swings and reversals of opinion. The hazy accounts of her past that never seemed to quite add up. Her nebulous plans that would certainly fix us up in the near future if I could just raise the money to take us over the hump. The dramatic stories that always came up to justify whatever she happened to want.
But as it happened, without realising it I repeated my earlier mistake, doggedly sticking with a destructive relationship at the cost of my own wellbeing. Only this time around, it was far, far quicker. Within two months of the wedding, I was up to my ears in debt (personal, as she never could sign the notes herself); within four, I'd messed up my job beyond recovery (and burned quite a few bridges in the process); within eight, I was in acute need of professional help.
To the Brink of Defeat and Back AgainThe good news was, after fairly driving me to the very edge of collapse, my wife's distaste for taking responsibility meant that she actually got me the help I needed. I spent ten days in a psychiatric ward. Without realising it at the time, I got vastly better in a short time. It was only after I returned home that I began to see the lies and blame-shifting and to ask uncomfortable questions. So uncomfortable, in fact, that forty-eight hours after my release, she accused me of being unstable and threatening (!) and threw me out of our home.
We talked a number of times after that, but now I could see what she was doing: she tried to play up to my self-doubt and insinuate that I was to blame for the money she'd spent and all the trouble I'd been unable to stave off. In short, I was being used, and had been throughout. With my newfound strength, I managed not to budge, and after a week or so she cut her losses, emptied our home and moved to another city where she had landed a very good job. I was left with what she hadn't wanted, an empty apartment far too big for one, and a massive debt. (Her name was on the lease of the apartment and one or two other papers, but she simply ignored demands to pay.) One year, one month and one day after the wedding, the marriage was over.
For a couple of months, I was effectively homeless; fortunately, my parents were in a position to help for a while. Then I managed to rent a subsidised flat and things began to pick up, one by one. Recently I found a job and may be able to start paying off my debts soon. I have a number of very good, very dear friends and family who have helped me immensely just when I was least able to show my appreciation for their help. Some of them may be reading this. If so, let me thank you now.
I do realise that this may sound like I'm blaming my relationships for the problems I've had in life, but I can only guarantee that I've done my level best to be objective. Certainly I've made mistakes - not the least of which was my inability to make hard decisions when needed, and not learning from past errors when I thought I had. For such an introverted person, I'm curiously bad at introspection. I'm learning, but at the same time I'm growing older, and sometimes it seems like I've wasted too much time.
Where to from Here?So there it is, ladies and gentlemen. My life. Never prefixed with an F-word yet, I'm happy to say. And not over, not by a long shot.
What will this mean for the blog, then? I do have the time to update more frequently now, and thoughts asking to be blown into posts keep popping up. Even so, I'm afraid I'm no better now at sticking to good intentions! Also, my mood remains on a bit of a see-saw. Inspiration may strike at any time, but so may a morose lethargy that leaves me without energy to write or do much anything. I'll try to be less critical about what I "should" write here. That seems to be the way to go, so that's what I'm going to do.