Shortly after my husband absconded I found Wikivorce, an excellent website that offers support to people going through divorce and separation. A source of factual information, advice and support, with court forms to download, other members (more or less expert) to consult, a chatroom and a place to blog. People ask what happens at various stages, what’s reasonable to expect and so on. They also go on there to vent.
I was there daily for the first couple of years, demented with grief. Gradually I was able to be a giver of advice and solace. These days I hardly visit. I find it depressing, and am frustrated that I’m not able to help. There is much to depress. So much heartache, so much poison, so much collateral damage as well, to children and wider families.
It would make me want to weep, to see someone arrive with stories about how her husband of 27 years or more had left her for another woman. They’d been childhood sweethearts; she’d never known another man. Her children had very often all left home, and she had been looking forward to a quiet retirement with the love of her life. She’d be barely a month or so into the trauma, and would be asking for advice about internet dating. I’d slap my forehead. Other users might gently suggest it was maybe too soon. But many would be encouraging, advising only: ‘trust your instincts’. I don’t get involved much anymore, but when I read this advice about instinct, I have to jump in. I lived with a man for over 20 years. I slept beside him, had children with him and trusted him with my life and theirs. This man was a liar and a cheat, has comprehensively fucked us all over, and continues to do so. I think I have quite good instincts, actually, where people are concerned. Where was my instinct then?!
I know I’m unusual in having no desire whatsoever for a romantic or sexual relationship or indeed any partnership at all. (Though yes: friends, of course, and the more the merrier.) I never want to be part of a twosome again; the thought makes me retch. Literally: it affects me physically that way.
So when I hear women saying they want a man, someone to cuddle up to, someone to talk to at the end of the day, companionship or sex in an exclusive way, I just don’t get it at all. (Maybe I will when I live alone, which will be very soon.) It’s not that I disapprove, I just don’t share the desire. If I ever wanted that (and I must have done) I can’t even remember what it feels like. A good friend, single after a long marriage, talks openly about wanting all this and I strain to understand, while remaining perplexed. (She also had what she refers to as her ‘Revenge Fuck’ shortly after her marriage ended; a purely physical affair by the sounds of it, and short lived. That I find easier to comprehend.)
But today, Christmas day, I had a slight glimmer of understanding.
I should also say that – to my astonishment – I have not felt any jealousy about the OW in my case. If she is dating my ex, or having sex with him, it takes nothing from me, and (after the first little while) I can’t imagine ever wanting to date or sleep with him, or indeed to do anything at all with him. He was always, it must be said, a boring squit and a lousy lay (though, being me, I assumed I was at fault), and you may wonder what I ever saw in him. I knew at the time that I didn’t find him physically irresistible. The irony is acute: what I thought I was getting was someone dependable, loving, honourable and kind, who would be a good husband, father and provider. Hahahahahahahahaha.
Today is Christmas day. For 20 years or more, I hosted Christmas for the extended family on both sides and it was quite usual for us to be 14 for the Christmas dinner. That didn’t bother me, but I never liked the additional stress of houseguests all over the place for days on end.
This year it was a relatively subdued event. No inlaws, obviously (phew) or family friends. Just my mother, her partner, me and the two children who live with me, and the child who lives with BH joined us for the meal. I had not seen her or had more than half a dozen words in an email for some months. She’s become vegan since leaving us. It came up that ‘Dad is making a vegan lunch and there will be loads of leftovers, so no pressure on you.’
Later I asked my children why Daddy was cooking a vegan meal when (a) he never cooks for his vegan child and (b) said child was going to be eating with us anyway. ‘Oh’, they said ‘His new girlfriend is nearly vegan’.
This has upset me, possibly more than it should. 90% of the upset is focussed on the fact that, while he is in contempt of court by not paying Child Maintenance to either of the two with me, on the supposed grounds that he has no money, he still clearly has the funds to go dating. He will no doubt have bought her a gift, with money that should have gone to provide food and shoes for his children. He knows that I have no other source of income but does not even offer part payment, not even when I point out that I have rats and a leaking roof.
Maybe he will even have learned something about gift buying by now – his financial disclosure showed that after he left me he shopped exclusively in Bond Street – and not make the mistakes he made with me. I was always a cheap date, was not and did not want to appear grasping, and thought Christmas was for the children.
I don’t care about that. I most definitely don’t envy her the gifts, or the sex, or the attention from the boring old fart.
But completely to my surprise I did notice a new little thought. I envy him that excitement of new love. Or new sex. The ‘will he/won’t he?’ (or she). All that.
And then I realised something. I have been thinking about how I don’t want to be in a relationship or (heaven forbid) remarry, and that is true. Honestly. But a tiny part of it is this little assumption that nobody would want to go out with me anyway. And I hear the voice of my mother, and people like her: ‘Can’t even get a man.’ It’s true, I can’t, not that I try. I realise that what may be partly motivating those internet dating women is the sense that if their fat, bald, boring husband can find a girlfriend, he might appear in some way to be winning.
It’s not a competition, and I don’t want to win it, but I can understand that people don’t want to lose.
I know I can and should regard becoming a better person, having a better understanding of myself, and operating from a position of strength (ideally) as a more noble goal. That’s what I feel I want. Today, though I have much to be grateful for, I just felt like a loser.