Trapped in an affair
Posted On April 18, 2020
My eyes had been opened, and that was that. Deep down, it felt cracked and tainted and I suddenly felt so stupid. I had honestly believed that there had been a thread of true purpose running through all the pain and unhappiness I was causing to everyone, to myself, but suddenly I couldn’t find a way to pick up its stitches any more.
Life got very grey.
The whole summer passed like this, in waves: I would remember who I was, what I stood for, the struggles I’d overcome in my younger life, what I still deserved despite everything, and I’d summon up enough self-worth to tell X that we had to end. I would block his number. Really meaning it. I knew it was all no good, that I needed out of this.
I would drink enough wine to get me to sleep that first night, and then I’d wake up filled with fresh resolve to be a better person and to live alone, quietly, until I could process what had happened and what I’d done and rebuild my core self to a point that I could love myself again and have something to offer someone once more.
My wonderful friends rallied round me at these times. They brought food, which I didn’t really want to eat, and alcohol, which I did want, and drank in huge quantities. I went to work every day without fail – I told no one what was happening, I got through the days, and if anyone noticed my sunken eyes they didn’t say.
I saw my youngest daughter every couple of days, now, too. She was the only member of my immediate family who wanted to spend any time with me, guilelessly loving me, and I needed her so much. She would sleep in my bed with me so that we could watch 80s films and eat popcorn and pretend every night was just a sleepover, or a bizarre holiday.
I began to construct the fragile semblance of a single life – a life I didn’t want, but a life nonetheless. My husband and I were civil whenever we needed to speak, things were calm, and it was all ok. It was tolerable.
But then. My daughter would go back home to my husband, and my friends would go back to their own lives for a few hours, and X’s gushing emails would lurk in my inbox, promising me the world, making me feel like he was the only person still on my side.
He was so sorry. He had let himself down. He had forgotten how weak he could be, but he loved me so much. If I could just forgive him, he pleaded, he would stay with me through every single night that my daughter wasn’t with me, and wake up with me every morning, and he would look after me. We could begin the future we had always wanted and planned. Did I remember?
He could see the sacrifices I had made for him and he wanted to reciprocate. He wished I would let him do that. He loved me so much. Did I remember this time, and that time, and all the times when we did this fun thing and that fun thing? We could have such a wonderful life. We could still. He just needed one more chance. He had never met someone like me, someone who gave ultimatums and meant them. He had been spoilt by his weak wife who let him go back again and again, whatever he did; but he would never mistake me for her again. Just one more chance. Please.
So. I would unblock his number and give him back his key and there were some good times with him. There were. Evenings of laughing at nothing and concocting strange and wonderful meals from whatever we could find in my nearly empty fridge, of drinking gin in the bath and laughing some more. Days of walking on the windswept beach and getting stranded on mud banks.
But I couldn’t unsee the kernel of true selfish badness that I had now seen at his core. It was like a screen had fallen down and there was no hazy filter any more. My tolerance was suddenly lowered for his shittery.
I began to record, in the Notes section of my phone, every new piece of evidence I gleaned of the fact that he was a liar, that he was trying to bend reality to suit his narrative, and as the list accrued I could see that he had a pattern and that he had always done this – that nothing I had believed had ever actually been true. I could see in a typewritten list the clear evidence that I was an idiot.
I kept my list to myself, ignored it, hoped anyway, like a fool. And then something would happen. We would argue and he would hyperventilate, cry, tell me how torn he was, say that actually, he simply could not offer me what he had told me he could offer me. That he was weak, and he knew it, and he was sorry, but he just could not tell his wife that he was staying with me, so he would have to go home for a while and not arouse her suspicion. He would leave again.
And again I would sit with my thoughts, remember who I was, what I’d overcome, that I had self-worth. I would tell him it was over, again. Block his number, again. Brace myself, again, for the inevitable deluge of loving emails that I knew he would begin to send and I would eventually succumb to.
The cycles got shorter and more predictable and I got more and more jaded. I had no idea what I was doing, or why. I remained compelled by him, but there was no magic dancing in the background of my mind any more. No love story. He was just a weak man, and I was just a broken foolish woman.
Autumn came. My eldest daughter started at university and my youngest joined her brother at secondary school. Lives changed. Days shortened, leaves fell, clouds gathered. Nothing changed for me, though; the self-loathing turntable of misery span round again, as it had through all of the summer. I was so tired and so resigned to it and so fucking bored of it.
Then my husband told me that he had begun, tentatively, to go on dates with someone. He really quite liked her. It wouldn’t become serious, he said, not when I had broken his heart so recently, but he liked not being completely alone, he enjoyed her company. She was sweet and liked him a lot and he intended to spend more time with her.
He said that he had wanted to tell me before the children did. He thought I deserved to know.